An open letter to the operators of FreeDownloadMovies.TV

To the operators of http://freedownloadmovies.tv, it has come to my attention that you are hosting images of my child, Emma Clover, on a biography page describing an actor of the same name. The page I am describing is preserved at https://web.archive.org/web/20131127011611/http://freedownloadmovies.tv/biography/Clover,_Emma.

As a webcrafter, I am professionally dismayed at the typography and inaccessibility of that site. It does not respond to various devices, and has extraneous markup that prohibits it from being read by services that help people in understanding the subject. You’ve taken the time to add the so-called “open social graph” elements, but you still load iframes and wrap everything in unnecessary div blocks. I recommend that you seek a professional webcrafter to redo your site that follows modern best practices and technology.

However, that is not why I am writing to you today; rather, it is the personal matter of hosting images of my young child Emma Clover. No doubt you have some automated services scraping the internet for images, and I hope this causes you to reconsider that strategy and take a more hands-on approach to gathering information.

All the images you’ve used are either full copyright, or licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. Where it is licensed under CC, we require attribution. As the images you’ve pulled are from a few different sites, please check your logs and attribute correctly (we normally ask for the name of the photographer, either me or Susan Magnolia, and a link to the appropriate site). As an advocate of the commons, I will help you in this if you’d like, you can reach me at maiki@interi.org, or one of the ways described at http://interi.org/contact.

If your software prohibits you from easily attributing those images, or you otherwise choose not to comply with the license we’ve released those images under, please remove them from your site. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or check the resources listed at http://creativecommons.org/contact; the mailing list or IRC channel may be the quickest way to get help on how to use culture licensed with Creative Commons.

I look forward to your response and compliance.

This is also posted as an open letter at http://interi.org/2013/11/open-letter-freedownloadmoviestv/.

BeansBooks

Accounting software is not something I like to think about, but thankfully someone is (and someone else).

I just received a message from System76 introducing BeansBooks, a “new, Open Source, cloud accounting platform” the company created.

It doesn’t seem easier than anything else I’ve seen that has “-Books” in the name, but it is open source and I learn stuff based on that alone. However, it is licensed under the BeansBooks Public License, which is obviously not a license I am familiar with.

I’ve opened a ticket with them, asking for a relicense with a more used and well-known license, or to at least explain how this license is like a different license. System76 sells computers with Ubuntu installed. I am not sure if they are ignoring the best parts of Ubuntu, or embracing the worst.

Theming licenses

I am in a kind of odd spot with a project I want to do. The idea is to create a unified theming system for the different software that my site is composed of. I say system, because some of the software is more complex than the others, but really I just want to output the same HTML (as much as possible) using each template engine, and then apply the style-sheets and whatever other enhancements I can figure out.

The first wall I come to is how I would license it, because I do plan to distribute it. My difficulty comes because I want it to be consistent, but each of the software projects involved are released under different licenses: DokuWiki (GPLv2; license FAQ), Drupal (GPLv2 or later, license FAQ), StatusNet (AGPLv3) and WordPress (GPLv2 or later, clarification in licensing language).

Huh, I hadn’t caught the change in WordPress going from GPL to GPLv2 or later at the time.

I want to figure this out for myself, but also to clarify how “GPLv2 or later” works.

First scenario, if DokuWiki (or rather, GPLv2) were excluded, I could release a theme under the AGPLv3 and it would be compatible with Drupal and WordPress because it is compatible with GPLv3 (and obviously it is compatible with itself, in StatusNet’s case).

Second scenario, including GPLv2, I can release it under a dual-license of GPLv2/AGPLv3, which while kinda defeats the purpose of the AGPL, allows the theme to be licensed depending on the software that it is for. Hmmm, this made more sense in my head, but now it is just a pain in the ass.

Okay, smart people who I know are not lawyers providing me with legal advice, can you give me some feedback on how to best do this? I personally don’t think that having the theme as AGPL is essential, since I don’t plan on doing anything interesting with the code that is not related to styling, and I don’t think that styling has to be shared with visitors to a site. However, I like the AGPL, and start there when choosing a license. My point is, I am open to discussion, and would like to know what options there are.

Please reply in the comments here, or ping me on my slice of the social web.

Post script: I should note that I left out the non-code license issue aside, in hopes that it would simplify this. I will likely license the rest of it as CC-BY or CC-BY-SA, if that means anything to this discussion.

Translation and licensing

So, Gnome Stew is looking for translators for their articles. That’s an excellent idea, since they write really good articles on running role-playing games, whether it is about dealing with player social dynamics or designing your own game. I read it regularly.

The reason I am commenting on this, though, is because I disagree with how they are going about it. I should note that I would be leaving this as a reply on that post, but they disallow comments without first creating an account there, for some reason.

First of all, I can understand that they are trying to spread their content, which I believe is valuable, into other languages. This is a good idea, and so I applaud their effort. That being said, I think they are taking too much of a traditional path towards their goal, if it is indeed to get their work translated.

I am just going to go down their points:

You need a gaming-oriented website. It doesn’t have to be 100% dedicated to posting Gnome Stew articles, but it can’t just be a forum thread, a blog about horse dongs, or a Facebook account (etc.). We’d prefer a blog for the trackbacks and a dedicated domain (yourwebsite.com, not yourwebsite.wordpress.com, for example) for longevity, but we’re flexible.

There are two points they make here. Firstly, they want to control what their content is associated with. This is unfortunate, because not only is their idea of control an illusion (it is simply prohibitively expensive to police their content), it goes against their goal. There isn’t any creator who can imagine all the contexts in which their content will be used. For example, just over a year ago I posted about role-playing, specifically about how I interacted with my gaming group, socially. I referenced an article on Gnomw Stew about the golden rule, which while being about gaming, is much more important as it relates to human relationships. If I wanted to use it as an example in German forums that are about human psychology and group dynamics, I don’t qualify under their terms.

