taskSavannah Administration - Tasks: task #7793, Submission of Opéra Libre


task #7793: Submission of Opéra Libre

Submitted by:  Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>
Submitted on:  Fri 22 Feb 2008 01:23:49 AM UTC  
Should Start On:  Fri 22 Feb 2008 12:00:00 AM UTC Should be Finished on:  Mon 03 Mar 2008 12:00:00 AM UTC
Category:  Project Approval Priority:  5 - Normal
Status:  Cancelled Privacy:  Public
Percent Complete:  0% Assigned to:  Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>
Open/Closed:  Closed Effort:  0.00

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Sat 01 Mar 2008 06:02:36 PM UTC, comment #9: 


The license pages at gnu.org says that you can use the GNU GPL for non-software work if you describe precisely what is "source". So I guess it's up to you to decide what is "source", what is "compiled", and what is "processed data". At first glance I'd say that all you sent me is source; and that anything derived from it (the score, the performance, the recording...) is derived work in more or less "compiled" form. You appear to have a different interpretation, so maybe you need to clearly specify what you call "source", etc.

At the risk of disappointing you, I doubt the Free Software Foundation will officially endorse something that is not about software, though this might fit in http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/ or  http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com/2007/11/expert-witness-defense-fund-for-riaa.html
But I'm only a Savannah volunteer, I can't tell :)

I'm closing the project submission for now. Feel free to mail -email is unavailable- if you have any question.

Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>In charge of this item.
Thu 28 Feb 2008 11:43:19 PM UTC, comment #8: 

Hi Sylvain,
excellent news; so there might be still some hope :)

Writing RMS? Well, as a matter of fact, I've been considering (dreaming of) doing so for the last years (I've been working on this score for almost three years already) but never got the guts to do so. He's quite an impressive person to me... Plus, as soon as the LilyPond developers fully took me on board and made me discover the Savannah structure, I found a somehow reassuring opportunity to submit my project "the standard way".

As I've told you, it's not only a matter of symbols (since I proposed smaller structures as well to endorse my project). The FSF is by far the most widely recognized, the most legitimate and the most powerful Libre-related organization out there. As for the APRIL, the only contact I had was some guy from the Administration Council; he told me he would talk with the other guys, and after a couple of months and several mails, I just didn't want to insist that much, nor to disrespectfuly bypass this person by writing them directly.

My score is not complete yet (there's a couple of difficult scenes that I still need to figure out), so maybe I should wait before asking RMS his opinion -- I've heard he can read music, so it'd be great if I could send him the vocal score to provide him with a concrete basis :)
The more I think about it, the more I think dual-licensing could be a solution; I already planned to accept such accomodations (hence the couple of exceptions I wrote in the tarball), but I wasn't expecting that I'd have to dual-license the music itself; in my mind, the music (source+score) would be clearly GPLed while the "additional libraries" (e.g. the text) and "derived works" (e.g. the recordings) could have other licenses, by authorization of the "project leader" -- namely me :)

You are absolutely right about the "psychological" side of licenses; it's one of the reasons that made me choose the GPL in the first place (always that quest for legitimacy...), since it's a famous, rock-solid and well-known license (I considered using CeCiLL-A for a while but wasn't convinced in the end).

Anyway, your answer makes this thrilling again (wow, the RMS himself heard about my work!). Even if licensing issues end up preventing my Opéra Libre to be hosted at Savannah's, it could make a huge difference if I could tell people "hey, this project is officially approved by the FSF..."
If I may, I don't know if there will be any eggs in the future but I'd definitely be glad to be the chicken here... :) 

Looking forward to sending you and Richard Stallman a more elaborate mail, description of my project, with some music attached. In the meantime, keep up with the good work at GNU's!

Valentin Villenave

Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>
Thu 28 Feb 2008 08:11:58 PM UTC, comment #7: 


I understand there's a "chicken-and-egg" issue here.

