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Re: distributable but non-free documents

On Tue, Mar 05, 2002 at 04:58:10PM +0100, Jeroen Dekkers wrote:
> IANAL, I don't know if adding texinfo markup to them is considered
> making a derivative work or just distributing, you don't change the
> text itself. Adding texinfo markup just changes how the text is
> displayed, which is already different if you read it with less, emacs,
> mozilla or just use a printer to make a hardcopy.

How a document is displayed locally is really a very different thing from
changing it and redisributing the changed file.

> > I would like to do the same with C99, POSIX, and other standards.
> I agree. I've whished more than once that I could just do
> "C-h i m posix". And I also agree that those standards should be
> free. But when is it free? :)

You don't really want to drag me into a discussion about what freedom means
for software and related technical, generally useful documentation?

> To quote the RFC copyright notice from RFC 2026 "Internet Standards
> Process":
>          This document and translations of it may be copied and
>          furnished to others, and derivative works that comment on or
>          otherwise explain it or assist in its implmentation may be
>          prepared, copied, published and distributed, in whole or in
>          part, without restriction of any kind, provided that the above
>          copyright notice and this paragraph are included on all such
>          copies and derivative works.  However, this document itself may
>          not be modified in any way, such as by removing the copyright
>          notice or references to the Internet Society or other Internet
>          organizations, except as needed for the  purpose of developing
>          Internet standards in which case the procedures for copyrights
>          defined in the Internet Standards process must be followed, or
>          as required to translate it into languages other than English

This license is really horrible.  It is neither precise nor consistent.
It is definitely non-free.  For example, I am not allowed to work in parts
of it into a game documentation that does not implement, explain or comment
on the standard.  Although it is a honest attempt at doing the right thing,
it is too restrictive, as it does only foresee some of the possible uses of
the text, and not all.

It is in so far unusable even for the areas where it does allow usage of
parts of the text and creating derivative works, as it is incompatible with
the GPL and the GFDL, so it is unusable for GNU projects documentation and
source code (comments!) except for reference or quoting (fair use).

> I agree with you that POSIX is non-free (and that should change!), but
> the original dicussion was about the RFC copyright.  I still don't see
> how this license really restricts the user, the things you were
> talking are allowed. Enlighten me if I'm wrong.

It restricts you in a similar way as a license for Mozilla would restrict
you if it would say: "You are only allowed to reuse part of this source
code if you implement software directly related to the world wide web."

You can probably always try to stretch the definition to include whatever
you want.  But that doesn't change that it is horrible in the first place.

> The problem is that the Debian Free Documentation Guidelines don't
> exist and that documentation is really different from software.

It is?  Well, I clearly see the difference between a computer program and a
book, but I don't think that the differences are in a way that matters to
the DFSG.


`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' Debian http://www.debian.org brinkmd@debian.org
Marcus Brinkmann              GNU    http://www.gnu.org    marcus@gnu.org

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