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

Re: Draft HTML5 licensing survey

From: David Singer <singer@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:40:24 -0700
Message-id: <B723E037-75AA-430B-AD11-D8FE3B0AFF0E@apple.com>
To: "public-html@w3.org WG" <public-html@w3.org>
Some *personal* thoughts here.

I think we want the license to reflect, in some sense and degree, our intent.  People who deliberately place things into the public domain do that with the expectation, and often intent, that the work be used as a basis for derivative works, that it is 'fodder to the mill' of the world. Putting things into the public domain doesn't even ask for attribution, and doesn't (for example) place any of the pass-down restrictions that even some liberal open-source licenses have.  I think it's confusing to the world to have a formal license that permits arbitrary mangling, re-publication, and so on, without even attribution, when in fact we would like convergence in the industry, we would like attribution, and so on.

Also, having written some suggested 'social restrictions' text, I also think we need to realize that though the legal language can be in rough alignment with our desires and positions (which are, after all, only in rough alignment themselves), it can't be perfect.  Some things really are going to be based on goodwill and decent behavior.

I think 'non-forking' may be one of these. Consider
a) any license that formally permits use of fragments under a suitable open-source license, probably can't formally forbid recombination.
b) someone determined to fork can always re-write, which places their work in an interesting, probably debatable, legal position.
c) for a non-forking license to be used, social pressures would have had to have failed; can we really envision a situation in which we have asked someone not to do something, they have done it anyway, and now we get formal and legal and threaten, or bring, legal action? It seems unlikely; the problem will stop at the social point, or probably not at all.
d) the best non-forking provision is being the best specification, being relevant. A license does not do that for us; only hard work does.

So, I lean towards a license that is roughly in harmony with our intent, specifically allows what we know we need to specifically allow, and is backed up by social restrictions. The license itself is not the whole story; it is a part of a composite picture along with the specification, the people behind that, the organizations under whose aegis' those people meet, the consensus of those people as expressed in social language, and so on.

David Singer
Multimedia and Software Standards, Apple Inc.
Received on Monday, 25 April 2011 23:40:52 UTC

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