If you really want to host your project at Savannah (to benefit from the GNU/FSF symbolism, as far as I understand) you could write to Richard Stallman at rms@gnu.org, cc'ing me (beuc@gnu.org), and explaining your project and needs. I actually  already written to him about this project to determine whether we could host it. I already gave you the conclusion: in principle, why not, but we lack of time and knowledge. The only way out would be to make an exception, because this is a special project indeed.

By the way, my company happens to be member of APRIL, so I'm receiving the mailing list. Where did you send your message? I understand that it's not a question that people are familiar with, though there are more and more members with different origins.

About licensing or dual licensing: at Savannah we only accept a selection of licenses for hosted works:
- If you dual license with the GNU GPL, it's fine (though you'll probably weaken your copyleft, indeed).
- If you add exceptions to the GNU GPL (in this manner: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#GPLIncompatibleLibs), it's fine provided this does not add restrictions to the end-user, and that you own all the GPL'd source.

Independently of the Savannah hosting requirements, using an unmodified license is usually appreciated, because people know what the licence means exactly. As soon as you modify a license this forces people to carefully check the differences, which is time consuming and brings uncertainty. In your case I guess using CC by-sa would reassure people who already used that license, at the expense of  the copyleft weakening you mentioned.


Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>In charge of this item.
Thu 28 Feb 2008 01:45:35 AM UTC, comment #6: 

Hi Sylvain,

as you can imagine, your answer does not make me as happy as I would have expected...

There's some kind of a paradox when you say, on one hand, "we'd need to accept hosting other operas" -- hmm, I'm not sure how many similar projects you can expect ;-) -- and on the other hand, "we lack existing documentation": I bet you do, since the case is not really precedented, and therefore not documented... hence my whole point was to make a first step in this direction.

I can fully understand the matter of (insufficient) time. In LilyPond, where we have very few active developers, this issue is always the crucial one. Unfortunately, complex and sophisticated ideas tend to be postponed "sine die" and my project request is one of those.

Hosting: yes, I already thought about tuxfamily and several others. However, this has two downsides: first it does not help me solve my licensing issues (by the way, thanks for your idea about the Debian guys, they definitely may be helpful). And besides, as I already told you, what I was looking for is some kind of legitimacy, some (symbolic) support to help me defend my point of view and licensing choice when talking to publishers/directors/foundations/government etc. Right now, I can't say I feel very confident when confronted to criticism such as "you're just a foolish young idealist", "you won't be protected at all if you go this way", "this is pure crazyness", "there's no way we're gonna support this project" (I've applied for several grants unsuccesfully so far), and so on.

Which is why I'd like to ask you if there's any chance I can speak with anyone you'd happen to know at GNU.org, at the FSF or anywhere; in France, the APRIL didn't answer me, and as for the other guys I've asked, the LilyPond Foundation is not ready, and Mutopia is just a one-man project without any legal background (plus he does not accept GPL-based licenses).

I should have mentioned earlier another solution I had considered: what if I could use a dual license? e.g. keep the GPL unmodified for my source code, and apply a CC-sa to the music itself? There would be no real link between the source and the "artistic" content, contrary to what I was initially looking for, but maybe this would be more orthodox?

Thanks for having this conversation with me, by the way. Much more enjoyable than the automatic mails that are usually sent on mailing-lists or hosting services :)

Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>
Wed 27 Feb 2008 08:51:30 PM UTC, comment #5: 


One problem with hosting an opera at Savannah is that we'd need to be coherent and accept hosting other operas and similar kind of works as well. However the Savannah team generally does not have licensing experience besides GPL-compatible applications and GFDL manuals, so this is a field where we're not really qualified and on which we do not have existing documentation.

I could personaly discuss this issue but I admit I have no experience in copyright when it's not about software (opera, comic characters, novels... ). I have some opinions (for example, I do think a performance is a derived work of the score; on the other hand 3D models are not derived work of Blender, which is a process manipulating external data without adding parts of its code in the result 3D model). But again they are just opinions and not something I'm certain enough about to make decisions about accepting a project or not at Savannah.

