A difference with arxiv is that arxiv avoided copyright problems at the beginning by arguing (at least, this is what I heard by word-of-mouth in the community) that preprints
are not the final versions of articles, so there's no conflict with the academic journals' copyright claims. From what I remember early on, the recommendation was to have at least one figure missing from the arxiv version in order to avoid possible problems, but by now, all the astro journals have been forced to accept arxiv publication without any need for doing stuff like removing a figure.
Since most of us only publish our software on our websites, probably we would not have the same potential conflict with "publishers". On the other hand, i'm not totally sure it will be quite so "simple" with software - I think most cosmologists just want to use/write good code and exchange it freely with colleagues, but we do have to coexist with the existing commercial/legal/political world to some extent. If we publish stuff as "public domain", then we take the risk that later on it could
be commercialised and microsoft will make M$ out of it while we remain humbly paid cosmologists. On the other hand, publishing stuff as GPL can require a bit of rewriting your code in order to avoid dependencies on GPL-incompatible code, and even with different free (as in free speech) software
licences, some of these licences are mutually incompatible.
Because of the complexity of licensing questions, I think some cosmologists tend to write their own copyright text, with the best of intentions, but without realising that this will make their own or their colleagues' use of the code unnecessarily messy and complicated.
Anyway, my suggestion:
- make sure there's something like radioboxes (boxes to tick in) so that when people upload software they are forced to state what sort of licence the code has - people can come back to cosmocoffee to discuss this, e.g. help code authors clean up/remove/fix bits which may be incompatible with the declared licence, etc.
Options for licences should IMHO have a link to
and include options like:
- public domain
- other - please specify
This list reflects my own bias in favour of the GPL :), so probably some other common choices should be added too.
We could possibly also have a default, e.g. say that codes are assumed to be licensed under (default licence) if no licence is explicitly stated.
Any other thoughts on this?