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[Help-liquidwar6] Artwork & license issues

From: Christian Mauduit
Subject: [Help-liquidwar6] Artwork & license issues
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 19:59:37 +0100
User-agent: IceDove (X11/20061116)


First, the insteresting news is that I managed to create .debs & RPMs
for Liquid War 6, they are not available for download yet since the game
is in a "not clean enough to be released" state, but I plan to make them
available before the end of the month.

But, this is not the main subject of this mail, which is meant to be a
totally boring and productiveless discussion about "which license to
use". This is one side effect of being part of the GNU project -> Liquid
War 6 must be totally clean from the license / copyright point of view.

This is usually never a problem for code, most coders, when they
contribute, accept their work to be included under the terms of the GNU
GPL (that's practically the only way for patches to be officially
distributed in fact, you must publish your patches under the GPL or a
compatible licence, if you decide to publish them).

This used to be a problem for nothing but artwork in facts, but it
started to be a problem with documentation recently, the FSF requiring
GNU projects (only GNU projects of course, other Free Software projects
can do whatever they want) to use the GNU FDL for documentation. This in
itself isn't a problem, but there was a collision with the Debian
project, for which the FDL is not a "Free" license (understand: does not
respect the Debian Free Software Guidelines "DFSG") the consequence
being that most recent GNU documentation can't be included in Debian. IO
Both Debian team and the FSF argue (at least in was like that 3 month
ago) stand on their position. The FSF says the FDL is free and Debian
could distribute such documentation. Debian team says the FDL isn't free
and it can't distribute such documentation.


My personnal opinion is that Debian is being a little picky about
licenses on that point. At the same time, I cannot understand how the
GNU project will benefit from insisting on using the FDL.

The goal of this mail isn't to rant about licenses, but I thought it
would be interesting to have this little story about the FDL as an
introduction, before we come to the great question:

"Which license to use for artwork?"

This is a complicated question. I'm very concerned by it, as I sometime
release artwork on the web, which is not linked with my software
projects, and I'm always wondering about what license to use. Feels
sometimes that if one could count on real fair use, a good old public
domain stamp would pretty much do the job, but we don't live in a world
where it's reasonnable to publish hard work under a public domain
license, since abuses are no so rare that we need not protect anything.

As of today, LW6 already has a bunch of artwork, and that's probably
what causes the last snapshot to weight 6Mb. Most of this artwork comes
1) maps imported from LW5
2) stuff I created for LW6 (graphics, maps)
3) maps designed for LW6 by Kasper Hviid
4) musics offered by Tim Chadburn, not LW6 specific, but would just fit

1) and 2) are "released under the GNU GPL" contents, and 3) and 4) are
released under the "Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike" license
(versions 2.0 and 2.5 if I'm right).

>From my point of view, this is totally correct, the spirit of the CC
license, with the "Attribution-Sharealike" option, is pretty much what I
expect from a free license, that's fine with me.

But this does not seem to be the point of view of the FSF, as is stated

Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license

    This is a copyleft free license meant for artistic works and
entertainment works. Please don't use it for software or documentation,
since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the GNU FDL.

    There is literally no specific freedom that all Creative Commons
licenses grant. Therefore, to say that a work "uses a Creative Commons
license" is to leave all important questions about the work's licensing
unanswered. When you see such a statement, please suggest making it
clearer. And if someone proposes to "use a Creative Commons license" for
a certain work, it is vital to ask immediately "Which one?"

    We recommend using the Free Art License, rather than this one, so as
to avoid augmenting the problem caused by the vagueness of "a Creative
Commons license".

So, we could imagine that using the Free Art License would solve our
problem, but... on the same page we read:

Free Art License

    This is a free and copyleft license meant for artistic works. It
permits commercial distribution, but any larger work including the
copylefted work must be free. Please don't use it for software or
documentation, since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the

Well, switching to the Free Art License does not help so much, since
it's said to be incompatible with the GPL. Besides, no LW6 contributer
ever used the vague "a Creative Commons license" formulation, the
complete license description is systematically used, with its flavor
(attribution-sharealike) and its version (2.0 or 2.5 for that matter).

