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Re: License discussions in progress at W3M

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 10:51:07 +0300
To: Chris Lilley <chris@w3.org>
Message-Id: <BED2F81B-CB99-4F52-9705-265BF447FBC9@iki.fi>
Cc: www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>

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On May 14, 2008, at 14:58, Chris Lilley wrote:

> W3M has been discussing the request to publish authoring guidelines  
> under a more permissive license than the W3C document license.  
> Several options are under discussion, including:

I am interested in W3C documents being available under a GPLv3- 
compatible non-viral Free Software license. My use case is  
incorporating spec text into the user interface of a Free Software  
program so that the result is acceptable for distribution in Debian  
(and other less strict Free Software collections).

> - that the Document license already allows this under fair use

I am not a lawyer and I am not Debian, but my lay person understanding  
is that appealing to fair use isn't good enough for Free Software  
distributions such as Debian. As I understand it, fair use is a  
defense to a copyright infringement suit in a U.S. court. If the W3C  
is OK with allowing something, I think it would be reasonable to grant  
an explicit license instead of effectively saying "try it and if we  
sue, appeal to fair use in your defense". Moreover, internationally  
operating Free Software projects need something that is applicable  
more broadly than just in the U.S. (For example, I'm operating from  
Finland and fair use doesn't exist here.)

> - that a different license is needed
> - that the Document license should be updated W3C-wide

I think it would be ideal if the W3C Document license were changed  
into a GPLv3-compatible non-viral Free Software and Open Source  
license (in the FSF and Debian senses of Free Software and in the OSI  
sense of Open Source).

Personally, I think that it is misguided to use copyright to protect  
the integrity of W3C specs (or IETF specs for that matter). I think  
availability from a well-known domain (w3.org) and limiting logo use  
to unmodified versions would be a sufficient protection against  
someone confusing the public by passing a modified spec as a W3C REC.  
On the other hand, using copyright to limit how people can repurpose  
the spec text carries the harm that spec text cannot be used as part  
of Free Software UI or embedded documentation.

Moreover, from a Free Software point of view, I think that using  
copyright to make spec forks illegal is implicit expression distrust  
in the spec development organization's ability to keep itself as the  
best venue for working on the specs. The legal ability of the  
community to fork a Free Software project works as a safeguard against  
the original project going crazy. *Successful* forks of Free Software  
projects only happen if the original project is seriously not serving  
the needs of the stakeholders who need the software and the forks  
serves the stakeholders notably better. So even if forks of W3C specs  
were legally allowed, chances are that *successful* forks wouldn't  
happen unless the W3C itself dropped the ball first.

> - that this is a copyright and not a licensing issue.

I don't understand what that means.

> This relates to ACTION-29

-- 
Henri Sivonen
hsivonen@iki.fi
http://hsivonen.iki.fi/
Received on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 07:51:58 GMT

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