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Why GPL Compliance Tutorials Should Be Free as in Freedom
Blog post by Bradley M. Kuhn on April 25, 2017
I am honored to be a co-author and editor-in-chief of the most comprehensive, detailed, and complete guide on matters related to compliance of copyleft software licenses such as the GPL. This book, Copyleft and the GNU General Public License: A Comprehensive Tutorial and Guide (which we often call the Copyleft Guide for short) is 155 pages filled with useful material to help everyone understand copyleft licenses for software, how they works, and how to comply with them properly. It is the only document to fully incorporate esoteric material such as the FSF's famous GPLv3 rationale documents directly alongside practical advice, such as the pristine example, which is the only freely published compliance analysis of a real product on the market. The document explains in great detail how that product manufacturer made good choices to comply with the GPL. The reader learns by both real-world example as well as abstract explanation.
However, the most important fact about the Copyleft Guide is not its useful and engaging content. More importantly, the license of this book gives freedom to its readers in the same way the license of the copylefted software does. Specifically, we chose the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 license (CC BY-SA) for this work. We believe that not just software, but any generally useful technical information that teaches people should be freely sharable and modifiable by the general public.
The reasons these freedoms are necessary seem so obvious that I'm surprised I need to state them. Companies who want to build internal training courses on copyleft compliance for their employees need to modify the materials for that purpose. They then need to be able to freely distribute them to employees and contractors for maximum effect. Furthermore, like all documents and software alike, there are always “bugs”, which (in the case of written prose) usually means there are sections that are fail to communicate to maximum effect. Those who find better ways to express the ideas need the ability to propose patches and write improvements. Perhaps most importantly, everyone who teaches should avoid NIH syndrome. Education and science work best when we borrow and share (with proper license-compliant attribution, of course!) the best material that others develop, and augment our works by incorporating them.
These reasons are akin to those that led Richard M. Stallman to write his seminal essay, Why Software Should Be Free. Indeed, if you reread that essay now — as I just did — you'll see that much of damage and many of the same problems to the advancement of software that RMS documents in that essay also occur in the world of tutorial documentation about FLOSS licensing. As too often happens in the Open Source community, though, folks seek ways to proprietarize, for profit, any copyrighted work that doesn't already have a copyleft license attached. In the field of copyleft compliance education, we see the same behavior: organizations who wish to control the dialogue and profit from selling compliance education seek to proprietarize the meta-material of compliance education, rather than sharing freely like the software itself. This yields an ironic exploitation, since the copyleft license documented therein exists as a strategy to assure the freedom to share knowledge. These educators tell their audiences with a straight face: Sure, the software is free as in freedom, but if you want to learn how its license works, you have to license our proprietary materials! This behavior uses legal controls to curtail the sharing of knowledge, limits the advancement and improvement of those tutorials, and emboldens silos of know-how that only wealthy corporations have the resources to access and afford. The educational dystopia that these organizations create is precisely what I sought to prevent by advocating for software freedom for so long.
While Conservancy's primary job provides non-profit infrastructure for Free Software projects, we also do a bit of license compliance work as well. But we practice what we preach: we release all the educational materials that we produce as part of the Copyleft Guide project under CC BY-SA. Other Open Source organizations are currently hypocrites on this point; they tout the values of openness and sharing of knowledge through software, but they take their tutorial materials and lock them up under proprietary licenses. I hereby publicly call on such organizations (including but not limited to the Linux Foundation) to license materials such as those under CC BY-SA.
I did not make this public call for liberation of such materials without first trying friendly diplomacy first. Conservancy has been in talks with individuals and staff who produce these materials for some time. We urged them to join the Free Software community and share their materials under free licenses. We even offered volunteer time to help them improve those materials if they would simply license them freely. After two years of that effort, it's now abundantly clear that public pressure is the only force that might work0. Ultimately, like all proprietary businesses, the training divisions of Linux Foundation and other entities in the compliance industrial complex (such as Black Duck) realize they can make much more revenue by making materials proprietary and choosing legal restrictions that forbid their students from sharing and improving the materials after they complete the course. While the reality of this impasse regarding freely licensing these materials is probably an obvious outcome, multiple sources inside these organizations have also confirmed for me that liberation of the materials for the good of general public won't happen without a major paradigm shift — specifically because such educational freedom will reduce the revenue stream around those materials.