The other part is about wanting a dedicated domain for longevity and trackbacks, which is just naive. It is like shooting for fish instead of casting your net far and wide. The part about their preference for a site that is not on wordpress.com is offensive, many people run very successful blogs there, and it really makes one wonder why they are even mentioning this at all. Do they want a translator or a site operator?

You need a track record. We have two-plus years of award-winning content for you to draw from, so we’d like to be pretty sure you’re not going anywhere and that you’ll follow through. Your site needs to have been around for a while, though it doesn’t need to be huge or well-known. “A while” = also flexible.

As if being able to translate is a common skill, especially in such a niche market (which nearly any translation request will be in). I have no idea how having two years of content correlates with them needing to be secure with the track record of who they are working with. Their caveat at the end is hollow, since they have no reason to require this in the first place. See the points above.

We’ll promote your site. Your site will be the official home of Gnome Stew articles in your language of choice, and we’ll promote it on the Stew. We’re looking for one destination per language, and at present we have someone interested in Spanish and someone interested in Portuguese.

This actually starts to make sense, they are not asking for translators, they are looking to expand their brand into other languages. I know it isn’t as intuitive as making someone “official”, but this is not the best way to use crowd-sourcing as a tool to spread awareness of your brand or content. When someone is official, they suddenly have expectations; it becomes a job. They need to find people who love translating and their content, and wants to bring those passions together. Less constraints, more freedom.

Then they have this list of legal points that just reinforce and spell out how it should be your pleasure to work with them, and they call the shots, and you are basically going to work for them.

Now, I am sure I am coloring this through a filter where I don’t trust or support the motivations of a corporation. I’m okay with that, because when you look at the bottom line, what Gnome Stew is looking for is more exposure to their publications. I can appreciate them coming together and creating a body of work, publishing on the web and in print. This post isn’t a scathing critique of their call for translators, so here comes my proposal.

Creative Commons.

I assume they have some contract with the authors on the site, since each post is individually copyrighted. If that is the case, they could choose to license all the articles under a CC license. This solves plenty of the issues I take with their constraints.

First of all, this is casting the net very, very far. When you explicitly allow others to use your content, the context barrier disappears. Let people translate in forums, on Facebook, or in the horse dong archives (their worry, not mine). The translations will make sense where they are made available, and will be linking back to you.

Secondly, you can be thorough in how you would like them to link back to you. You don’t need to make official translators to get your logo and linkage correct. Just explain how you would like attribution to work: “Please copy the code below, and link back to the original article.”

Thirdly, and only marginally related to licensing, Gnome Stew needs to let go of the timeline worry. They need a translator who has a website with years of existence in both directions on the timeline, past and future. That is ridiculous. That isn’t how the web works, that is how publishers work, and we know better. This is the internet, we can let these worries go. If they want to archive a translation, they should create the space on their site for it.

My suggestion is a Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike license. This license, along with clear instructions on how they want to be attributed, would do wonders for their site. It doesn’t restrict where the content is translated, and it makes it so derivative works (like translations) are under the same license, which means that they can incorporate the new content back into their site.

No Derivatives is obviously out, since that would prohibit translation, but I would also encourage against Non-Commercial. Most people are worried that their works are going to be used to profit others without any kick back, but I personally think that the Share Alike portion takes care of that. It also avoids the gray area of things like a site with ads (does that prohibit Non-Commercial content from being translated there?). You want people to spread your content far and wide, and if they choose to publish it, they are doing it either in a way that you can take advantage of (for instance, you could also publish their work due to Share Alike), or they are breaking your license.

So, why did I spend over 1,300 words talking about some gaming site and their call for translators? It is because I’ve spent so much time thinking about this, and working with clients, and I am convinced that a lot of people just simply aren’t exposed to these new ways of sharing culture. When you get over that initial insecurity that your work is going to be misappropriated and used for nefarious things, you begin to see that we have a cultural and technical network in place that celebrates creators. This network wants to protect and encourage and pay creators. They just need to loosen up and let go. ^_^

FontSpace, and font licensing

I was looking at fonts a few nights ago, looking for something techie and neat to do a banner or something for my weblog. I am not sure how I came upon it, but I found a site, FontSpace, that had an interesting way of filtering their fonts. You can elect to “only show commercial-use fonts”, as well as “show adult-themed fonts” (I don’t know what that would be, except maybe genitalia or people having sex… in the shapes of letters). I wasn’t sure what commercial-use meant in this context, but this site is cool enough that it has a link on every font page next to the license that explains it.

They have a lot of licenses listed there, and I wish there was a way to fine tune the search even more, perhaps by checking which category or specific licenses you wanted to see. I mean, shareware and freeware aren’t technically licenses, so it isn’t helpful to me. I found this to be true when I was looking at a couple of cute fonts made by Flop Design. FontSpace said they were okay for commercial use. When I downloaded the zip it had a document inside that clearly stated otherwise. I know that doesn’t correlate with licensing, since any site that receives submissions are going to have problems like that. However, it becomes a lot easier if there is a Creative Commons or Open Font License included.

Fortunately FontSpace has a contact form for the case of a font being incorrectly submitted, and the day after I brought it to their attention I got this:

Thank you Maiki, I’ve updated the licenses for those fonts and will go through and update the rest.

Not bad. I applaud them for that, and for an overall decent site (though, ads, ugh).

What this also makes me wonder is if there is a need for a repository for free fonts that focuses on copyleft-ish licenses. As I was going through the site I was skipping over everything that wasn’t public domain, CC, or OFL. I would like a place where all the fonts were like that.