[-empyre-] comments welcome

Rob Myers rob at robmyers.org
Sat Jan 28 06:34:34 EST 2012

On 27/01/12 08:34, adam at flossmanuals.net wrote:
> the thing about most of these licenses though is that you do not have to
> provide the source. a free book without available sources is not free. its
> a type of mechanical copyright protection. we need easily accessible
> editable sources. not pdf, not epub, not mobi, not paper books but easily
> editable sources.

It's certainly more convenient to have ebooks, but it was possible to
make books that people were free to copy, revise, comment on and so on
prior to the existence of ebooks. It's a matter of principle (and law)
rather than technology, although technology can obviously be a major

In the digital era, even if we only have physical copies of books we can
scan and OCR them. This is the basis of gutenberg.org and of Google's
book digitization project.

> Rob - you would know this better than I - what free licenses are there
> suitable for books that require the source to be available?

I only really know the ones that FLOSS Manuals have evaluated. :-)

The GNU GPL can be used for books and this would require that source be
made available.

The GNU FDL, written specifically for books (software instruction
manuals) requires that a "transparent" copy of the work be made available:


"A "Transparent" copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy,
represented in a format whose specification is available to the
general public, that is suitable for revising the document
straightforwardly with generic text editors or (for images composed of
pixels) generic paint programs or (for drawings) some widely available
drawing editor, and that is suitable for input to text formatters or
for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input
to text formatters."

But the FDL is generally frowned on as it allows un-removable "cover
texts" and un-editable "invariant sections" to be added, and it doesn't
handle attribution particularly well for massively collaborative
projects. Wikipedia have switched to BY-SA from the FDL for example. But
as long as you don't use or hit its problematic features it's a good
copyleft licence that requires source IMO.

Source provision for BY-SA is being discussed on the Creative Commons
mailing lists at the moment as part of the 4.0 revision discussions. I
don't think source provision will be included, but I do recommend that
anyone who is interested get involved.

- Rob.

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