[texhax] contributing to latex packages

Robin Fairbairns Robin.Fairbairns at cl.cam.ac.uk
Sun Oct 23 01:00:08 CEST 2005

> I was wondering about the proper channels to go through for
> submitting a fix to a latex package, as well as posting a modified
> package to CTAN.   If you would be able to let me know, I'd
> appreciate it very much. 

1. establish who the author or current maintainer is, and send him/her
   your proposed change, and request that a new version be sent to ctan
2. in default of (1) [authors _do_ disappear without trace] you have
   to investigate what you can legally do.
   (a) the gpl and the current version of lppl can, one way or
       another, allow you to take over maintenance.
   (b) sometimes authors write a sort of "get out clause" into their
       work, which says "take it if you want to"
   (c) in most other cases, you're on dodgy legal ground; some authors
       go so far as to demand that nobody ever (regardless of bugs)
       shall touch there software, but most software on ctan has no
       attached licence statement.

in that last case, there are no hard rules as to what to do.  indeed,
it's not clear to me that there _is_ any sensible way forward.  it's
likely that the package you want to patch is working for other people,
and it's possible that your proposed change will obstruct their valid
use.  in such a circumstance, your defence of "there was a bug in
there" will not protect you significantly.

personally, i would appeal as widely as possible (comp.text.tex and
texhax, at least) for contact details, aiming to gain the support of
the community for a take-over.

with strong support, you're unlikely to face opposition from us (the
ctan team) to a takeover, but nothing is going to happen quickly.

note: there are myriads of packages on ctan for which there is no
licence information at all, and fewer still make reference to a
recognised (and therefore rigorously defined) licence.  there are
remarkably many authors who never bothered to identify themselves in
their packages, at all.  we don't allow new uploads _now_ of stuff
that's in that unsatisfactory state, but back when ctan started (or
even when i got involved) we just didn't recognise the problem.

Robin Fairbairns

For the CTAN team

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