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Re: Amendment to GR on GFDL, and the changes to the Social Contract

On Fri, Feb 10, 2006 at 02:31:43AM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> Incidentally, if I ever become a DD, I *will* immediately propose a GR to 
> amend the Social Contract to explicitly allow unmodifiable license texts in 
> Debian, since it technically doesn't, but everyone agrees that it should.  
> I'd welcome someone else beating me to it.

Then people will start saying things like "the GFDL is free, if the invariant
sections happen to be license texts!"

This really just isn't a problem that needs fixing.  Once in a while, you get
confused or desperate people on d-legal trying to argue "we allow license
texts to be unmodifiable, so this invariant ode to my cat should be allowed,
too!", but you can't stop those stupid arguments by changing the DFSG.  You
just end up replacing one dumb argument with another, equally dumb argument,
and complicate the guidelines in the process.

For example, GR2004-003 tried to close the old "documentation isn't software"
argument, by saying the DFSG applies to all of Debian.  What happened next?
Now we've had people claiming that, since the DFSG still uses the word "program"
in several places, those particular clauses don't apply to documentation.
People have actually argued that documentation doesn't need to have source,
since DFSG#2 says "the program"!  That argument, of course, implies that 
that parts or all of DFSG#1, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 also don't apply to
documentation.  It's as if GR2004-003 never happened.

Don't try to prevent dumb arguments by changing foundation documents.  Stick
to the ones that actually have merit.  There's just no merit underlying the
"license texts are unmodifiable, so ..." arguments, and I don't see the need
to complicate the guidelines by formalizing an exception for them.

(As an aside, the only reasonable interpretation of the SC is that it
implicitly allows, at minimum, unmodifiable license terms[1].  Otherwise,
the only software that could be allowed in main and still be redistributable
would be public domain, and the existance of the DFSG shows that's not the

[1] As an extra-aside, see
http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/04/msg02344.html for an observation
about the difference between "license texts" and "license terms", and how one
really could apply the DFSG to texts, but not terms, and end up with something
reasonable.  Not really a worthy fight, of course, but if you want to
formalize an exception, then I think knowing the difference is important.

Glenn Maynard

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