[TAG] License Question
rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Sep 22 20:00:37 MSD 2008
Quoting Martin (martin at marcher.name):
> wow, that is quite a discussion I started here. Actually I was just
> expecting something like:
> We are fine with licenses:
> A, B, C, D
> still we prefer OPL as our default license (because........)
Basic coverage of that is in the Author FAQ, linked from the front page:
We're happy to accept articles previously published elsewhere, as long
as the original copyright does not prevent that article from being
re-released under the Open Publication License (OPL), LG's default
publication license. Our official copyright statement (in short, the OPL
without the optional clauses) is at
The term "default" alludes, here, to the fact that, if you're a real
licensing militant and desparately want to use something else, you can
ask. Ben can say "Sure", or he can say "Sorry, not worth the hassle."
And, oddly enough, that's pretty much exactly what Ben's said in this
> As I don't have any insight about how you work apart from the FAQs and
> this discussion I can't make a qualified statement, but as a "user" of
> these licenses I'd be happy to get this list in the FAQ or somewhere
> on the homepage.
Licensing is already covered on the front page and the Author FAQ.
> Maybe even the reasoning why (most of you) consider NC not acceptable.
To be blunt, I really doubt we're going to alter the magazine's front
page or FAQ to explain why an ordinary right every other contributor was
fine with granting except for one guy over the course of 13 years is
part of the magazine's standard licence.
I'm willing, nonetheless, to spend a few minutes giving my personal view
on the licensing situation. (To be really clear, I don't speak _LG's_
institutional view. Ben does, when he chooses to, being in charge of
Back in dinosaur days, universities and other institutions tended to
make software source code available under proprietary terms or not at
all. Some of them decided, after a while, that "Hey, this is a way to
make money!" So, they changed to issuing non-commercial-use-only
licensing for most source code. If you wanted to make usage of that
code, you had to purchase a commercial-deployment licence from a
university trust set up for that purpose. Quite a number of
universities still do that, which is why many important codebases such
as Tripwire (from Perdue U.) entered the modern era as "free for
non-commercial use" code.
UC Berkekey and then MIT were nearly unique mavericks during this
period, issuing _all_ rights to many codebases under the BSD and MIT/X11
licence, respectively. At first, their licensing was quaint and
regarded as impractical and ill-advised. Gradually, the advantages
became so compelling that truly free-licensed code clobbered pretty much
all of the noncommercial-use-only alternatives in the market for users
and mindshare: Tripwire ASR, proprietary SSH, PGP, COPS, and the like
all lagged behind freely-licensed competitors.
I was at VA Linux Systems when the Tripwire people visited in something
of a panic over their mindshare loss to such competitors. VA helped
them to open-source their IDS engine and terminate the
free-for-noncommercial-use-only variant, both of which had become rather
old and moldy, and were being swept aside. (It may have been too late
for them. Also, their source codebase proved to be a hopelessly antique
I'm running low on time, but basically we all learned over the last
couple of decades that free-for-noncommercial-use-only licensing was
rubbish, was a hassle (e.g., does _LG_ need to ask all prior authors
before it could put, hypothetically, Google AdSense ads on its Web
site?) and was a loser of an idea with no real advantages -- and also
that the magazine, like open source software, does perfectly fine
If you think commercial rights to your 4kB HTML magazine articles
are precious and must be guarded zealously lest anyone dared to
republish your pieces without paying you, then _LG_ is simply not the
right magazine for you. There are plenty of others that might qualify.
We never think the worse of anyone for that -- indeed, that would be
really hypocritical since I and others also sell different articles
I hope none of the above has been harsh (I'm a bit rushed for time), and
please do remember that I'm voicing my own view, only. Thanks.
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