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Re: Documentation/License freeness

Hello Fabien!

On Tue, Jun 09, 1998 at 10:41:38AM -0500, Fabien Ninoles wrote:
> I'm not sure I understand you well but here is my opinions about freeness
> of Documentation:
> Documentation describing the functionnality of a software are dependant
> of the software. Then, they should be considered as source by the DFSG.
> The reason underlying this is the same as why bad documentation is
> considered like a bug. The DFSG must be apply to them. This included most
> FAQ, manual and source.

Yes, this is correct.
> Not technical documentation can be divised in two kind. Author works and
> Official Documents. Author works must not be changed. They express the
> opinions and observations from a person and can even be a description of
> something. They have the particularity to be fixed in time and always
> can't be fixed because heavily link to a given author and a given time.
> White Paper, most e-mails, and document such as "Homesteading in the
> Noosphere" or "Le Corbeau et le Renard" from Jean de la Fontaine, are
> of this kind. I considered this work free enough for Debian when simple
> verbatim reproduction, with or without a fee, are permitted without
> conditions. Even unofficial translations can be prohibited because we
> can't decided if the translation really correctly reflect the thought
> of the author.

Yes, although it would be very sad if we would have much documents of this
sort in our distribution. I don't think those sort of documents belong to
the Debian distribution (are there any of these beside some email quotes in
/usr/doc?). The most important thing is: We don't *need* to change them.
There is no reason for us to change them, as we don't do censorship (well,
we include them or we don't).

I don't know what "Homesteading in the Noosphere" is, but if they are
literature, well, copyright expires after some fifty years, and then it
becomes free. Isn't overly important for us, too.

> Official document are like author works. They are bound with a specified
> time  and loose all their value if modifications are done freely on them.
> However, translations should be permitted given it is clearly mark as
> a translation and that the authors are [may be] not accepting the work
> as a verbatim copy of the original. DFSG compliance can may be need
> modifications with version and/or title change [because people need to
> know what we are talking about], but aren't necessary IMHO.

Do you have examples for this category? The only one I can think of are
copyright documents. I think copyrights fit very well in your description.
I can't think of other examples.

> Finally, it's possible for a document to included both technical part
> and non-technical part. The license should then permit the technical part
> to be changed accordingly to the source to be DFSG compliant.

Yes, but it would be better to have them completely seperated. In a book,
this seperation should be made clear using different chapters or whatever.
It should probably be easy (and allowed) to remove the "offending"
non-technical part, although I'm not sure if this is necessary. I'm not sure
about mixing those types in one source... phew, this gets complicated!
> What we need to keep in mind with deciding if a document is DFSG compliant
> is the user point of view. If it does more harm to allow modifications
> in a document, regarding both the historical aspect and the technical
> point of view, documents don't need to allow modifications. Allowing
> no verbatim modifications on Author Works can harm [just see what out-of-
> context citations can do in press media and you should understand me.].

No, sorry, I don't agree. We should not have in mind the users point of
view, but the developers point of view. Most users don't care about our
seperation of non-free and main, they are happy if some program is available
at no cost and if it works.

It *can* do harm to modify gcc! It can do more harm to change the
kernel than the supporting documentation, or the text of some RFC.

We should think about what rights we *need*, and should demand those. For
technical documents, I think the dfsg are the right demands.

We don't need the same rights for personal email etc. Then format conversion
and packaging etc is enough. For standards, I'm a bit biased. I think they
are technical documents.

> Not allowing translation of Official Documents are, IMHO, discrimination.
> This documents needs to be known by everybody. However, other modifications
> can lead to the distribution of different standards whom all share the
> same name, which as everybody know is worst than not having any standard
> at all. Finally, source needs to be fixed and technical documentation
> who are not compliant with the source are already broken. Not allowe the
> documentation to be fixed is a bug in itself.

Yes. Again, I don't think that standards should be immutable. There'll only
be one "official" standard anyway, and people who are afraid about
changeable standard should rethink their position with gcc and the kernel in

> All that's IM[NS]HO.

Me too.

Thank you for the summary, Fabien!


"Rhubarb is no Egyptian god."        Debian GNU/Linux        finger brinkmd@ 
Marcus Brinkmann                   http://www.debian.org    master.debian.org
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