Bug#384019: manual-copyright clarification

Stefano Zacchiroli zack at debian.org
Mon Aug 28 19:54:27 UTC 2006

On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 11:24:31PM +0200, Bram Moolenaar wrote:
> > > The name "Open Publication License" is right, the URL was wrong.
> > Could you please correct the URL then? I guess the following is the
> > correct one:
> I have changed it.  The ftp server will soon have the updated files.


> > Do you think it is possible to relicense the manual under a different
> > license? (The best possible is usually the same that applies to the
> > source code of the program itself). How many parts are taken from
> > Oualline's book? Is it possible to rewrite them? We are of course
> > willing to help in that, but maybe we are luckily enough that no more
> > parts took from the book are still in the help ...
> It sounds like you are splitting hairs.  As far as I know the OPL is a
> free license, since it allows distribution and modification.  What part
> of the OPL makes it non-free?

The OPL (meaning in this mail Open Publication License, since the same
acronym is used for the Open Content License) is at the very minimum a
license whose freeness is debatable. A few fact to argument this.

* The Free Software Foundation itself consider the license as a free
  documentation license ONLY IF none of the License Options are
  exercised. I don't know what is the case of the Vim documentation.
  See http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/

* The license is not OSI approved (it is not listed on

* The debian-legal as determined it as non DFSG-free (see

This latter point is motivated by two, IMO minor, points (the first and
the third of
http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2004/03/msg00226.html), and by an
additional major point, namely the license fails to pass the "dissident
test" (see http://people.debian.org/~bap/dfsg-faq.html). The reason is
that every modification to a document published under this license must
be owned by an identified author. This is the verbatim text of the test:

  # The Dissident test.

  Consider a dissident in a totalitarian state who wishes to share a
  modified bit of software with fellow dissidents, but does not wish to
  reveal the identity of the modifier, or directly reveal the
  modifications themselves, or even possession of the program, to the
  government. Any requirement for sending source modifications to anyone
  other than the recipient of the modified binary---in fact any forced
  distribution at all, beyond giving source to those who receive a copy
  of the binary---would put the dissident in danger. For Debian to
  consider software free it must not require any such excess

While I think (but this is a personal opinion) that the minor points
could be ignored for inclusion of the vim documentation in the debian
distribution, I don't think the latter aspect could be. We would
probably be forced to remove the vim documentation from the debian
distribution, moving it to non-free :-(((

Since I don't want that ... while on the Debian side I'm trying to get
comments from the people responsible of accepting stuff into the archive
... on the "Bram" side I would like to know how hard it would be to
relicense the manual under a different license.

Could you please comment on that?

Many thanks in advance,

Stefano Zacchiroli -*- Computer Science PhD student @ Uny Bologna, Italy
zack@{cs.unibo.it,debian.org,bononia.it} -%- http://www.bononia.it/zack/
If there's any real truth it's that the entire multidimensional infinity
of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs. -!-
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