There's also a problem of time, because it currently takes a lot of time to review projects sent to Savannah and we probably can't affort making decent licensing research for non-software works.

That's for hosting the project at Savannah - this is more complex than I first imagined and I don't feel the Savannah staff is up for the job.

Now is the time I can suggest other places to look at.

- Hosting: Savannah is a place where (among others) we educate submitters about software-related copyright recommended practices and caveats, and as a result we're picky about what we accept. There are other places where people will be more liberal. For example, I think http://ourproject.org/ are not restricting projects to software (there are lot of Spanish people there though, but not exclusively). Similarly, http://tuxfamily.org/ (more French) claims to generally support free-as-in-free-speech content.

- Getting advice: you may have heard of the position of some debian-legal members, who argued that "software" refered to any kind of digital work, including documentation, resulting in some debates around the compatibility of the GNU Free Documentation License with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (all files entering the Debian archive should be compatible with the DSFG). From what I could read some debian-legal members have experience outside the software field, and I know they already discussed the applicability of the GNU GPL to non-software works. It would probably worth asking there about licensing an opera - http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/ .

- License: indeed I forgot that CC by-sa didn't distinguish source and non-source forms. The GNU FDL does have language about "Transparent" and "Opaque" copies, but you probably already looked at it :)


Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>In charge of this item.
Wed 27 Feb 2008 12:36:39 AM UTC, comment #4: 

Hi Sylvain, nice to see that you're interested in my case :)

I know about al the gnu.org/philosophy/* pages, for having read all of them several times since I discovered Free Software about ten years ago.

I'm famous among my friends for being kind of a "Free Software Ayatollah", and this is indeed something I strongly believe in. When I realized that I had a chance, as a (very) young (and unexperienced) composer, to get my music played by one of the major French opera houses, I took it as an opportunity to endorse Free Culture and Free Software (I began learning LilyPond especially to publish my score, and I ended up being part of the development team, working both with LilyPond and on LilyPond :)

My first thought was to use a GPL license. Because I simply regard it as one of the most legitimate licenses, for historical, legal, philosophical reasons. Besides, it's by far the most well-known licence, and it offers excellent compatibility with existing software, systems etc (hell, I could make .deb or .rpm packages with my opera; I could even make a GPL Live-Cd including my code and LilyPond!) Plus, as I already told you, I wanted to make sure that the source code could be accessible and modifyable, therefore authorizing transcriptions, adaptations etc.

(It's part of my personal world domination plan, as well as my own experience as a musician and music teacher: everybody always wants to write and play transcriptions from existing music, or improvise on existing tunes, or whatever; I often end up writing some silly transcriptions of film musics to make my pupils happy -- and to make them work ;) -- but I always have to forbid them to play it in public, to show the scores to anyone, etc. Copyrighted-life sucks.)

(Note that it's probably very presomptuous of me to hope that my music could ever get as popular as a movie soundtrack, but still -- that's a good habit to develop, plus it could lead to some kind of jurisprudence for other composers.)

OK, so that was my first thought. Then my second thought was: gosh, it's gonna be impossible. The GPL can protect the source code and any modifications to it, but not the higher levels -- remember my scheme:

Source code => Printed score => performance => recording

The GPL only covers the first (and presumably the second) level. As you pointed out, technically you are free to use my code, e.g. to produce a printable score, and then to play it, and then to record it, and then to sell the recording. But what's the status of the recording? It is not really a "derived work". One might argue that by printing and playing the score, you are just making use of the code, and therefore you can do whatever you want with the recording without any obligation, in the same way that one can make and sell a CG movie using Blender without redistributing either his source files nor Blender's sources (even if one has modified the source code).

However, if you're picky enough, you might also consider that anybody skilled enough can deduce the score (at least part of it) from a recording, by this natural reverse-engineering device we use to call... ears :)

I've been looking at other licences (first I searched GPL-compatible licences, such as CeCiLL-A or Art Libre) but none really handle both the "artistic" moral rights and the source code phenomenon (the Art Libre licence is quite interesting though, as it handles physical pieces of art -- but that's not my case...).

