Scribd and Open Source Material

Gary Schafer, 5 September 2016

I was perusing the Interwebz, and discovered that Scribd, the online document repository, has something that doesn't belong to them. Specifically, one of their members, "flytrapsol", has uploaded Tim Cyder's and my first Freemat Primer book.

Let me just say everything that is wrong with this:

  1. Scribd is technically not selling the book. The price is listed as "$0.00". But because they require an account (by which they require that you provide them personal information), they're probably "selling" your information to data brokers. No, I have no proof of this, but I'm assume it's happening with each site that requires an account to access. That was never our intention. I'm unhappy about this because this book is freely available on several other sites, including this one. I would have been quite happy if "flytrapsol" had posted it to his website and made if freely available. Instead, he or she uploaded it to a site that demands private information to access a book that should be freely available. How do I know this? Well, because...
  2. Tim and I published this under the GNU Free Documentation License, as stated on page 4 of the book:
    This book is published under the GNU Free Documentation License to conform with the GNU Public License (GPL) of the Freemat software. As such, I've made this document available in both Adobe PDF and OpenOffice open document text format (.odt). It may be reproduced for free by anyone, so long as the author is given credit where due.

    It's interesting that this particular paragraph is at the bottom of the first page on the Scribd website that is fuzzed, requiring an account in order to see. I'll chalk this one up to coincidence, and not malice on Scribd's part.

  3. The book is not even the most recent version. This was our first version, which I dubbed 0.9 because it wasn't quite ready yet. But I figured it was better to publish "good" now rather than wait forever for "perfect". But if you're so hot to have the first version, such as perhaps you're sentimental, then here's Freemat Primer Ver 0.9, freely available. Just download it. Have at it. No account required. But if you want the later versions, there's Freemat Primer Ver 1.0 and the most recent version, Freemat 4.0 Primer. The same license applies to all of them.

I just sent a DMCA notice to Scribd, informing them that they need to take the document off of their site. I'll keep you posted.

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