Congratulations to the FSF for managing to get the legendary Stephen Fry to celebrate the anniversary of GNU. I am just somewhat surprised they decided to license it under a non-free license (Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States).

Boot’s on the other foot now, eh?

  • Frederic Peters

    But then it’s not like Severed Fifth is under a free license; quite ironic for you to point that. (or did you switch away from the CC sampling plus?)

  • AlexH

    The FSF have put stuff out on a verbatim license for years – the GNU manifesto, GPL preamble, etc. It’s been on the other foot for years, Jono 😉

  • Tiago

    I guess the FSF is not very explicit on what should be free outside the scope of software, which is understandable. I think it is quite possible that they believe that derivative works should not be allowed in all circumstances. The GNU FDL is a good example of this, since derivative works are also restricted. Maybe they don’t see this as a contradiction…

  • Nick Mailer

    I believe the boot is where it always was. The choice of licence was Fry’s. Unless you’re saying that they should have ignored his wishes?

  • jono

    Frederik – sure, but I don’t mandate 100% freedom on people like the FSF have traditionally done, so I don’t see the comparison.

    Nick – again, traditionally the FSF have been uncompromising when it comes to message, so I am just surprised that they would allow the video to be licensed under a NoDerivs license, even if the message is excellent – there are many examples of where RMS has refused publicity of the message due to licensing – I see no reason why it is different for this video. I don’t get why I can’t modify it – if Stephen Fry requested this license, I am just surprised the FSF approved it.

  • bjoern

    Jono – As AlexH pointed already out the FSF has licensed stuff like writings which express the opinion of a special person or organisation. For example all writings at are licensed as “Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice, and the copyright notice, are preserved.”

    I think the video is in the same category. It’s a statement from one person and afaik the FSF belives that you shouldn’t be allowed to change it. It’s like if you say foo i shouldn’t be able to make you say bar because simple that’s not whatwere you aiming to say.

    The FSF have been uncompromising when it comes to the message of software freedom. But the FSF has also said many times that not everything under copyright should be treaten like software.

    So the license choice is nothing you should be surprised. This kind of licenses are really common for this kind of works within the FSF.

    Hope i could clear it up.

  • lucy

    The FSF tend to go for restrictive licenses where works of ‘opinion’ are concerned. They don’t believe that others should be able to change an article (or video is this case) which is based on someone’s opinions. They see this as completely different to a technical work (such as documentation for a program), which they would license differently.

    The license was the FSF’s choice and is likely to be used more widely in future according to Matt Lee.

  • Christoph

    Too bad the format of the video doesn’t work well on any player. It’ll be great when they bake Ogg right into Firefox. Until then, I tried Totem-Gstreamer, Mplayer, and VLC. The first 2 don’t play at all and the last one still can’t seek correctly or display the time of the video with any meaning. Come on people, why does a format we started not work with our own players!

  • Warbo

    I agree it’s rather annoying. In two years time I may decide I want to put this on a website, or CDs to give away or something. The plumbing analogy, tidbits of history and of course Stephen Fry himself make it a very valuable contribution, however I won’t particularly care about the birthday cake and the “almost to this very day” parts, yet I won’t be allowed to cut them out without permission.

    Are the FSF just worried about people distributing versions without the “GNU+Linux” and the “gNewSense” parts? If so then it’s not a particularly respectful position to take. I think the FSF should get of their high horse, place a little more trust in the community and shrug off any troll who makes a bad joke using this kind of stuff. I’m sure many valuable contributions could be created using parts from this video, but they won’t be made due to the license.

    The FSF campaigns for GNU and kin for user freedom, not because they-made-it-so-it-must-be-right. The same cannot be said of their non-software work.

  • bjoern

    Christoph – i can view the video with totem-gstreamer. No problem here.

    Warbo – Someone has said something in a special context if you use only small parts and maybe even put it into a different context than if it possible to create some impression that the original author doesn’t want to creat. You see this quite often at news sites where something is quoted out of the context and so make people think something which the author never wanted to imply. Of course you can take your right to cite or use it as a base to draft your own speech but manipulating the speech of someone else is not something you need to get your work done, participate in the (digital) society, etc. That’s why not all works are equal.

  • Benjamin Mako Hill

    People in the FSF have different opinions on the issue but the organization itself but the FSF has no position on whether works of culture should be free. As a result, the FSF respects the desires of the producers of non-software works done for the FSF including those of Stephen Fry.

    This is why you will not be criticized by the FSF for releasing Severed Fifth under a non-free license — even if people who work for and with the FSF have strong feelings on the subject.

  • Sam

    What’s with using a US specific license…does that mean brits are no allowed to legally watch stephen fry? 😛

  • J.B. Nicholson-Owens

    From what I can see this movie plays fine on mplayer, VideoLAN Client, and Totem across architectures and operating systems. I’d imagine there’s something wrong with one’s setup if they can’t play this movie.

    Building on what lucy said above: lucy got it in one. Check out RMS’ talks on copyright for more on this, or hear his talk from the FSF annual meeting a couple of years back where I asked him to expound on his views of how to more appropriately consider types of works and the permissions we should have with those works. His is an interesting division of published copyrighted works and concordant default permissions; well worth people’s time to consider. We should not conflate functional works (such as software) with statements of opinion (such as this movie).

    If there is some derivative use which isn’t covered by fair use (for those regions which have such a thing), I’m guessing the copyright holder would be willing to work with you on licensing this in a manner more suitable for your needs. Frankly, I don’t see trimming the birthday cake part off as a reason to complain or not distribute copies. I think anyone you distribute this to will understand that this was a 25th birthday celebration and so as time goes on, this will be viewed in that light.

  • Kevin Spencer
  • lucy

    J.B. Nichoson-Owens, you’re right, it is possible to contact the FSF to ask permission to redistribute the video without the birthday cake segment (for example). But personally, I wish they’d distributed it under a more free license.

    I think Stallman’s idea of treating personal works of opinion and technical work separately is very interesting and it’s something I agree with. However, I think that LugRadio’s real world experience with licensing their podcasts shows that choosing a very restrictive license isn’t such a good idea.

  • Nick Mailer

    I’ve been to a number of RMS talks where he’s mused quite a bit that for works of creativity or fiction, he can see situations where non-deriv type licenses might be appropriate: for example, taking a manual or a speech or a point of view and specifically reordering it to misrepresent it or some such. I’m not saying I particularly agree with this, just that the FSF, and RMS in particular, are more thoughtful than you seem to imply about how Copyleft might or might not apply to the broader culture.

  • BjornW

    It is possible to prevent derivatives which would alter the meaning of a work in a damaging way, such as for instance changing the context and therefor creating a meaning which the original author did not intended to be accredited to him or her.

    I did not know this until I read this post:

    On the personal blog of Mike Linksvayer (Creative Commons)

    Therefor it seems silly not to use a more free license by the FSF in their use and production of cultural works.

    Perhaps the FSF should (re)consider taking a position on whether works of culture should be free or not? Personally I would be very interested in the outcome and the arguments to support the outcome. Whatever that may be.