Debian and the GNU Free documentation license
Beginning in 2001, concerns regarding the compatibility of the
GNU Free Documentation License with the Debian Free Software
Guidelines came to the attention of the debian-legal mailing list.
In early 2002, the Free Software Foundation announced that it
would be revising the GNU FDL and producing a new version, issued a
draft, and solicited feedback from the community.
Towards the end of 2002, the FSF released version 1.2 of the
GNU FDL, but their new version did not address several of the
DFSG-related concerns of the Debian Project. An additional year's
worth of discussions with representatives of the GNU FDL did not
persuade the Debian Project that its interpretation of the license or
its own guidelines are incorrect; neither did they persuade the FSF
that substantial alteration of the FDL's terms were warranted.
Unfortunately, most of this discussion has been confined to
the debian-legal mailing list, with the result that people like me
who do not follow debian-legal are not aware of the situation, and,
for the most, do not know the details of the issue involved.
If the concerns of the people on debian-legal are shared by
the developer body at large, we may have a potentially serious
issue. The first step to determine this is making people aware of
the issues involved. The next would be to see if we can reach a
determination of the position the project at large want to take on
Having a common position for the project on this issue would
also help in trying to resolve the concerns; having a common voice,
and knowing what the project wishes to do about packages that ship
with GFDL licensed material would help our representative to better
project Debian's position.
I have prepared a document that encapsulates the concerns that
Debian folks have raised over in debian-legal, along with an
annotated version of the GFDL. I have tried to be inclusive, and have
incorporated in this one document all the concerns that have been
voiced by various people on debian-legal. This is a work in progress,
it is meant to be discussed and modified by the developer body. It
needs to be integrated into a coherent position statement, and it the
polish that it currently lacks needs to be remedied.
At this stage, I have distinguished between my commentary
(which has largely not been honed in a discussion), and mature
commentary from mavens on debian-legal; and I have attributed each
contributor separately. Over time, I hope to use this document as the
basis for crafting a common position statement by the developers,
which we can issue under section 4.1.5 of the debian constitution.
I need your help to create and refine this position statement.
Thanks for your patience. The URL of the document is:
Be consistent. --Larry Wall in the perl man page
Manoj Srivastava <email@example.com> <http://www.debian.org/%7Esrivasta/>
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