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FTA Community demands TradePub to correct inappropriate use of FTA course books

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See update in this post: TradePub corrects offering of FTA course books

On behalf of the FTA Community we have sent an open letter to an organisation called TradePub about their inappropriate use of our course books.  As you may know the Free Technology Academy publishes all its educational materials, including the course books, under free licenses on the web. This has enabled the community to undertake several initiatives to translate some of the books into other languages, use them in other environments, such as the Tampere University of Technology. Moreover, it also has greatly helped in the distribution of the course books. Lots of websites have blogged about these free (as in freedom and in beer) course books, and in during launch in 2010 we had to distribute them via BitTorrent to avoid the server from collapsing. In the first nine months we reached 100.000 complete downloads of the course boos.

So why would we complain about a website promoting the FTA course books and linking to the FTA website? Well, we wouldn't if it wasn't because of the way TradePub does this. What they do is announce the course books and before providing the link, one needs to hand over his/her personal data, and then gets an email with the link. This in itself is just an awkward business practice from our perspective, but it is certainly not illegal. They just make money selling those personal details to their customers and advertisers. People still have a choice to find our materials through other channels (try a search engine), or simply don't reach them. Why did I say an "awkward business practice"? Because these people (TradePub in this case) simply don't add much value, but they manage to rip off the users a considerable amount of personal data.

But if this is legally permitted, why complain? Here it comes. In their website they make the visitors believe there is some kind of agreement between them and the FTA. They use our logos in the header of the webpages in order to resemble the FTA website. This insinuates TradePub collects these data on behalf of the FTA, which is absolutely not true. In TradePub's overview page of FTA materials it says: "The following free offers are provided to you on behalf of Free Technology Academy (FTA)." However we have never agreed about this.

The mere suggestion of endorsement or relation harms the FTA's reputation - and it is certainly incorrect. TradePub clearly asserts endorsement by FTA using the logo next to the Request button and in the Request form header. Unfortunately, the GNU FDL is not clear on endorsement of unmodified versions of the work:

"The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Document do not by this License give permission to use their names for publicity for or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version."

But it does represent a violation of the CC-BY-SA Unported license:

4. Restrictions (excerpt)
Your rights under this License, You may not implicitly or explicitly assert or imply any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the Original Author, Licensor and/or Attribution Parties, as appropriate, of You or Your use of the Work, without the separate, express prior written permission of the Original Author, Licensor and/or Attribution Parties."

As they didn't modify the works, those works that are dual-licensed under the GNU FDL and CC BY-SA license require the satisfaction of the conditions in both licenses. According to one community member, Tiberiu Turbureanu: "considering this, they violate one of the license (CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported) and this is a copyright infringement case [3]. If approaching TradePub on this issue doesn't solve the problem, I could ask a lawyer to assist FKI". About misuses of CC licensed works and legal advice.

For these reasons we request TradePub and its partners to change these pages in such manner that no confusion with the FTA pages is made. You can find here the open letter. Furthermore, it was observed by the FTA community that TradePub uses the same practice in other cases, such as InformIT, which publishes their books on their own site free-of-charge under the Open Publication License.

We have a bad taste in our mouth from this kind of practices. People are free to make the money however they want, but they should respect the authors and communities that make available their works to the public. And even though we have limited legal instruments at our disposal, I think it is worth some more attention. A while ago Marco Fioretti started to blog about this case. If you do, let me know!

FKI_Letter_to_TradePub_re_FTA_Coursebooks_2012-03-06.pdf55.72 KB


A couple pontis of clarification from LQ (happy to answer any additional questions).1) There is a link to unsubscribe from any mailing we ever send. I believe Bob wants to delete his account. That is a manual request.2) The link you posted is to TradePub, not LQ. They are a 3rd party partner. We do not get access to any of the information they ask for, nor do we ever ask for identifying information at LQ itself. They ask for that information in return for the PDF download, which to my understanding is a program that organizations such as FTA have to explicitly participate in. We (LQ) are also happy to send the direct link to those who don't want to give that information, if they ask. Just a suggestion, but simply asking someone at LQ for clarification would have probably been helpful before posting this. If you look at TradePub, many sites aside from us partner with them. jeremy


Hi Jeremy,

we'd be very happy if you could link directly to the FTA website, to the FTA books listing or any individual book. Let us know when you do so. The community would be very happy with that, I'm sure.



Hello Wouter,

We received your email yesterday and responded shortly thereafter. We've since tried contacting you 5 additional times (2 emails, 2 voice mails, and 1 web form) over the last 24 hours with no response from your side.

More importantly, we have written approval of our relationship by an FTA employee dating back to April of 2010 which we will gladly share with you upon response. You're more than welcome to change your mind on FTA's historical position (nothing is binding) and we'll gladly honor that decision. With that said, we would have preferred that you had a discussion with someone on our side prior to resorting to the above post.

We look forward to your prompt response and interest to review.

Kind regards,

Demand to TradePub to correct inappropriate use of FTA books

Dear Daniel Frignito,

thank you for your quick reply.

Please understand that there is no issue with you linking or republishing these course books. We encourage everyone to do so. As David confirmed to you in 2010, "the license of the FTA materials basically allows you to do anything you want with them, as long as you don't remove the authorship attribution or change the license." With reference to your suggestion that "nothing is binding" I observe that in this case it is. Once published under a free license, you keep forever the four freedoms that are specificed in the license.

However, our complaint refers to fact that your website suggests some kind of collaboration with the FTA. This appears so due to the use of the FTA-looking header in the mentioned webpages on your site and the text. You will agree with me that we have never agreed, nor discussed such details nor is there any kind of collaboration between FKI or FTA on the one hand and TradePub or NetLine on the other.

We would be happy if you could adjust your site in such way that visitors to your site can't be confused and it is clear to them that there is no relation whatsoever between TradePub and the FTA.

As David requested back then in 2010, we would appreciate a link to the source of those books, or just to the FTA website. It is not mandatory, but just courtesy to the authors. We are aware that this might go against your business model. Alternatively you could mention that the books can be downloaded freely on the FTA website.

Looking forward to your reply.

best regards,

Wouter Tebbens


Thank you for all the insight.

I too have noticed that when I try to access TradePub's so called "free" offers, I do have to give them a lot of personal information. I was never successful in getting any free publication from TradePub. I guess the reason is that under "Occupation" I always state "unemployed" (which is the truth) and they don't like that. Thank goodness though, otherwise they might have been selling my information all over the Internet.



Somehow I am not surprised that they are using eptnanmert techniques like this. I originally subscribed to LinuxQuestions a couple of years ago, and have been getting their newsletters regularly. Most of them are just begging people to submit answers to the many unanswered questions on the site. But after reading this article, I tried to go back and un-subscribe. That was not an option on any page that I looked at. I sent them an email asking them to remove me from their list and database because I cannot condone their use of this tactic, which I consider to be unethical, if it is even legal.

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