License for a document or presentation?

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Apr 10 20:18:50 UTC 2004

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. scripsit:

> Given that, unlike what is typical of software, access to the underlying
> ideas in a document are as accessible as the expression and that
> copyright infringement is not the same as plagiarism, does the use
> of licenses to distribute text cut against the goals of open source
> more than it supports it? Compare, for example, the use of a book,
> newspaper, or magazine article (as a copyrighted work) with software.
> Are we promoting the idea that all text should be licensed? Isn't this
> the regretable trend that has captured all software? When the ideas
> are freely accessible doesn't that reduce (albeit, not eliminate)
> the benefit of using an open source license?

Well, *documentation* (which is what Larry was talking about) should IMHO
be licensed under an OS license, so that it can be changed in synchrony
with changes to the software being documented (whether the software is
OS or not).  Certain licenses like Creative Commons and the OSL/AFL
are more suitable than others; in particular, the GPL is bad for books
or other objects distributed primarily as dead trees.  If I send you
a xerox copy of a magazine article licensed under the GPL, I am also
obligated to make the modifiable form of that article available for three
years, which is a pain in the ass.

I think that as to written works which are not code and don't accompany
code, a case-by-case determination has to be made.  A statement of
opinion should probably get a Creative Commons no-changes license,
which is not open source; I don't want you hacking an article of mine
defending X to make it an attack on X or even a defense of Y, even if
you are obliged to take my name off it.

I don't know half of you half as well           John Cowan
as I should like, and I like less than half     jcowan at
of you half as well as you deserve.   
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