Creative Commons

Rick Moen rick at
Tue Aug 5 06:07:00 UTC 2008

Quoting Raj Mathur (raju at

> OK, I stand corrected -- thanks for the insight, Rick.  On the other 
> hand, I don't know how far we can go applying criteria for software to 
> documents -- what you propose appears reasonable and intuitive, but I'd 
> still advise caution when applying the OSD directly to document 
> licences.

Very good point (and the original answer still pertains, that OSI simply 
doesn't have non-software licensing within its bailiwick in the first

Opinions on documentation licensing tend to be surprisingly contentious
(and I wasn't even particularly thinking of the Debian vs. GFDL affair); 
many commentators seem to forget about ways in which documentation tends
to differ fundamentally from software:

o  Getting access to the preferred form really isn't very difficult for 
   a motivated re-user.  (We're not talking about contrived DRM/Kindle 
   scenarios, but rather ordinary documentation -- but even those succumb 
   to screen snapshots and OCR.)   At minimum, the full semantics of the 
   work are available to inspection, i.e., there's nothing like
   software's trait of obscuring through compilation.
o  In part because of the above fact, there's very little barrier to 
   creation of a new, equivalent work if an existing one's terms of usage 
   become a problem.
o  The desire to create a new document as a derivative work borrowing part
   of an existing document is relatively rarely felt.  (The desire to 
   update an existing poorly maintained document occasionally does arise.)
o  For various reasons of real-world perception, authors are often 
   concerned that modified variants of their work will make them appear to 
   have said something they didn't.  Software people tend to assume that
   this is no more of a problem than it is in software, and yet they are
   not correct.

It's often claimed that documentation's licensing must be compatible
with (if not the same as) that of the software it concerns, e.g., for 
example code included in the docs -- but that's a pretty contrived
scenario, in my view.

But, to stress again, all of this is outside OSI's ambit.

More information about the License-discuss mailing list