Re: "Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.

Subject: Re: "Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.
From: "Sandy Harris" <sharris -at- dkl -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 16:09:56 -0500

I'm usually an advocate of open source and some docs I've written
( are under the GPL (GNU Public License, the
Free Software Foundation's main software license), but I think on this
question I'll side with Geoff.

I don't think the GDL (GNU Documentation License) is appropriate for
the documentation most of us write (including me at this client site)
on products that are not themselves free. That's not surprising; the
GDL was designed for the docs that accompany free software.

Of course, as GNU founder RMS says the "free software" is like "free
speech" not "free beer". The issue is not price, but whether the user
is able to modify programs and to share the modified versions.

I don't want users modifying my docs in most cases, let alone publishing
modified versions. Supplementing, perhaps. Contributing to the FAQ, by
all means. Sending email comments, writing up a 'tips and tricks'
article for the user group newsletter, ... whatever. But leave TFM

There might be exceptions. If a software product includes a powerful
macro language, as AutoCAD does with LISP, you might decide that any
LISP code shipped with the product should be GPLd to encourage user
innovation. In that case, GDL is appropriate for any documentation you
provide on that LISP code.

However, I cannot see using GDL for docs if the software is not GPL.

Also, there are several other licenses coming out of open source
circles that were either designed for docs (e.g. the Open Content
license) or are commonly used for them (Berkeley license, Perl's
"Artistic License", ...). One might choose one of those.

[ Please let's not discuss the relative merits of different open source
licenses here. I'm exceedingly tired of that religious war. ]

> The bigger issue is whether or not it's worthwhile to continue
> claiming copyrights all the time.

Yes. Especially in any commercial software venture. If you claim no
copyright, put the docs in the public domain, your competitor can not
only use your docs for his compatible product, but can copyright his
version, charge customers whatever he can get away with for it, and prevent you from using any improvements he might make!

I haven't looked at the GDL in detail, but the GPL is explicitly
designed to prevent that sort of trick. It prevents anyone from selling
the program, or distributing executables without making source code
available so users can modify it, or shipping a modified version
without making the modification source available or ...

> What do we get out of copyright? You have to go to
> court to enforce the thing anyway. By that time, the product's changed and
> you've written a new copyrighted manual. I think that, in many cases, we put
> that little "circle-C" on the doc just because everybody does it. Copyright,
> like patents, were developed for a world that few of us work in anymore.
> "Gone with the Wind" may be worth copyrighting, but I'm not so sure about a
> manual whose productive life span is about equivalent to that of a mosquito.
> Still, I imagine your arguments will be common ones, so I'll archive them
> for later incorporation.

"Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.: From: Hart, Geoff

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