W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > March 2011

Re: Option 3

From: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+w3c@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2011 18:47:36 -0500
Message-ID: <AANLkTi=a5-Wo+v_Bxdq=fTybaCS4HfFWC0rOF4KTAufq@mail.gmail.com>
To: Lawrence Rosen <lrosen@rosenlaw.com>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
On Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 1:14 AM, Lawrence Rosen <lrosen@rosenlaw.com> wrote:
>> So is it your intent that someone should be able to take the
>> specification, place it into a GPL'ed software product, and then take
>> that software product, remove the software parts of it, and publish the
>> remainder (namely the specification) as a specification under the GPL?
>
> Yes, but not for the reasons you may think important. I don't think the
> copyright license has anything to do with it. As Google itself is arguing in
> its defense of the copyright lawsuit by Oracle, the functional parts of
> specifications like the HTML5 (and Java) recommendations are not strongly
> copyrightable (if at all) in the first place. If Google is right about that
> aspect of copyright law -- and I earnestly believe they are -- then you have
> nothing to worry about doing such odd things as reverse engineering a GPL
> program merely to fork the HTML specification.

I believe that Ian was talking about a scenario not involving
reverse-engineering.  In other words: if the W3C were to publish a
specification under this license, and I were to take the specification
(or any derivative work or portion) and put it in a tarball with a
hello world script, then I could distribute that tarball without
restriction other than attribution, because it's "in supporting
materials accompanying software"?  Or I could put the whole spec's
HTML source in a comment in a hello world script and distribute that,
because that would be "in software"?

If so, correct me if I'm wrong, but it would be similar to the SIL
Open Font License.  The FSF says about that: "Its only unusual
requirement is that fonts be distributed with some computer program,
rather than alone. Since a simple Hello World program will satisfy the
requirement, it is harmless."
<http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html>  Is this correct?

Reverse-engineering a specification from implementations is a separate
matter.  That's effectively how the current HTML5 draft was originally
written.  Ian wants it to be easier than that to fork specifications,
similar to how anyone can fork a typical free software project, with
no reverse-engineering or other work required.

> Nota also that you get no benefit your way from the W3C Patent Policy. So
> you ought not to believe this:
>
>> Note that with HTML this is entirely moot, since the entire spec is
>> available under a license even more liberal than the MIT license
>> already.
>
> The MIT license from people doesn't give you any meaningful patent rights;
> read Chapter 5 of my book. Without clear patent rights, you probably ain't
> got shit.

Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but patents would not prohibit
distribution of the specification text itself, right?  They might
prohibit implementations, but that's a separate issue.  I'm under the
impression that we're talking only about spec-writing here, not
implementation.

(Note: I am not a lawyer and have not spoken with any lawyers about
any of this, so apologies if I said anything blatantly silly or am
wasting someone's time.)
Received on Tuesday, 8 March 2011 23:48:29 UTC

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