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Re: Please see the GNU FDL discussion on debian-legal

> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2001/debian-legal-200112/msg00007.html
> Off to read about 100 messages ...

... and a tedious experience it was.

I would like to make the following points which I didn't
see mentioned in the hundreds of messages (many of them
snipes and flames).

1. Documentation is different from software.

Documentation is a more robust form of speech than software
is.  Whereas software consists of instructions that can be
given to computers to make them perform certain tasks,
documentation consists of advice, statements of fact, jokes,
opinions, diagrams, wishes, and many other things --- all
directed at other human beings, not at machines.  Protecting
the freedom of this form of speech requires a somewhat
different strategy from the one used to protect the freedom
to copy source code.

The idea of copyrighting software is odd to begin with.
If anything, software should be patentable (since it is
detailed-instructions-how-to-do-something), not copyrightable
(since the exact manner of expression is largely irrelevant).
If it were patentable and not copyrightable, then the GPL
would be a license to use patented technology rather than
a license to copy source code.  The GFDL, on the other hand,
is a true copyright license, designed not to make sure that
a technology remains free, but that a document is freely
distributable without distortion of the author's position,
but still modifiable under certain restrictions.

2. Debian's goal of promoting liberty in software goes hand
   in hand with a goal of promoting freedom of speech.

While I don't regard the DFSG as already applying to
documentation, the spirit of it is naturally extended to cover
documentation.  I would suggest that the GFDL is a reasonable
license to use for free documentation --- free as in 'free
to use and modify', but also free as in 'free speech'.

Several people said that they didn't want Debian
documentation to be full of political rants.  They would
like to reserve the right to delete the parts they don't
like from the manuals they package.  But what is this but
censorship?  And how is censorship compatible with liberty?

Thomas Hood

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