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[Discuss-gnuradio] "Copying" Tutorials and IP

From: Michael Dickens
Subject: [Discuss-gnuradio] "Copying" Tutorials and IP
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 09:52:11 -0400

Patrick - The following are my beliefs and understandings on the "just copy it" tutorial issue; I'm sure the list will correct me where I'm wrong (;). Sorry if it all sounds absurd; it IS to some degree, but that's the way our society has progressed when it comes to IP and covering one's bases.

Dawei's tutorial has recently become available for my group (UND, EE, JNL) to (re)post and (to the best of my knowledge and understanding) update; I certainly hope this is the case because, as Eric points out, the tutorial is far enough out of date that its use is of marginal value. And, my group, being heavy users of GR, holds significant value in our works and hence will make all reasonable efforts to keep the tutorial updated. - MLD

Quick version
I wish it were as simple as "just copy it", but these days intellectual property (IP) is a hot item, and these tutorials are IP. "Just copying" IP w/o the author's (and possibly others') permission could result in lawsuits; folks generally just don't want to go there (even if they could afford to). Further, having a license to -copy- doesn't always grant a license to -modify-, so even if someone did copy a tutorial (with or without permission) does not necessarily mean that that tutorial can be legally updated. There are a number of complications to the issue, which is why GR developers sign over (C) and license rights to the FSF via a physical (USPS) letter of agreement.

Longer version
Are there any licence issues if we want to copy the tutorial's contents?

YES! There are potentially huge issues if those tutorials are just copied without permission unless they are already under a license which -explicitly- grants that permission. Even if the license grants -copying- it might not grant -modifying-.

I guess authors mast give their OK, but what else? Licence?

A written statement from the author(s) is the best way to get permission - e.g. a digitally signed email would probably suffice for these install guides (not good enough for general GR code submission though, understandably); a USPS notarized letter (of appropriate content) would be even better but I don't think anybody's expecting that level of anality for these tutorials (I might be wrong; folks really like to cover their bases these days). It's always good if the author(s) put the tutorial under an appropriate OSS license (e.g. Creative Commons or GPL), since those allow for copying so long as the content (including the license info) isn't modified beyond (re) formatting. But, generally, for -modifying- one really wants to gain the owner's permission (in some verifiable form, not just a non- digitally-signed email, which could be easily faked) unless the license is quite explicit about that aspect of ownership.

You'll notice that my OSX install guide is linked into the GR Wiki, but I haven't copied it there. I'm required by my school (UND) and my department (EE) and my advisor (JNL) to copyright the document to them, and / or provide an appropriate license so that they can have royalty-free access to the document; the license and (C) are in the works as we transition from personal WWW pages into sdr.nd.edu . While certainly I could just "copy it over", technically I have to gain permission from UND (UND, EE, JNL) to do so - which from past experience is somewhat of a PITA (UND). Hence just the link to the tutorial at this time.

Also, just because I am required to license my works while at UND to UND, this does not grant UND permission to -modify- those works. This permission must come from me explicitly, in writing, etc.... Now, of course, I'm not unreasonable about my dealings with UND since they allow me to get my grad education there ... but IP is still IP and I need to protect mine as much as you should be protecting yours.

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