Is it possible to have training materials that are developed in partnership with the community, available under a CC license, AND make those same materials available through formal training providers? We’re trying to find out at Canonical with our Ubuntu Desktop Course.

Billy Cina @Canonical has been making steady progress towards the goal of having a full portfolio of training options available for commercial users of Ubuntu. Companies that want to ensure that their staff are rigorously trained, and individuals who want to present their Ubuntu credentials in a formal setting, need to have a certified and trusted framework for skills assurance.

Most of the work we are doing in this line is following the traditional model, where content is funded as a private investment, and the content is then licensed to authorized training providers who sell courses to their local markets. These courses are usually sold to companies that have adopted a platform or tool and want to ensure a consistent level of skills across the organization. Many companies are moving to Ubuntu for both desktop and server, so demand is hotting up for this capability. We have a system builder course, and a system administrator course are now available from authorized training providers.

But we wanted also to try a different approach, that might be more accessible to the Ubuntu community and might also result in even higher quality materials. We think the key ingredients are:

  • Use of an open format (Docbook)
  • Content source available in a public Bazaar repository (here)
  • Licensing under open terms (CC-BY-NC-SA)
  • Working with the Ubuntu doc-team, who have a wealth of experience

The license is copyleft and non-commercial, so that it is usable by any person for their own education and edification with the requirement that commercial use will involve some contribution back to the core project.

It’s already a 400 page book which gives a great overview of the Ubuntu desktop experience, a very valuable resource for folks who are new to Linux and Ubuntu.

We are getting to the point where we can publish a “daily PDF” which will have the very latest version (“trunk”) compiled overnight. So anyone has free access to the very latest version, and of course anyone can bzr branch the content to make changes that suit them.

If you want to have a look at the latest content, try this:


bzr launchpad-login <your-lp-username
bzr branch lp:ubuntu-desktop-course

The source is huge (712MB, lots of images in a large book), so grab a cup of tea, and when you get back you will have the latest version of the content, hot and well-brewed 🙂 This is a great set of materials if you are offering informal training. Corrections and additions would be most welcome, just push your branch up to Launchpad and request a merge of your changes.

33 Responses to “A community approach to commercial training materials”

  1. Roman Says:

    Have you already various translations of the training materials? We at GIMP ( run into several problems creating PDF versions of asian translations like korean or chinese. We switch between LaTeX and ODF creating PDFs. We prefer to use DocBook -> LaTeX -> PDF, because the result looks much better. ODF is more like a fallback, but still acceptable.

    Would be interesting how Ubuntu solved this problem 🙂


  2. Dinda/Belinda Says:

    Yeah! Billy rocks! Seriously, the whole team put in some great work on this effort, they should all be congratulated.
    Now for the next offering. . . Becoming a MOTU . . .

    ps: Happy Holidays to the whole team!

  3. HoĂ ng Đức Hiáșżu Says:

    SA doesn’t apply to both NC and non-NC licenses? That’s new to me, thx.

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  5. tallman Says:

    Great news, thanks for the small howto 😉
    What about translations of the course ?

  6. Carlo Gandolfi Says:

    Completely agree with free/commercial training course but I think that good and effective training materials should be like the multimedia screencast, not only a huge book. But an application like commercial Camtasia or Robodemo or at least Wink is still missing among free software. We need a free multimedia authoring training tool to create tutorials/screencast so that all community could contribute.

  7. Fabrice Says:

    Great example of Docbook’s benefits for large scale projects!

    Is there a way to retreive the XML source files without installing bzr? I use SVN…


  8. tecosystems » links for 2007-12-21 Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » A community approach to commercial training materials it’s been apparent to me that communities have the capacity to generate far more comprehensive and detailed documentation than commercial firms. no guarantees, of course, but generally true. what will be interesting will be the commercialization. (tags: community documentation ubuntu canonical markshuttleworth) […]

  9. Brendan Scott Says:

    “Licensing under open terms (CC-BY-NC-SA)

    The license is copyleft and non-commercial, so that it is usable by any person for their own education and edification with the requirement that commercial use will involve some contribution back to the core project.”

    In exactly what way is the NC bit “open”???
    If it was sware this would fail the dfsg.

  10. Matteo Zandi Says:

    I can confirm that the source is huge and therefore takes ages to download. I believe that the daily pdf compiled overnight is a great feature, altough it is not difficult to install what needed and compile, it is much easyer to download a single pdf file (around 70MB).

