Man, you play with your kid for a couple of hours and look what you miss!
So, I think the issues are being fairly well vetted here. We are
differentiating GFDL compliance and copyright/authorship on the one hand,
and use of a registered trademark on the other. That doesn't need a whole
lot of further discussion; everyone seems to intuitively agree that there is
a good way for projects like this to proceed, and another way that tends to
get people in a fluster. The important point is that it is being discussed.
The trademark issue is another one altogether. We have a "brand" (technical
trademark term) to manage. It is valuable. It can be misused. There exist
people who would do us ill will, and who will attempt to profit improperly
from our brand. For this reason it is extraordinarily important that the
community understand that WMF will be vigilant in enforcing its trademark
rights against the bad guys. By the same token, however, it is our
intention and hope that we can work out very simple licensing agreements for
those who wish to "brand" their works as being associated with the
Foundation. That may or may not involve money changing hands for the
benefit of the Foundation. We obviously are not going to charge a fee for
licensing a handful of books for schools in Africa.
From my perspective, WMF has a portfolio of valuable
rights which it can
license and which can bring in revenue. Good for WMF - we get
other people's use of our logo and trademark. This is pointedly *not* about
any compromise on free as in free, not as in beer or anything of the sort.
It is the byproduct of the interaction of our projects with capitalism. We
should benefit from that.
As to publishing, our safe harbor is online, so taking the step into the
publishing world is a large one indeed. Licensing others to publish, from
the WMF perspective is not a big step, and is to WMF's great financial
advantage. For those who are not familiar with the particulars, please be
careful about comparing for-profit activities and non-profit activities.
This is a rich and deeply complicated area of US tax law, with several
contrary reported cases, and people who are not attorneys should proceed to
offer their "IANAL" advice with caution. The typical example is a museum,
which has a gift shop. Licensing the museum's works for the art is a pure
royalty; the tshirts are not, and the costs of that operation are part of
what is termed "unrelated business taxable income". See generally
documents, if you care to look for yourself.
To wrap up, it's a great thing to see books coming out of the projects. It
is also something that should be done in a proper fashion. Taking the good
intentions of those on this list to heart, we can work to streamline the
process for licensing for published works.
Robert, what would an efficient process look like to you, assuming the
licensing component is a requirement?