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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.

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