A call for open source DTDs

John Cowan cowan at locke.ccil.org
Thu Oct 15 20:35:44 BST 1998

Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:

> Is open source a solution? Maybe, especially if the DTD is external to the
> document. However, standard open source licenses like the GPL are
> problematic because they would seem to imply that if the DTD is included
> with the document itself, then the entire document must be open source.

I think that would be true if the DTD were incorporated into a document,
but not if it (or a copy of it) was merely referred to.  So a GPLed
external subset would not taint documents that link it, any more than
the GPL itself taints all the Web pages that link to *it* (as opposed
to incorporating it by reference).

This would reject your first case (DTD as internal subset) but accept
the second case (link to local copy) as well as the third case
(link to standard copy).

I'm passing this question to the Open Sourcerers.

> The simplest solution is to simply declare that the DTD is in the public
> domain.   This works well with existing systems and allows anyone to use
> the DTD any way they need to.  The only potential downside I see to this is
> that there may be some standardization problems if people are allowed to
> change the DTD willy-nilly.

Classically it is trademark law rather than copyright law that handles
this problem.  You can't declare your hardware "Tested by Underwriters
Laboratories" or use the UL logo without actually being so, because
"Underwriters Laboratories" and the logo are trademarks.

> Long-term I suspect we'll develop some standard
> licensing language that allows unlimited reuse, but only if the name is
> changed, perhaps something like Perl's artistic license where you can do
> anything you want with it as long as you don't call it Perl.

Perhaps I'll try to devise such a thing for DTDs.  Stay tuned.

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan at ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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