[-empyre-] comments welcome

adam adam at flossmanuals.net
Sat Jan 28 22:31:11 EST 2012

On 01/27/2012 08:34 PM, Rob Myers wrote:
> 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
> enabler.

i agree. the problem with ebooks though is that they are often 
proprietary formats that evade unpacking the source or break licenses if 

> 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.

good for unpacking texts that were published in print before digital 
media, we have no choice actually in the case - archive.org are also 
doing amazing work in this area and have rooms of people scanning books 
almost 24/7 it seems. its also cool to see many more diy scanners 
appearing over the last 2 years or so, not only are there more but they 
are getting more mature eg

>> 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:
> https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html
> "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.

the thing i have learned about the FDL is that it is not a free license 
but a strategy by the FSF to protect their own business model. it seems 
the FSF saw oreilly stealing its business model (making documentation) 
and so the FDL was invented to stop publishers from taking free content 
and republishing it. that is why there are so many bizarre clauses like:

"If you publish printed copies (or copies in media that commonly have 
printed covers) of the Document, numbering more than 100, and the 
Document's license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the 
copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: "

since when does a free license have clauses like this? its more or less 
placing an arbitrary threshold on freedom (ie. 99 copies or less). it 
makes no sense from a freedom point of view. We can only understand this 
clause and others like it if we understand what the FSF was trying to 
achieve - stopping commercial competitors.

the FDL should not be seen as a license but a defense commercial 
strategy which is more or less the same in practice as all rights reserved.

The historical background about the FSF and oreilly is not conjecture as 
far as I can tell (not naming sources).

> 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.

maybe we need to create a free book manifesto, something similar to the 
four freedoms of the free software movement. a manifesto that requires 
access to the source in an easily editable and transferable form amongst 
other requirements.


> - Rob.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


Adam Hyde
Founder, FLOSS Manuals
Project Manager, Booki
Book Sprint Facilitator
mobile :+ 49 177 4935122
identi.ca : @eset
booki.flossmanuals.net : @adam


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