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Re: Documentation Freeness (Re: Packages to be removed from hamm)

Jules Bean wrote:
> In the context of formal documents, it is *not* appropriate to allow
> modification without restriction.  An appropriate formulation for
> documentation is that 'the authors grant unlimited right to copy and
> distribute this document in any form, as long as acknowledgements to the
> source are made, as well as modifications which preserve the sense
> (translation into another lanaguage or another documentation format). 
> Modified versions of this document may also be distributed if they are
> clearly marked as modified.'

Those are exactly the rules we apply to software.  The GPL allows
modifications but says "You must cause the modified files to carry
prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of
any change."  The Artistic License allows modifications, but requires
that the name of the program be changed if the changes go beyond

The spirit of these licenses seems to be that distribution of derived
works is encouraged, provided that they are clearly marked as being
different from the original work.

When a license goes beyond that, and forbids distribution of derived
works entirely, we no longer consider it free.

I see no problem with applying exactly those rules to documentation
licenses, for the same reasons.

> OK, that wasn't very elegant english ;-)  My point is that the writers of
> the FSSTND don't want to changing it and claiming that the new version is
> '*the* FSSTND'.  That is quite sensible, and not, IMHO, against the spirit
> of free software.

Indeed, it is not against the spirit of free software :)
It is also entirely within the DFSG.

Unfortunately the FSSTND goes beyond that, and forbids distribution of
derived works "without the prior approval of the FSSTND coordinator."

I wouldn't worry about the FSSTND, though, since the FHS *is* free,
and will replace the FSSTND in our next release.

> However, I do claim that common sense dictates that different rules apply to
> documents.  In the most trivial case, for example, it is illegal to modify
> and redistribute (almost) any of /usr/doc/*/copyright - but we distribute
> them..

The license texts themselves are a different matter.  I don't think
copyright law even applies to them.  A pity that we don't have lawyers
who can speculate for us :-)

Note that /usr/doc/*/copyright consists entirely of files that have been
modified by Debian maintainers, so if we can't modify them then we're
in trouble.

Richard Braakman

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