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#1 2012-07-06 08:39:26

PhotonX
Member
From: Munich
Registered: 2008-08-10
Posts: 429

Customized license for an AUR package

Hello community,

yesterday I stumbled upon a very cool LaTeX package for creating commutative diagrams. I found it very useful and thus wanted to create an AUR package for it, but unfortunately it has a somewhat unusual license. Here it is:

%% COPYRIGHT NOTICE:                                                    %
%%      This package may be copied and used freely for any academic     %
%%      (not commercial or military) purpose, on condition that it      %
%%      is not altered in any way, and that an acknowledgement is       %
%%      included in any published work making substantial use of it.    %
%%                                                                      %
%%      IT IS SUPPLIED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED.   %
%%                                                                      %
%%      If you are doing something where mistakes cost money (or where  %
%%      success brings financial profit) then you must use commercial   %
%%      software, not this package. In any case, please remember to     %
%%      keep several backup copies of all files, and check everything   %
%%      visually before sending final copy to the publishers.           %
%%                                                                      %
%%      You may use this package as a (substantial) aid to writing an   %
%%      academic research or text book on condition that                %
%%       (i) you contact me at a suitable time to ensure that you have  %
%%           an up-to-date version (and any infelicities can be fixed), %
%%      (ii) you send me a copy of the book when it's published.        %

Also the source code is mostly kind of closed (you might take a look at http://www.paultaylor.eu/diagrams/diagrams.sty ). I contacted the author and asked whether it would be possible to change the license to some similar but more common license. Unfortunately it seems that the code needs much clean up before it can be published and the author doesn't have the time and resources to take care of it. Thus a closed license similar to the current license would be needed.

So I'd like to ask whether there is a common license similar to the above and if not, whether I can still create an AUR package for it (and what license I should use in this case).

Thanks,
PhotonX

Last edited by PhotonX (2012-07-06 08:42:42)


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#2 2012-07-06 10:46:46

tomk
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From: Ireland
Registered: 2004-07-21
Posts: 9,837

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

Maybe I'm missing something, but how does that "license" prevent you from putting it in the AUR?

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#3 2012-07-06 11:28:02

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,485
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Re: Customized license for an AUR package

Strictly speaking that license should not hinder putting it in the AUR in any way.  Just include the license.

Now I will say that license makes me wonder whether it is worth putting in the AUR.  After reading that, I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole.  I doubt the author really understands the implications of that license, and I would be surprised if they tried to enforce violations of it ... but if they did, this license - as I understand it - means "if you use my package for nearly any purpose, I will have grounds to sue you."

I'm have nothing against restrictive licenses that favor the protection of the original author, but if they don't provide the end user clear terms under which they may get practical use out of the package, then what the hell is the point.

So long story short, go ahead and put it in the AUR as is.  But be careful with it's use.  Given the ubiquity of GPL and BSD licesenses in the AUR, a message during installation highlighting the restrictive license would be a useful courtesy to other users - but strictly speaking, when one installs from the AUR (or installs anything at all) it is that user's responsibility to understand the license.


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#4 2012-07-06 12:45:48

PhotonX
Member
From: Munich
Registered: 2008-08-10
Posts: 429

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

First of all, thanks for your answers!

tomk: Strictly speaking, there is no issue with putting it into the AUR since the license allows redistribution. But every AUR package has some license specified in the PKGBUILD and listed on the AUR page, so I wonder which license I should choose here.

Trilby: Well yeah, it's quite a restrictive and also a bit fuzzy license, but if you use the package for something you don't intend to publish, I think you will be fine with it. I think that the author doesn't want to sue anybody and just lacks the time to revise the code and change the license.

However, I think that he is quite open to ideas how to change the license. Citing his mail

The last person who asked me about the license for my diagrams was
Karl Berry, in his capacity as manager of the TeX-live distribution.
This was a little over a year ago.

I asked him whether he could suggest some standard license
that did not require me to publish the unobfuscated source code,
and then include my package in his distribution [...]

He refused, insisting that I release the source code.

I am not willing to do this because, as it stands, it is completely unsuitable for publication.[...]

It would take quite a lot of work to reorganise
the source code and its documentation for other people to read.

[...]

Maybe you have an answer to the question that I put to Karl Berry.

I'm not a great psychologist but for me it looks as if the author is willing to change the license if somebody would make a good proposal on how to change it. So, anybody who is strong in licensing questions here? smile


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#5 2012-07-06 12:55:38

jakobcreutzfeldt
Member
Registered: 2011-05-12
Posts: 1,033

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

Given Karl Berry's role in GNU, I'm not surprised that he called for the code being released (presumably under the GPL). I don't understand why he's not willing to release it. If the code is bad and poorly organized, but he has little time to fix it himself, releasing it as free software would be the perfect solution: let the community clean it up. Perhaps you can go for that angle.

