I’ve been scouring these forums for a while, and I’m wondering about free licenses.
I’d like to release my WIP under a free license, but I’m not entirely familiar with the legality of that.
If I release my WIP under the GPL (GNU General Public License), I would be obligated to release the source to it, and I’m fine with that. But would I also need to release the source to the following?* The interpreter (quixe and glulx)
- The website hosting it
- All extensions associated with it
Or what about the FAL (Free Art License)? This covers works of art and their distribution.
As I read the summaries of these licenses, I’m leaning more toward the FAL. My primary question is this:
[size=150]Are works of interactive fiction primarily computer programs or art?[/size]
If they’re computer programs, I’d release it under the GPL. If they’re art, I’d release it under the FAL.
Does anyone have any experience/insight into this?
Should I just skip this whole ordeal?
Does it even matter?
There are some GPL IF games, and the authors traditionally just post the source code plus links to the interpreter distributions. To be complete, it’s best to also post the source of all extensions that are included in the game. (Both for GPL reasons, and to make it easy for somebody to build your game with the same version of everything that you used.)
An IF game is not linked to the interpreter in the sense the GPL talks about; the interpreter is a program that loads the IF game file as data.
Your web site is available as source code no matter what you do.
Licensing: Frotz and Parchment are GPL. Quixe and Glulxe are under my IF short-and-simple license, basically BSD. I7 extensions (those hosted on the I7 site) are licensed Creative Commons - Attribution.
As for the programs-or-art question, I can only say “both”. But I haven’t gone over FAL to compare it in detail to the GPL.
Footnote: I am not a lawyer.
I’d love to see an IF story written by a lawyer
Thanks for the summary of the various licenses of the interpreters, that makes it easy to decide if I even can release it under GPL.
I might as well release it under both licenses (that’s possible, right?) since you’re right - they’re both software and art at the same time. (although some stories are more art and some are more software, but that’s a debate for another day)
Thanks, Mr. Plotkin.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
I concur with Andrew. Most of my games (all of them?) have been released under the GPL, and I have generally just released the source code to the game. Adding the extensions of others might be a nice courtesy, but you would have to make it very clear that they are not licensed under the GPL. (Most are licensed under a less restrictive Creative Commons license, and you are not allowed to relicense them.)
Anyway, you, as the copyright holder, are obligated to do almost nothing. You cannot violate your own rights, nor do you give up your rights when you release a game under the GPL. For instance, you could release a non-free version later. You can stop hosting the files. You can refuse people asking you for the source code. (I don’t know why you would want to, but you can.)
The license of the interpreter is perfectly irrelevant. You can write free software for Windows, even though Windows is not free. In the same vein, you can write free software for virtual machine X even though all the software implementations of X are non-free.
A work of IF is definitely a computer program, and for that reason it is desirable to choose a software license. Only software licenses make the distinction between the compiled work and the source code, which is necessary if you want to make it clear what people are and are not allowed to do with your software.
And by the way – I’m not a lawyer either.
I expect to release one pretty soon.