  11. Michelle Says:

    Hei, Mark.

    In Brazil we have a training material made by Gleydson Mazioli, from Spirit Linux, which is fully available at (Portuguese only). It is registered under his name, but used by several local training centers and hardly recommended by LPI and two times named as the Brazilian community favorite book.

    The build process is a little bit different from what you proposed: he gets corrections sent by the community and merge it at the source, giving the credit to who helped.

  12. Alan Bell Says:

    this is a great initiative Mark, thanks very much. I am particularly interested in helping to expand the section to cover the requirements of the ECDL syllabus.

  13. David Gerard Says:

    CC NC is “open” as in “closed.” The “non-commercial” requirement is a usage restriction, so violates “for any purpose,” so is incompatible with freedom. “NC” is not free software, and similarly it’s not free content. Anything under NC terms is only described as “open” either out of confusion or for purposes of misrepresentation.

  14. Brian Kemp Says:

    “The license is copyleft and non-commercial, so that it is usable by any person for their own education and edification with the requirement that commercial use will involve some contribution back to the core project.”


    CC-BY-NC-SA is “good enough” for consumer use, and Mark indicates that it can always be relicensed later. The fact that it’s released at all in such a form is a good first step.

    This will definitely speed my ability to support users and maybe even chase after the LPI certs, including the Ubuntu certification.

    Thanks, Mark.

  15. Preston Parker Says:

    It appears that the understanding here is that, as long as the CC terms are met, anyone can use the content however they want, provided they are not making any money and they are not using it in an institution whose purpose is to make money. Unfortunately, that’s where things get confusing. Doesn’t every institution need to make money in one way or another in order to stay afloat? And isn’t everyone receiving compensation of some kind when using content? Copyright law does not just cover monetary compensation…it can also include recognition, favors, privileges, etc. These legal lines are still being defined.

    Actually, anything two parties agree upon as being compensation for using another’s copyrighted works can be considered compensation and can be considered to “commercialize” the content. And in fact, this is what the section that says “with the requirement that commercial use will involve some contribution back to the core project” intends to imply. Restated it would be something like “if you think your use of our content is commercial, you better contact us and work out and arrangement with us regarding an agreed-upon compensation, or else you will be infringing on our copyrights, and we’re likely to take legal action.”

    Therefore, since the CC Share-Alike license already requires a user to release the content however it was released to them, the NC license carries little meaning…..especially when adding the fact that almost every use of the content can be considered a commercial use. So, the only reason to tack on a NC license is to leave that last little legal door open so that if someone uses your content in a way that you disagree, you can sue them for NC use and for not compensating you.

    If this is the only reason for using the NC license, then an argument can be made that the content is not truly “free” or “open”. If that is the case, then why bother with an open license at all: either leave it “All Rights Reserved” or leave off the NC license.

  16. Brendan Scott Says:

    “…Mark indicates that it can always be relicensed later.”

    How? The community contributions can’t be relicensed unless each contributor signs an agreement to that effect – preferably up front. The dual license suggested will need to be agreed by contributors as well.

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  18. Matthias Says: lists some reasons why the non-commercial clause is not recommended. I think it’s also misunderstanding: what is prohibited commercial-usage in this case? Is one allowed to use it on a paid Ubuntu learning-course? Can you upload it to your personal homepage if you use a small text-ad-box to get some pocket money?

  19. David Gerard Says:

    Free-as-in-beer is “good enough” for consumer use, and that’s not free software or free content either. Your comment is phrased as a refutation, but doesn’t actually serve as one.

  20. Micky Gough Says:

    What do people expect? Canonical are investing their time and money into producing professional quality documentation. People shouldn’t expect that they can wave their magical ‘free content’ wand and get a license to print money with no expenditure of effort or any contribution to the community. If someone wants to make a quid out of Canonical’s efforts, it’s fair enough to expect them to contribute something back in recognition of the effort they’ve put in.

    Canonical should be applauded for making the content freely available to the common man, rather than lambasted for requiring people to play fair.

  21. Pla Says:

    What about the additions and modifications made by other users? Without a signed copyright assignment Canonical cannot resell, or in general relicense, the book with those external modifications to other institutions.

  22. Ubuntu Community releases 7.10 Desktop Course « I’m Just an Avatar Says:

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  24. penguin Says:

    Mark Shuttleworth,

    Thank you for holding out this long against Microsoft.