Hence my idea of a vintage GPL with a couple of exceptions, for performances, recordings and possibly embedded text.

As for the fee stuff -- I'm absolutely okay with the idea that performers can ask for a fee, provided that the score is kept freely available on the Internet or somewhere (though your idea of singers passing through the public with big baskets full of CDs or USB keys is most enjoyable ;)

I am, however, reluctant with the idea of allowing music industrials to sell (hypothetic) recordings of my work under a proprietary licence, thus enforcing the current repression against music sharing etc.

To be honest, the tarball I submitted was more a "concept" draft than anything else. My main purpose was actually to ask for comments and help -- thanks to you I'm getting both :)

Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>
Tue 26 Feb 2008 09:33:03 PM UTC, comment #3: 


First, please not that I'm not a lawyer; I'm a volunteer in the GNU Savannah administration and this is essentially my own point of view.

The FSF generally recommends to avoid writing new licenses (or modifying existing license) for various reasons, including compatibility (work under different licenses often cannot be combined), and to avoid unfortunately misworded sentences to change the free-ness of the license.

In this case, after reading the license I understood is that you expected for-fee performances to be generally forbidden unless one get your authorization. From your answer though, it appears to be the opposite :)

As far as I understand a performance of a GPL'd score would be using the copyrighted work, and would therefore be allowed in any condition, with or without fee.
I can understand though that some people don't like seeing the GNU GPL for other works than software where it wasn't necessarily meant to be. For example maybe performers would have to distribute CDs with the source code of the opera to all spectators. I have doubts on Chris Sawer's interpretation though.

If you do  want to use the GNU GPL for your work, I may ask our licensing team about caveats in the context of a music score - I'm not sure we'll have a answer, but I could ask :) If yes it would help to know your reasons to use the GNU GPL (as opposed to Art Libre, or Creative Commons by-sa which, while not adapted to software, has specific wording for performances). This is not a criticism, it's a request for more information :)

You may want to check http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html, section
"Licenses for Works Besides Software and Documentation" for a list of licenses that the GNU project recommends - including, indeed, the GNU GPL ;)

Adding exceptions to the GNU GPL may be an option, but we generally recommend using existing licenses rather than risking writing a new one.

This is an interesting topic and don't know if this answers your questions. Feel free to ask if you have more :)

Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>In charge of this item.
Tue 26 Feb 2008 09:41:41 AM UTC, comment #2: 

Hi Sylvain, thanks for replying.

I'm kind of new at actually writing licences, so I'm grateful to you for making some points clear. I hope you can help me a bit further, even if my project is not accepted on Savannah. (As a matter of fact, I haven't really had any chance yet to talk with anyone about licencing issues; I had very few answers on framasoft.net and the APRIL just left my questions unanswered).

1- About the "non-free performances", what I meant was concerts where the public is asked for a fee, very simply. I know that GPL allows commercialization but some people around me made me suspect this could be a problem.
Let me take an example: perhaps you know about mutopiaproject.org; that's a huge website where users can post any (free) music they've edited themselves using LilyPond. However, Mutopia's founder, Chris Sawer, keeps rejecting any GPL-licenced score:

"These are great for software, but have some serious limitations when it comes to music, one of the most obvious being that they do not state what the performing rights for pieces licensed under them would be.
[Besides, he fears that it might prevent] any commercial use of the music whatsoever, including for example in a school concert where an entry fee is charged. We are very keen that all music on Mutopia remains free to distribute and perform, even at events where an entry fee is charged."

I am aware that the GPL is not originally made for such things as a music score, which is why I'm trying to add several exceptions in order to make it suitable. For instance, speaking of performances, maybe I should mention something about "live" recordings freedom too.

2- Applications of the Berne convention: yes, you are absolutely right. I knew these points were not mandatory, but still I wanted to emphasize them -- the README would be a better place indeed; I hadn't thought about it.