And, oh yeah, you could say that the advice of the FSF concerning using
the Free Art License instead of a CC license is just "do not to use it
for software", and here, we're just talking about artwork. This is a
point of view, but I do not really share it. Maps, for instance, are at
the same time artwork and software. Without a map, LW6 won't run, at
all, it makes no sense. It happens that the current implementation uses
JPEGs and PNGs because it's convenient, but technically, one could write
that in a proprietary format, or hardcode it right in the C source
files. Add the fact that in LW6 maps can/will have many parameters, and
that I don't exclude the idea of putting some scripts in maps that
define some very specific behaviors, and you have the big picture: a map
in LW6 is neither pure software nor pure artwork, it is both.

As a matter of fact, most license writters seem to have overlooked that
point: games include both many lines of code and many artwork items, and
choosing  a license is complicated.

Many game designers don't care, and you'll see many games with the
engine being GPL'ed and the artwork being totally proprietary, with the
company behind retaining all rights on the artwork and using this to
earn one's living. I'm note judging this practice, but it's a fact,
that's not how LW6 works. The idea is to provide "a complete game that
works out of the box" to the user. And this should be even more true
with LW6 that LW5, I really want the game, in the long run, to be a
click & run package, that has everything right from the very start.

As I see it, including your work (I'm talking more specifically to
Kasper & Tim here) with the CC license won't cause an earthquake, and
it's perfectly doable. I've done it already in fact, with Kasper's maps.
And Tim's musics are just about to pour in the game.

But it's my opinion, and I'm pretty sure any FSF lawyer/expert would
confirm it, that to be sure the copyright on the game is correctly
enforceable, it's wiser to change something.

As I see it, there are 3 solutions:
1) contributors keep using whatever license they want. In the best case
I might just make a statement in the README that explains that some
parts of the game are GPL'ed, some are FDL'ed, and some are CC'ed. The
risk is that (as it happened with documentations and Debian) in some
cases, the data/artwork can't be distributed along with the code. For
those who think this can't happen, the FDL/Debian is a sad example that
it is possible.
2) contributors of artwork use the Free Art License instead of the CC,
as the FSF seems to suggest. This has many drawbacks, being that it
forces the contributor to change the license of its work. After all, if
CC have been chosen, there must be a reason, and I'm very well placed to
be aware that the opinion of the creator must be respected.
3) contributors dual-license the artwork under both the CC
attributation-sharealike (or whatever license they prefer...) and the
GPL. This is the choice I like best. If the contributor uses his work in
other contexts than LW6 (as it is obviously the case with Tim's
musics...) then he can still distribute them under the CC. But, for LW6,
it's dual licensed CC/GPL. Actually, in this case, it would be dual
licensed for any usage, since a "GPL'ed for LW6" makes no sense, as the
GPL does not restrict the usages of the material it covers, it only
covers copying, studying, modifying and distributing.

I like solution 3) best. IMHO it does not change much things for
contributors, the GPL and CC "attribution-sharealike" being both free
licenses, with a copyleft. As I understand it, someone who contributes
to LW6 can understand it's a bazillion time easier to manage the package
if everything is under the same license, than if it's a per map option.

Meanwhile, I insist on the fact that I don't want to force anybody to
release something under a license that does not fit its needs, its
vision. But well, the message is: it's complicated for me to handle
that, is it possible to dual-license the work please?

Last point, you might argue that, OK, maps are at the border between
code and artwork, but musics? Well, and that's one of the reasons I'd
like to use csound for. The source code for a music usually exists, it's
generally called a score. And, with csound you can match a score against
an orchestra. So basically, you could "skin" a tune with different
instruments, to match the general ambiance of the game. Another
possibility I thought of is to change the music if there's a lot of
fight on the map, or affect an instrument to each player and make this
instrument louder if this player wins. In a general manner, it's could
to be able to try stuff, hack arround, and from this point of view music
is very similar to code. Those products of imagination, of random tries,
that do not sound good simply disappear, in a very darwinian manner.

OK, that's all for now, the debate is started, feel free to give me your
point of view, I do not really know how you'll understand this email,
but be sure I'm really not pleased to spend time dealing with licenses

Coding and playing games is much more fun 8-)

Have a nice day,


Christian Mauduit <address@hidden>     __/\__ ___
                                        \~/ ~/(`_ \   ___                   /_o _\   \ \_/ _ \_ (GnuPG)    \/      \___/ \__)

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