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"C.M. Connelly" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Jul 2002 08:44:12 -0700
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"DA" == Donald Arseneau <[log in to unmask]>

    DA> I've tried to come up with a good general-purpose way to
    DA> express the "proof of disappearance", and have not come up
    DA> with anything robust.  If it were just for myself, I could
    DA> say "not posting to the usenet newsgroup comp.text.tex for
    DA> six months", but that's not good for most people.  The
    DA> condition of "reachable by email" makes the most sense, if
    DA> there is an email address in the package source, but email
    DA> addresses change, and perhaps the return address doesn't
    DA> get updated.

Do we really need to have a time limit built into the license?

If what we're concerned about here is someone ``hijacking'' a
particular package, then it might make more sense to define some
restrictions on uploading to CTAN and leaving the license such
that anyone can modify the package and make it available somewhere

CTAN could be (and is, I thought) regarded as the ``official
repository'' of TeX/LaTeX packages, and might require a higher
standard of proof before allowing someone other than the original
author to upload a changed version of a package.  Perhaps such an
upload would only be allowed with one or more of the following:

   * An e-mail message (possibly digitally signed) stating that
     the new author has permission to ``take over the package''

   * An e-mail message (possibly digitally signed) stating that
     the new author has permission to upload this particular
     version of a package

   * Evidence that the original author is unreachable, and that
     the uploading author has tried multiple methods

   * Verifiably minor bug fixes or feature additions (the package
     remains backwards-compatible with older documents written
     using the older version of the package)

That way the LPPL could be a very free license while still
preserving an official TeX source tree with a significant level of
sanity checking.  If the changes were too great to allow complete
backwards compatibility, the CTAN maintainers could enforce a name
change on the package (while at the same time recommending the
newer package with a note in the CTAN Catalogue or similar).

We might want something that says that if the original author
returns, she can accept or reject any changes made to the package
in future updates, although that could be dicey should the
modified version of the package become popular.

I don't think that the license has to assume that anyone making
changes is up to no good and restrict people's ability to make
those changes or to make those changes available in some form.  At
the moment, the LPPL doesn't prevent an original author from
making significant changes to their package that break backwards
compatibility or even completely change its functionality.

IMHO, the gatekeeper function shouldn't be encoded in the license,
but in the rules for the archive.  If the main TeX distributions
(notably teTeX and TeX Live) stick with the official sources, then
you're going to be able to extend the purity of distribution to
something like 98% of the installed user base, because most people
running TeX just install a complete distribution.

On a related note, if CTAN, the LaTeX Project, TUG, or one of the
European user groups could provide the resources for a centralized
bug-tracking system that all CTAN authors could use, such a system
could be a very valuable way to keep track of problems, fixes, and
even the activity and availability of authors.  (I'm thinking, of
course, of Debian's BTS (, which tracks an
enormous amount of information without being especially


 Man cannot be civilised, or be kept civilised by what he does in his
            spare time; only by what he does as his work.
                             W.R. Lethaby
  C.M. Connelly               [log in to unmask]                   SHC, DS