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Bug#183860: RMS's comment on this bug is mostly irrelevant. :-/

Nathanael Nerode <neroden@twcny.rr.com> writes:

> The issue is entirely about generated files which contain elements of a
> GFDL'ed texinfo file *and* elements of the GPL'ed texinfo.tex; such
> files are presumably derivative works of both, but that means they can't
> be distributed.

I'm not sure that I understand.  Here's how I look at this; please let me
know where I'm wrong:

 * texinfo is a formatting language.  It happens to be implemented in some
   particular cases (but not others) by using TeX macros, but that's just
   an internal implementation technique.  It could be implemented as a
   separate binary program for all we know.

 * texinfo documentation is given as input to a texinfo formatting
   program, which then produces some output; the most interesting in this
   particular case is DVI or PostScript output.

 * For DVI and PostScript output, the TeX macros (GPL-licensed) tell TeX
   how to take a texinfo document and turn it into DVI or PostScript
   output.  TeX then generates those DVI and PostScript documents via the
   same means that it would use to generate any other DVI or PostScript

To me, this situation seems exactly parallel to what would happen if
texinfo were implemented in Perl.  The texinfo program (texinfo.tex or the
Perl texinfo script) is fed to an interpretor (TeX or Perl), takes the
documentation as input, and uses the functionality of that interpretor to
generate some output.

As long as substantial chunks that are included vertabim in the output
(the old bison case) are licensed appropriately, and I don't see any
reason to think that they're not since they come from TeX and PostScript
documents generated by TeX don't seem to have license issues in general, I
don't see the issue.

Maybe the mechanism whereby TeX loads the texinfo program is confusing?
It does load the program and the data into the same input stream due to
the way that TeX is implemented, but isn't this just an accident of
implementation irrelevant to licensing concerns since it happens internal
to the TeX process?

It's not like the concatenated texinfo.tex and texinfo source is
distributed as such.  Rather, texinfo.tex is *run* and used to produce
output.  (But even if that were distributed, is it a license violation to
cat together two files with different licenses and distribute the results?
That still sounds like mere aggregation to me.)

I think it's generally well-accepted that, in the *common* case where no
substantial portion of the implementation is included in the output, the
output of a program is not inherently a derivative work of that program.
I don't see the argument for declaring the output of the texinfo program
to be a derivative work of its implementation.

If what you're saying is true, it would seem to imply that it is a license
violation to write any document in texinfo and redistribute the formatted
result unless the document is licensed under the GPL, and that more
generally it would be a license violation to distribute the output of
*any* formatting program unless the input document was license-compatible
with the implementation of the formatting program.  This seems wrong to

Again, though, I may be missing some major issue, and would certainly
welcome correction.

Russ Allbery (rra@stanford.edu)             <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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