    Please NEVER sign any agreement with them.

    The key to Linux success is AVOIDING THEM AT ALL COSTS!

    The only reason Linux is becoming heard is because of YOU and YOUR EFFORTS with Ubuntu Linux! Someone had the strength to push ahead with a vision.

    Keep the penguin beak afloat, never give in. I don’t care what love lotion offer appears, refuse, resist.

    We believe in YOU.

  25. era Says:

    This is the Gnu FDL debacle all over again. I think it’s valid and fruitful to view technical prose as quite different from program source code, all the way to having different licensing requirements and therefore a different license. The purpose of the documentation is to help people learn, and a lot of the contributors would probably feel betrayed if a third party was able to make money off of publishing their book commercially.

  26. Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu n° 71 du 16 au 29 dĂ©cembre 2007. « Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu Says:

    […] Chez Canonical, Billy Cina a rĂ©alisĂ© des progrĂšs constants afin d’obtenir un portfolio complet d’options de formations pour les utilisateurs commerciaux d’Ubuntu. Les entreprises qui souhaitent voir leur personnel formĂ© de façon rigoureuse, et les individus souhaitant voir leurs compĂ©tences sur Ubuntu formalisĂ©es, ont besoin d’une architecture sĂ»re et certifiĂ©e pour attester de ces compĂ©tences. Ces formations sont en gĂ©nĂ©ral vendues aux entreprises qui ont adoptĂ© une plate-forme ou des outils et qui souhaitent assurer un niveau homogĂšne de compĂ©tences pour toute leur organisation. Beaucoup d’entreprises migrent sur Ubuntu, tant leurs serveurs que leurs postes de travail et la demande de formation augmente en consĂ©quence. Un systĂšme pour construire des cours et les administrer est maintenant disponible pour des fournisseurs de formation autorisĂ©s. En utilisant une approche communautaire, les supports de formations sont disponibles dans un format ouvert (Docbook), le contenu des cours est disponible dans un dĂ©pĂŽt Bazaar public et sous license CC-BY-NC-SA. […]

  27. Jorge Says:

    Some friends and me have been teaching Linux courses at the University for years. We used Debian before and now Ubuntu since the first release. The content of our Linux introduction course is quite similar to the Ubuntu desktop course. Can we use Ubuntu’s material in our course? I am afraid that the NC clause will prevent from that since instructors get paid, and for the other reasons already mentions.

    Is the NC clause intention to prevent the use of the course by instructors, or just to stop book re-selling?
    What if I do not like my contributed material to be NC?

    All in all, it is a great step for Ubuntu and Linux training in general.

    Mark Shuttleworth says: I don’t think this prevents you from using the materials, but it will probably require you to check with the folks running the materials. They may decide that the way you are using the materials means you need to license them commercially, or they may not.

  28. Cripto Says:

    Nice nice nice,
    thats why Ubuntu will be the greatest Linux ever, it is isnt there already..

    Documentation free of a master piece Linux is wonderful. It will permit
    those in countries with no access to $$$ schools to lean and become after
    very good professionals and maybe ( i hope so ) to return some of the
    investment to ubuntu.

    Mark, Canonical, volunteers, congratulations for making the best linux ever,
    even greater.

  29. Une approche communautaire des supports de formation commerciaux Says:

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  30. CĂ©sar R. Says:

    So if I want to run a course in a public university/school for training some people (teachers, administrators, students) to use Ubuntu, and no one pay for being in this course (but the school fees) and the school pay me because I work in the institution in many different computer related ways (say technical support, maintenance, etc.)…

    …am I violating the license for doing the training and offering the material free as in beer (trough internet or other inexpensive ways)?.

    I commonly understand the CC licenses but this one confuse me some times.

    Anyway, for personal learning this is a huge contribution by Canonical for us. Thank you so much.

  31. Justin Clift Says:

    Still a few weeks away from a first usable release, but soon there will be a free software tool for creating multimedia training.

    Like RoboDemo, Captivate, CamStudio, as mentioned by Carlo Gandolfi above:

    The project and website will be renamed to before this release, as “Flame” is used by other (trademarked) products it turns out.

  32. shirish Says:

    Does anybody know where I can get the ‘daily pdf’ . I just want to take a snapshot so I know what’s in it. Downloading 700 MB is a big pain then 70 MB. Atleast in the beginning when one isn’t sure if this is something where one can contribute. I’m sure there are many others like me.

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