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Free licence after nine months

A week ago we announced that we were trying to start a new Linux magazine that will make all of its contents available for free after a maximum nine months. The response so far has been phenomenal, and funds have come in far quicker than we expected.

We’ve been discussed on Hacker News, Reddit, Slashdot, The Register, The Guardian and forums across the web. One question keeps coming up: What do you mean by ‘available for free’? Everyone in the open source community knows that this simple word can be loaded with different meanings.

From across the internet, people have been pushing us to be true to free as in freedom. Clem, of Linux Mint fame, has even suggested he’ll create an app for browsing the free content if, that is, it’s properly free.

We held back on making a concrete statement because we wanted to discuss the matter with various contributors and freelance writers that will help us make the magazine. Last week we realised that we needed to clear up exactly what we would do. It’d be unfair to people funding us to leave it ambiguous any longer.

There’s always a temptation to add clauses to licences. Ones that you think won’t really affect the freedom, but will protect you a little bit. In our case it was a non-commercial clause. What if, we wondered, a publishing company decided to reprint our articles and make money off our work? Other Linux magazines could carry our articles without paying us a penny.

However, we’ve been spouting on about the four freedoms for long enough to know that they really do mean something, and it’s time to put our IP where our mouth is. Yes, the four freedoms were written to apply to code, but their spirit is easily transferable, and a non-commercial clause is clearly against it.

Today, we can announce that we’re going to commit to releasing all of our content under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported no more than nine months after it’s published. For anyone unfamiliar with the licence, it’s broadly similar in spirit to the GPLv2. That is, you can distribute the content in any way you choose, and you can modify it in any way you like provided that you license your modifications under a sharealike licence (unported just means it’s an international license). For more information on the licence, take a look at Creative Commons’ text in plain english or the full legal document.

You may have noticed that we’ve said ‘after a maximum of nine months’. We do intend to release some pieces earlier, especially where we think they’ll have value for the community. So, if you see something that you think we should release earlier, let us know. If you’re a teacher who wants to distribute our content to your students, or a open source software maintainer who’d like to include one of our tutorials in your help pages, get in touch and we’ll try to work something out.

19 thoughts on “Free licence after nine months

  1. Congratulations :)

    This is a brave new territory you guys are venturing into, I sincerely. hope hope you succeed.

  2. Stephen Wheeler

    This is a brave thing to do, but we know instinctively and because we all belong to the Free and Open Source Software community, that it is the right thing to do.
    Well done for having the conviction of our shared belief, and I'm sure this is the start of something very special.

  3. The lady I spoke to today at Future publishing sounded as if she'd had several calls cancelling subscriptions. Asked why I was leaving there wasn't a "leaving to stop paying for shareholders xmas pressies' so I had to lie.
    Good luck guys. As soon as it's payday I will be subscribing.

  4. I've already abandoned LXF in lieu of Linux Voice: I'd feather wait for LV — even though not out yet — than spend my money on LXF (which I fear, will sadly descend into iniquity due to the mass exodus of so much of its real talent-base).

    Looking forward to issue 1 (even though PDF)!

  5. I am surprised you did not put a FAQ on why linux voice and not gnu/linux voice.

    congratulations keep going and good luck!

  6. Some people say that people buy music games after pirating them and in some cases pirating can be a good. In the same way releasing the magazines 9 months later could help sales.

  7. Just a thought: you could put in a clause that states you can reproduce the articles as long as the ads and links that come with them remain intact.

    Kind of like publishing a free news paper, or the free apps on Android.
    They are actually funded by the advertisers, everybody wins.

  8. Penguin Fiddler

    It's fantastic to see that the project is progressing so well…

    I am checking the funding total on IndieGoGo several times per day – The progress here is fabulous.

    Keep up the good work.

    I am really looking forward to this week's podcast.



  9. [insert generic congratulatory message here]!
    I'm sorry I couldn't be more descriptive in the above but there really are no other words for it. You're all doing a marvellous thing and my writing of heaps of waffle here just wouldn't do what you're all doing any justice. It's marvellous!

  10. Kenneth Nielsen

    Massive thumbs up on the CC after 9 months. Besides all the other arguments, its also a massive convenience for subscribers, that you can search for the old content on-line. I've already donated and am looking forwards to the first issue.

  11. Truly awesome and a great reflection of the ideals of Freedom. I can not see how this magazine can fail. One thing I would humbly suggest (as if I know anything about publishing) is that the articles be structured to allow the reader to cut-out-and-keep in categories e.g. Networking, Programming, System Admin etc So many time I wish I could a locate a vaguely recollected, but suddenly very useful article in my piles of Linux magazines and knowing that this is really hopeless.

    And while we are on the are of course a useful to sustain a publication…but hey, how about some real community service…a low/no cost personal ads section, lonely geeky hearts, beg, buy, sell etc.

  12. Good idea there. The point is that generally information looses value like IT hardware depreciates. The things you write up nine months ago will be less valuable as your "USP" for buying that magazine. Conversely there will be people interested in that article for the next ten years – though the numbers will grow less and less. The fact that they will be available and the fact that they are under a non restrictive licence will ensure that information stays out there. I've recently been fixing a Fedora Core 4 server. It's amazing how much information isn't out there any more when there would have been a plethora six years ago.
    I'd also suggest that you don't look at taking on Linux Format directly. I'll probably end up subscribing to both. There's lots of areas that they don't cover – mainly I feel in the area of business IT and servers – which are ripe for well written journalism.

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  14. I was going to subscribe to the digital version of LXF, but when I asked about access to their archived editions, I was told this is only available to subscribers of the print edition! I pointed out that this is silly, and told them I would be subscribing to Linux Voice instead, which I have just done.

    Good luck to all you guys on your new venture, and looking forward to the first issue.


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