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!


Attachment Size
FKI_Letter_to_TradePub_re_FTA_Coursebooks_2012-03-06.pdf 55.72