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Re: Licensing directions for Fedora content


I have been following the thread on Fedora content licensing and, since
Red Hat Legal was mentioned, I wanted to make a few comments, speaking
here as a licensing lawyer for Red Hat.

The Docs Project licensing FAQ

   The legal counsel for the Fedora Project carefully examined all of
   the well-known content licenses, and concluded that only the OPL
   met all of the criteria for an unambiguous and enforceable license
   that would guarantee the freedoms of contributors and users. 

This was Red Hat's best judgment at the time, but it no longer
represents Red Hat's view. All free (not to mention non-free and
quasi-free) content licenses that we know of have flaws, and the
OPL isn't the worst, but, while I don't want to unduly disparage the
OPL, I cannot see how anyone can, today, justifiably regard it as the
best. The use of the OPL certainly has been an important part of Red
Hat's history, and Fedora's history, but it is perhaps best regarded as
a legacy content license, favored by Red Hat during a transitional
period in which Red Hat's documentation licensing policy was gradually

In a posting in this thread, Spot said that Red Hat Legal "tolerates"
Fedora's use of the OPL. That's accurate; part of that tolerance is an
appreciation (which has grown over time) for the difficulties involved
in license changes and the community expectations that have been built
up around longstanding license policies. 

Red Hat similarly accepts what I understand to be a general preference
for the OPL by the authors on our outstanding engineering content
services team, as implemented for example in the Publican Red Hat
branding package. Within limits, Red Hat gives its developers and
content authors significant discretion to select licenses for software
and documentation. The practice of adding nonfree restrictions (for
which the OPL uses the Orwellian term "options"), which once
characterized much Red Hat documentation and distinguished it from
Fedora's, is however no longer acceptable.  All Red Hat-copyrighted
OPL-licensed documentation is now therefore available under vanilla OPL,
and thus any reference to "options" can be ignored. 

The Docs Project licensing FAQ says:

  The documentation provided by Red Hat, Inc. is licensed under the
  OPL today, and has been using the optional clauses to prevent the
  documents being modified and published without permission.

  Red Hat is going to remove those optional clauses and use the same
  license as Fedora Documentation. More details about this are

The removal of the "options" is now accomplished as a matter of policy.
(Anyone who sees any post-2008 Red Hat documentation licensed under
OPL+"options" is encouraged to file a bug report.) 

The statement seems to suggest that Red Hat has a single-license policy
for documentation, but that has (as far as I can tell) never been so,
any more than we have had, say, a GPLv2-only policy for software. Red
Hat has, and continues to, license some of its copyrighted documentation
under the GFDL, for example, and indeed under ordinary FOSS licenses.  

The FAQ says:

  Red Hat documentation that uses the same OPL licensing is going to
  be able to intermingle content with the Fedora community. 

I don't know how much of a real desire there is for such
intermingling, but in general this intermingling has always been
possible for Red Hat-copyrighted documentation.  For example, I
mentioned that Red Hat licenses some of its copyrighted documentation
under the GFDL.  Suppose Fedora switches content licensing to CC-BY-SA.
Even though GFDL and CC-BY-SA are basically incompatible, Red Hat can
generally permit the Fedora community to use GFDL-licensed Red
Hat-copyrighted documentation under CC-BY-SA if requested to do so.

The issue about Creative Commons and absence of warranty disclaimers
must reflect either a mistaken reading by us or (less likely, I think) a
misunderstanding of something we said.  As far as I can tell, all
Creative Commons licenses have had boilerplate warranty disclaimers
from the get-go.

- Richard

Richard E. Fontana
Open Source Licensing and Patent Counsel
Red Hat, Inc.

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