As for the PKGBUILD, many just put 'custom' in the LICENSE field and then install a copy of the license file to /usr/share/licenses/${pkgname}.

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#6 2012-07-06 13:27:19

PhotonX
Member
From: Munich
Registered: 2008-08-10
Posts: 429

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

Well, I think, that's exactly what Karl Berry tried but failed with. I also know some other projects with exactly the same situation (most prominent maybe the Inyoka project developed by the German ubuntuusers.de's webteam). I think, if the author isn't willing to open the code, one should respect his decision. But maybe there are other ways to improve the license (like make it less fuzzy for the end user).

Thanks for the hint concerning the PKGBUILD, that's what I'll do. smile


Desktop: http://www.sysprofile.de/id15562, Arch Linux    |    Notebook: Thinkpad X200 Tablet, Manjaro

The very worst thing you can do with free software is to download it, see that it doesn't work for some reason, leave it, and tell your friends that it doesn't work.  -  Tuomas Lukka

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#7 2012-07-06 14:11:52

Trilby
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From: Massachusetts, USA
Registered: 2011-11-29
Posts: 13,485
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Re: Customized license for an AUR package

I don't know if it is commonly used for software/code, but I don't think a creative commons license requires source distribution while an "Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives (by-nc-nd)" creative commons license seems to provide the restrictions the author is aiming for.  This would allow for the use of a clear and established license.

Note: I just found a CC FAQ that advises against using it for software.  Though the reason seems to be that the license does not make any specific mention of source/object code thus it is not an open source license.  However, if one want's a closed license, that may do it ... it's at least worth considering.

It also may be worth considering whether the code in this project uses previously GPL'ed code/tools which I'm pretty sure it would.  If that's the case then I believe it must also be GPL.  ("I beleive" = don't take my word on this ... but this should be looked into).

EDIT: come to think of it, no actual "software" is being distributed as there is no compiled version of this.  What is being distributed is a document.  It is a style document with instructions that are interpreted by other software.  That other software could be, but need not be, a GPL'ed latex compiler.  It could be any sort of markup compiler that can work with latex-like instructions.  Anyhow, the point is what is to be protected is not a resulting program, but the text contents of the sty document itself.  Thefore a simpler document copyright would be more fitting than a software license, wouldn't it?  So, I would recommend a creative commons variant.  This allows others to use his sty document while (optionally) requiring attribution, disallowing modification of the sty document, and disallowing commercial use.

EDIT2: following from the above, with a comparison - this is like distrubuting campaigns or other plugins for the GPL'ed game Battle for Wesnoth.  The artwork can be, and often is, under a more restrictive copyright of the author/creator.  A sty document seems more like the artwork and added levels of Wesnoth than additional software.

EDIT3: another comparison would be distributed CSS styles.  These are (if anything) under document copyright not software license.

Last edited by Trilby (2012-07-06 14:29:51)


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#8 2012-07-06 14:26:02

drcouzelis
Member
From: Connecticut, USA
Registered: 2009-11-09
Posts: 3,423
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Re: Customized license for an AUR package

I am not willing to do this because, as it stands, it is completely unsuitable for publication. It would take quite a lot of work to reorganise the source code and its documentation for other people to read.

Gaaahhh this way of thinking drives me crazy! THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!

Another possibility is to list the license as "Other" and display the full license when someone uses pacman to install it.

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#9 2012-07-06 14:53:38

tomk
Forum Fellow
From: Ireland
Registered: 2004-07-21
Posts: 9,837

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

'other' is not a valid license type for Arch packages. As already suggested, use 'custom'.

Details in man PKGBUILD, for anyone who needs them.

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#10 2012-07-06 15:53:12

PhotonX
Member
From: Munich
Registered: 2008-08-10
Posts: 429

Re: Customized license for an AUR package

Trilby, thanks for your detailed explanation, I'll forward it to the author. Seems totally logical to me.

drcoutelis, yeah I don't like it, too, but any author has the right to do whatever he prefers with his software.

tomk, thanks for the hint, I didn't know that there is a man for PKGBUILD, seems pretty helpful.


Desktop: http://www.sysprofile.de/id15562, Arch Linux    |    Notebook: Thinkpad X200 Tablet, Manjaro

The very worst thing you can do with free software is to download it, see that it doesn't work for some reason, leave it, and tell your friends that it doesn't work.  -  Tuomas Lukka

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