3- Yes, it was kind of weird to write GNU/LilyPond as in GNU/Linux :) I had no idea the slash could be removed though.

Anyway, many thanks for figuring out whether I can keep trying with my GPL idea or not. The problem is that unlike a software, where you basically have two levels of interpretation:
the source => the binaries,
this project has many more layers:
the source => the score => the performance => the recordings, etc.
Of course, I'd like to protect (i.e. set free) every step. But the first one (the source) is obviously the most important one.


Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>
Tue 26 Feb 2008 07:12:30 AM UTC, comment #1: 


I'm not sure we can host a music score, but I'll ask and see what we can do.

Meanwhile, I'd like to clarify something about your license. You write:

 If you want to redistribute Opéra Libre, you must comply
 with the GNU General Public License (reproduced below).
 This license applies to Opéra Libre with the following

 - Non-free public performances can be allowed by special
 authorization of the author.

What do you call "non-free" in this context?

 - Recordings of the score can be released under another
 license, by special authorization of the author.

 - Some of the lyrics, text indications or their translations
 can be released using a different license, by special
 authorization of the author.

The last 2 are not exceptions but are natural application of Berne-convention copyright laws: if people want to do something that is not allowed by the license, they may contact the copyright holder to get a different license, possibly in exchange from money. This is better left outside of the license (this can be an informational note in the README, for example).

By the way, as a side note, the full name of Lilypond is "GNU Lilypond" rather than "GNU/Lilypond" (this is mentioned in ./texte/decoupage.ly). "GNU Lilypond" means taht Lilypond is part of the GNU project, while "GNU/Linux" refers to the combination of the GNU operating system with the (non-GNU) Linux kernel.


Sylvain Beucler <Beuc>In charge of this item.
Fri 22 Feb 2008 01:23:49 AM UTC, original submission:  

A new project has been registered at Savannah
This project account will remain inactive until a site admin approves or discards the registration.

Registration Administration

While this item will be useful to track the registration process, approving or discarding the registration must be done using the specific Group Administration page, accessible only to site administrators, effectively logged as site administrators (superuser):

Registration Details

  • Name: Opéra Libre
  • System Name:  opera-libre
  • Type: non-GNU software & documentation
  • License: GNU General Public License v2 or later (I am absolutely positive about this licensing choice; I know it's an unusual choice for music (most of the time, Creative Commons or Free Art licences are prefered), but since I develop this opera just like a software (using git), my whole point is to license both the score and its source code (otherwise the score couldn't be adapted, transposed, translated or even forked).)


I'm a French composer and music teacher; I am also a member of the GNU/LilyPond development team.
I am writing a contemporary opera for one of the biggest French theaters. The score is written entirely using LilyPond; and its source code is meant to be released under the GPL license.
This way, I want to make sure that the score will remain freely available to the public, the musicians, the translators, the teachers or composers that would be interested in producing transcriptions, adaptations or even completely new works using either parts of my code as a framework, or music materials such as themes, scales, chords or whatever.
Plus, I want to take it as an opportunity to do a lot of pedagogy and Public Relations about free licenses, non-proprietary artistic diffusion, and so on...

Other Software Required:

The only dependency is GNU/LilyPond, a free and cross-platform software available on http://lilypond.org

You can see a complete list of LilyPond's own dependencies on

Other Comments:

I am well aware that this project is not strictly speaking a software; however I'd be glad to join the GNU project, as I think that the GNU values are not to be limited to software only, but also to the Culture in general.
I do need a hosting support, but what I'm mostly looking for is some legitimacy: any support from the Free Software community would make presenting (and promoting) my work and its license much easier... as many people regard Free development as a marginal insanity :(

Tarball URL:

http://savannah.gnu.org/submissions_uploads/Opera Libre.tar.gz

Valentin Villenave <v_villenave>


(Note: upload size limit is set to 16384 kB, after insertion of the required escape characters.)

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