# What license for releasing LaTeX templates

I'm planing to release a LaTeX template to share my adjustments I've worked out for an universty course. My first thought was to release it under CreativeCommons (BY-NC-SA 3.0) but right now I'm not sure if this affects the content of the user he adds to the TeX file to compile his PDF file.

I don't want to force the user to license his content under CC, just the changes he applies to the template.

Does some kind of CC license fit my purpose or do I have to switch to another license?

• The Creative Commons site is offline at the moment, but I believe there is a CC-Free licence which may do what you want. – Brent.Longborough Mar 8 '13 at 11:22
• All of LaTeX itself and the majority of contributed packages are licenced under LPPL, it simplifies things for some users if you use the same (but you are under no obligation to use that licence, it's your work you can licence it however you wish) – David Carlisle Mar 8 '13 at 11:24
• @DavidCarlisle : As I'm sure you've observed, the OP's problem is how to distinguish between another party's separating the template (encumbered) from the data şe feeds into it (potentially unencumbered, or encumbered under a different licence). – Brent.Longborough Mar 8 '13 at 12:00
• @Brent.Longborough but my suggestion is that it's simpler for everyone to reduce the total number of licences involved in any given work, and that (for me at least) outweighs any minor (or major) differences between the licences. I have released stuff under LPPL, GPL CC of various sorts, WhatWG, MIT, Artistic, and probably some others. In all cases the intention is just to go with the flow of the surrounding work. You need some licence to give distributors a clear legal footing under which they may re-distribute but really adding more licences just complicates things for very little gain. – David Carlisle Mar 8 '13 at 12:08
• @DavidCarlisle : Yes, of course. Maybe in this case, CC-Zero is the way to go. – Brent.Longborough Mar 8 '13 at 12:18

This is a very good question!

I would suggest using the GPL or LGPL.

In this case, I think you can safely position your templates as a work of Software and not Content. Both licenses are very specific in stating that any modification of the program source must be redistributed with the same license. They also make no restrictions on the use of software for producing output in any form. The LGPL is a bit more liberal in allowing distribution with bits of non-free software.

Where it gets ambiguous is the question of weather or not the compiled PDF, PS or DVI file is a "compiled binary" of the source TeX file. In this case, you may want to make it very clear in your README file that you make no restriction on the output produced with the templates and only wish to apply the license to modified versions of the TeX template files. Alternatively, you might want to rewrite one of these licenses to suit this particular problem as they contain specific language that relates to the technical conventions of compiled software.

CC licenses are generally for output content like texts (PDFs), images, audio and films. Although they are inspired by Free and Open Source models, they are not designed to deal with this particular question of source vs. output. GPL, BSD, MIT and other FLOSS licenses are more specific on these questions, so I would suggest avoiding CC in this case.

• I see one potential problem with this approach: what you suggest putting into README might not be legally binding. I think that an actual suit is highly improbable in this case, but... – mbork Mar 8 '13 at 15:21
• I don't know how it would change legal status but since you mention it, it might be more appropriate to make these stipulations in the COPYING file if using GPL. – Brendan Howell Mar 8 '13 at 16:48

To answer that question, we would need a definiton of the word template which has quite a few meanings.

## Fixed Output

Consider a given layout that has to be ensured, for some thesis requirements or a corporate design. Implementing everything in a package or class and providing this is certainly licensable. Many such packages and classes are on CTAN, many Journals have own classes with a special license.

If a template as a bundle comes with a class file, and an example tex-file; are all files bound to the same license? See next section for more.

## Non-fixed Output

There is no own package involved, the template simply is a couple of commonly used packages. Which packages to use was chosen by the person originally putting together the template.

%the following is cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required
\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{parskip}
\begin{document}
I've been watchin birds more than insects recently,
and the thing I've found with pigeons is: they've
got wings but they walk a lot. (Karl Pilkington)

Some other text
\end{document}


Is that mere example topic of licensing? If so, is changing the document body immediately a derived work?