W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > February 2009

WG Decision - spec license use cases

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2009 14:34:29 -0500
Message-ID: <499B1145.4070300@intertwingly.net>
To: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
CC: Philippe Le Hegaret <plh@w3.org>
Having discussed this topic not once, but twice on the mailing list; 
hearing no objections; and after consulting with DanC and MikeSmith; 
Chris Wilson and I are comfortable stating that the Working Group has 
made a decision to forward the use cases provided by Karl and Henri (see 
below) to the appropriate legal people at the W3C and whatever other 
organization or organizations may be employed to assist with the 
licensing issues.

We would further encourage all input to be considered, including the 
following responses, though such input may not represent consensus:


On the last two, I'm just being careful; I don't see any reason not to 
believe that they also represent consensus, but the real goal here is to 
get the legal review started, having dealt with lawyers in the past, I'm 
confident that once it begins to digest this data these use cases will 
represent the start of the discussion and not the end.

- Sam Ruby

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Spec license use cases - WG Decision on the Record?
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2009 19:24:44 -0500
From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
To: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>


I'm pursuing this issue.  The W3C has a relationship with the SFLC, and
  yes, that's the same SFLC that is associated with Eben Moglen of FSF
fame.  Unsurprisingly, they wish to work from use cases (now, where have
I heard that before? <grin>).  I had sent this email forward as
something that captured a number of such use cases, and while it was met
favorably, I got a request today that I verify that it represents a
position of the Work Group.

So, at this time I'm requesting that anybody who has additional use
cases and/or wishes to challenge any or all of the use cases listed
below please reply on list to this email.

If you agree or have no opinion, no response is necessary.

- Sam Ruby

Henri Sivonen wrote:
> On Feb 3, 2009, at 17:32, Karl Dubost wrote:
>> Le 3 févr. 2009 à 10:10, James Graham a écrit :
>>> I should be able to copy sections of the spec text into the source 
>>> code or testcases and license the whole under an MIT license (I don't 
>>> recall how often we actually do this in html5lib but I certainly 
>>> would like to do so more often in the future).
>> I have difficulties to understand why it is not possible with the 
>> current W3C Document License. What you are doing is not a derivative 
>> work nor a full copy of the document, but just quotations of it, which 
>> is already authorized by the document license.
> Relying on the American Fair Use doctrine or European enumerated but 
> subjective limitations[1] of copyright such as the right to quote are 
> not good enough for inclusion of content in a piece of software that is 
> then as a whole explicitly licensed under an Open Source license. For an 
> Open Source software whose project management is itself properly 
> diligent and wants to get the software included in other projects whose 
> management is diligent, including substantial passages from a spec under 
> a subjective limitation of copyright (where subjectivity is ultimately 
> up to a judge) without an explicit license is not acceptable.
> In case the above paragraph seems paranoid, here's where I'm coming 
> from: Previously a member of W3C staff has relayed to me a "warn[ing]" 
> from W3C lawyers because I had merged the prose of the HTML5 
> tokenization section into the source code of the Validator.nu HTML 
> Parser as comments. I had copied the text from the WHATWG copy of the 
> spec, which permits such copying. The "warn[ing]" was quickly retracted, 
> but I think it is enough to show that it would be unwise for a software 
> developer to undertake copyright-sensitive actions on the text of an 
> HTML WG deliverable unless the action is permitted by an explicit license.
> In short, if we wish to address a use case, the use case needs to be 
> permitted by the spec license. Saying that it counts as a quote or as 
> Fair Use is not good enough.
>> Maybe we should first identify what are the use cases and see if the 
>> set of licenses, we have from W3C Document Licenses to others, covers 
>> or not the use cases.
>> So far I see
>> * Publishing the full or parts of a specification in a book to be sold.
>> * Include prose of the specification in software from proprietary to 
>> complete open source
>> Something else?
>  * Copying the prose defining an algorithm, pasting it verbatim or with 
> modifications into source code of a program as comments and writing an 
> implementation of the algorithm (possibly making creative optimizations) 
> so that the spec text and the statements of the programming language 
> intermingle. The resulting program should be licensable under the MIT 
> license without additional terms. (For algorithms contained in "HTML 5", 
> this use case is addressed by the WHATWG license, but relying on that 
> means that the W3C instance of HTML5 can't be treated as the canonical 
> instance. I'm already exercising this option on the source code of the 
> Validator.nu HTML Parser under the WHATWG spec license.)
>  * Extracting parts of a spec and showing the extracts verbatim or with 
> modifications in the user interface of a validator. The validator as a 
> whole including its UI strings should be Open Source and should be 
> suitable for packaging in popular GNU system distributions including 
> Debian. Both distributing a copy of the spec text and a program for 
> extracting pieces of it at runtime and distributing preprocessed 
> extracts should be permitted. Showing a copyright notice on in the 
> documentation of the validator is acceptable, but showing a copyright 
> notice or other legal legends in the UI whenever a spec extract appears 
> would not be acceptable. (I'm already doing this in Validator.nu under 
> the WHATWG spec license. However, I'd be interested in having the option 
> to do this with the authoring guide/reference deliverables of the WG and 
> with the SVG and MathML specs.)
>  * Extracting the WebIDL parts of the spec and incorporating them 
> verbatim or with modifications into the source code trees of 
> implementations of the spec. Such inclusion should not interfere with 
> LGPLv2.1 or later (Gecko, WebKit), GPLv2 or later (Gecko), MPL 1.1 or 
> later (Gecko), Apache Software License 2.0 (Batik) or the licensing 
> models of Opera and IE.
>  * Extracting the CSS parts of the spec and incorporating them verbatim 
> or with modifications into the source code trees of implementations of 
> the spec. Such inclusion should not interfere with LGPLv2.1 or later 
> (Gecko, WebKit), GPLv2 or later (Gecko), MPL 1.1 or later (Gecko), 
> Apache Software License 2.0 (Batik) or the licensing models of Opera and 
> IE.
>  * Copying prose from the spec and pasting it verbatim or with 
> modifications into comments or accompanying documentation of a test case 
> and checking the test case into the source tree of any of the 
> above-mentioned software projects plus html5lib without interfering with 
> their licensing or choice of project hosting.
>  * Continuing the development of the WG deliverables in a non-W3C venue 
> if the W3C or the HTML WG cease operations.
>  * Forking some or all of the WG deliverables and pursuing an 
> alternative development path outside the W3C even without the W3C or the 
> HTML WG ceasing operations. (That is, I think what Rob Burns is doing on 
> the HTML4All wiki should be allowed.)
> I believe licensing the spec under the MIT license[2] would address all 
> the above use cases to my satisfaction.
> Additional use cases that I think are worthwhile but that I'm less 
> interested in advocating personally:
>  * Taking WG deliverables in whole or part and repurposing content into 
> a book that is given gratis or sold on paper or as a digital file.
>  * Using extracts from WG deliverables in documentation published on 
> developer.mozilla.org.
> [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limitations_and_exceptions_to_copyright
> [2] http://www.opensource.org/licenses/mit-license.php
Received on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 19:34:54 UTC

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