Why Is Free So Hard?

Producing Open Source Software (front cover)Why is free so hard?

I got an email from what I believe to be a reputable publishing and online training company, asking about training opportunities based (presumably) on my book.  I wasn't really interested in doing online training, and anyway if I were I'd first talk to O'Reilly Media, my current publisher, with whom I have a good relationship and who have been very supportive of the book.

So I eventually wrote this (after an initial round of conversation):

Thanks for the inquiry. I'm not really looking to get involved in online training, personally, but am perfectly happy to have my materials used by someone else doing online training if they wish, and of course the free licensing means that's possible.
  
Best of luck,
-Karl

But freedom is so alien a concept nowadays that that didn't work -- here's their response:

Thanks for your response. Yes, I would like to pursue your materials for online training as you suggest.  Please either recommend someone who you would feel comfortable partnering with (ie allowing this person use of your materials in courses) or let me know if you are open to looking at candidates that I can suggest.

Can you bullet the 3 top subject areas that you would be interested in contributing course materials if you would like to pursue this idea. I can understand you are very busy with your existing projects, so if it is too time consuming to consider further, that's no problem.

I would prefer to serve the audience if you wish to share materials that would be particularly useful as I continue in the cause of tech publishing moving information to the people who need it most.

I'd love to know what readers think of my response below, because (as our artist-in-residence Nina Paley has also found) this comes up all the time, and it's difficult to know how to answer it clearly enough.  Here's my second response:

Well... I think you may be new to free licensing? :-)

It means you don't have to ask my permission nor necessarily have my involvement.  My books are released under open copyright.  The details (for the book most likely to be of interest to [redacted], I guess) are at http://producingoss.com/.

This is also how open source software works.  I just release my books under the same kinds of terms as used for open source software.

If I were involved in developing this project with [redacted], then I would charge for my time.  But I don't charge for the use of materials I wrote, because I've renounced the monopoly powers that would otherwise require you to get my permission.  You can just use the materials, including making modifications and adaptations.  Freedom means freedom! And I'm totally serious when I say I'd love for you to take advantage of it, if you want to.

Best,
-Karl