Of course, I can attest first-hand that freely liberating tutorial materials curtails revenue. Karen Sandler and I have regularly taught courses on copyleft licensing based on the freely available materials for a few years — most recently in January 2017 at LinuxConf Australia and at at OSCON in a few weeks. These conferences do kindly cover our travel expenses to attend and teach the tutorial, but compliance education is not a revenue stream for Conservancy. While, in an ideal world, we'd get revenue from education to fund our other important activities, we believe that there is value in doing this education as currently funded by our individual Supporters; these education efforts fit withour charitable mission to promote the public good. We furthermore don't believe that locking up the materials and refusing to share them with others fits a mission of software freedom, so we never considered such as a viable option. Finally, given the institutionally-backed FUD that we've continue to witness, we seek to draw specific attention to the fundamental difference in approach that Conservancy (as a charity) take toward this compliance education work. (My my recent talk on compliance covered on LWN includes some points on that matter, if you'd like further reading).
0One notable exception to these efforts was the success of my colleague, Karen Sandler's (and others) in convincing the OpenChain project to choose CC-0 licensing. However, OpenChain is not officially part of the LF training curriculum to my knowledge, and if it is, it can of course be proprietarized therein, since CC-0 is not a copyleft license.
Happy to officially join Aaron Parceki as co-chair of the Social Web Community Group!
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.
I'm looking into building a Qt-based ActivityPub library for the future Dianara (my Pump.io client), and hopefully, any other client (Pumpa!), bot, utility, etc which wants to use it =)
I've wanted to split Dianara's Pump networking logic into a library for a long time, but now this will make more sense. We'll see!
Having a Qt-based library is a great idea! That's something I've been thinking as well for some time. It wouldn't make sense for us to implement it separately. And frankly, given my lack of free time these days, I probably wouldn't have time to do it anyway.
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) likes this.
Pump.io community meeting today Friday 201/04/21 at 20:00 UTC
Our monthly community meeting will be today Friday 201/04/21 at 20:00 UTC
on the #pump.io channel on the Freenode IRC network,
which is also mirrored to the firstname.lastname@example.org jabber/XMPP MUC room.
Agenda is here: https://github.com/pump-io/pump.io/wiki/Meeting-2017-04-21
You're all welcome to join us there =)
JanKusanagi shared this.
Limited lessons from Google and xmpp
- Rock: corporations aren't our champions
- Hard place: but we don't really have good routes for people to take care of themselves and their communities without draining so much personal energy
We need to make self-hosting easier.
Jean-Marc Liotier shared this.Show all 7 replies
Kevin Everets likes this.
Someone accused me of being "peak emacs" because of my former use of foot pedals for ctrl / alt.
But just FYI there's now an Emacs window manager packaged in Guix.
Just look at this thing. Just look at it.
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.
ActivityPub tutorial (complete with ascii art)
Hi everyone! I wrote an ActivityPub tutorial!
I hope that makes things pretty clear! It's plaintext only with ascii art for now, but I might add it as a preamble to the actual spec. What do people think? Feedback welcome!
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.Show all 10 replies
>> Christopher Allan Webber:
“@Michael Probably Event :)
You could also use Invite and Accept and Reject to announce people being invited... heck, you could even use Arrive on the Event once you got there :)”
nice .. also noticed just below it theres "place" ...
so I could use that for the venue locations I guess :-)
the use-case I'm thinking of is more like a shared gig guide so it won't require invites as such (depends on the event) but I guess people could rsvp if they want to.
The use-case I'm thinking of is more like a kind of shared community gig guide than a personal calendar.
I'm thinking of something somewhat like a federated forum but with event dates, etc and and the context of locations is that of event venues rather than where a user is.
(can't use user locations for that - its a different thing!)
and at the ui end of things events would be displayed sorted by event dates.FWIW I have successfully used iCalendar and iMIP for federated meeting acceptance.
There's apparently work for a better location field
- I ran "grep -ri ^User-Agent . | cut -f 2 -d ' ' | cut -f 1 -d '/' | sort | uniq -c" on recent guix-devel messages and saw these MUAs with a defined user-agent. (Shockling guix is filled with emacs users)
Christopher Allan Webber shared this.
- I have joined. joeyh has joined. Join, you too!
Has Sumana Harihareswara invented a new form of presentation? her LibrePlanet keynote was a menu of 35 lightening talks, with the audience selecting between them.
Planning to rewatch this, it went so fast and there was so much in there. Also, got a little bit busy with politicking that resulted in the final pick of #15.
She could give this talk a dozen times and it would be a dozen different experiences I'll bet.
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.
Working link to the talk: https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/lessons-myths-and-lenses-what-i-wish-i-d-known-in-1998/
(For some reason I sometimes can't edit pump.io posts.)