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   Re: A call for open source DTDs

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  • From: Peter Murray-Rust <peter@ursus.demon.co.uk>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 18:00:36

At 11:47 14/10/98 -0400, Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:
>I've been working on my second book on XML which will include a lot more
>practical examples than the first. Right now I'm writing a chapter in which
>I describe a dozen or so different XML applications. Eventually, I'll
>devote a chapter each to several of these. But I may not be able to do as
>much as I want or as much as the authors of these specs might like. The
>reason is excessive restrictions on reuse and republication of DTDs and
>theirm associated markup languages.

I am very sympathetic to this and will appreciate guidance since I have
authored 2 DTDs - in the hope that others will find them useful. I am a
believer in the open source philosophy and have released JUMBO under that
approach. However I am less clear what to do with documents - either *.dtd
and *.xml - and have specifically included copyrights on my DTDs.

>The only DTDs I have found whose license agreement is open enough to allow
>me to republish and discuss them in my book are the few explicitly adopted
>by the W3C.  The rest have copyright statements that most often explicitly
>prohibit me from using them.  Many of them are so restricted that it's not
>permissible to use the DTD in a document of my own creation, much less
>modify it to fit my needs.

I agree that the W3C copyright is appropriate. Note that "W3C" is a trademark.

>So far authors I have contacted personally have been very receptive to
>allowing me to use their DTDs, and in most cases it's been obvious that
>their intent was to allow broader use. Nonetheless before I can use any of

I agree and that is my intent. I am not clear how to go about it.

>these in a book, I'm going to have to get them to sign a two-page contract
>dreamed up by IDG's lawyers. I expect many of them to refuse, because it is
>a bad contract. I blame IDG's lawyers for that problem.
>No contract should be necessary, however. The whole point of XML is to
>allow broad, standardized documents. To this end any markup language that's
>created, whether described in a DTD, a DCD, an XSchema, or something else,
>must explicitly allow itself to be reused and reprinted without prior
>permission. Right now I'm worried about reprinting it in books, but the
>problem of including these DTDs on web sites is even more crucial.
>My preference is that these DTDs be placed in the public domain, because

IMO public domain is not appropriate. Very few documents are actually in
the public domain - most have some sort of protection. My understanding is
that anyone can take a PD document, modify it *** and then copyright it***.
This could mean that the original authors could be prevented from using
their own work.

>it's simplest and easiest to explain to lawyers. Open source works well
>too. Even a copyright statement that allows reuse but not modification is
>adequate for many needs, including most of mine.

I think it has to be that. DTDs are so important because they represent
contracts between the author and the reader/user. If that contract breaks
because the DTD is modified by someone and mutant versions are distributed,
then  the author may get criticise for something that was not their action.

It is also critical to protect authors' moral rights.

I also - perhaps as an academic - make a distinction between academic use
and for-profit use. I don't think we should discuss here the ethics of
academic groups generating revenue from the use of their labours, but it
matters to many people. I suspect that this will figure in many copyrights.
>However, a DTD that simply includes a standard copyright statement
>immediately becomes unusable in many corporations.  While I expect many
>people and companies will simply ignore these restrictions (which the
>authors never intended anyway) I don't think many people will be
>comfortable relying on this in our overly litigious world.

Yes - I think we need some leads here.
>Therefore I want to implore all authors of published DTDs to go back and
>look at your copyright statements. Ask yourself, "What does this really
>say? What do I want people to do with this DTD? Are they actually allowed
>to do that?"  There's very little to be gained by writing a DTD you hope an
>industry will adopt, if you explicitly or implicitly prohibit the industry
>from adopting it.

Peter Murray-Rust, Director Virtual School of Molecular Sciences, domestic
net connection
VSMS http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/vsms, Virtual Hyperglossary

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