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Re: Documentation licenses (GFDL discussion on debian-legal)

On Tue, 2002-12-03 at 20:50, Mark Rafn wrote:
> On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Martin Wheeler wrote:
> > And to those who would say: "There's no difference between software and
> > documentation" I would reply -- sorry, but you really know nothing about
> > writing; specifically, _why_ writers write.
> It would be very instructive to hear from someone as knoweledgeable as 
> you.  Tell us, why do writers write?  Please limit your response to those 
> reasons that are different than why programmers program.

If you have an interest in a flame war please keep it in debian-legal.

> If you have similar insight into readers, please tell us why they have 
> less interest in having freely-modifiable documentation than program users 
> have in freely-modifiable software.

They do not.

> I apologize for my snide tone - it rankles a bit to be told I know nothing
> about the topic.  However, I'm actually serious in my questions - I'd like
> to understand why a software manual author needs to limit changes more
> than a software author does, and why a software user would prefer free
> software but not have the same preference for free documentation.

The GFDL does not limit any changes to the body of the text.

  "If a section does not fit the above definition of Secondary then it
is not allowed to be designated as Invariant."

"A 'Secondary Section' is a named appendix or a front-matter section of
the Document that deals exclusively with the relationship of the
publishers or authors of the Document to the Document's overall 	subject
(or to related matters) and contains nothing that could fall   directly
within that overall subject."

This seems to be the part of the you are concerned with.  An Invariant
section is just a Secondary Section which has been defined as such. 
However, a secondary section can have nothing to do with the subject
matter.  This means any text pertaining to the subject matter cannot
fall under the protection of an invariant section.  You are free to
change any and all text in the body of the document.  A secondary
section if further restricted to any text dealing with the relationship
of the author and publisher to the subject of the document.  This means
that any text about the author's opinions and comments cannot be
invariant sections.  The only text which can be an invariant section is
the text pertaining to the author's relationship to the document.  This
means the author's copyright, his license, and any other historical
licenses which apply to the document.

The subject matter is a good comparison to the code.  The code itself
can be modified and changed in any way and is freely distributable.  The
GFDL also allows the text to be modified and changed in any way and to
be freely distributable.  The only part of the text which must remain
intact is the copyright and license the text is distributed under.  The
DFSG states the licenses _must_ be distributed with the code.  The
Invariant section serves the same purpose.

> I truly have yet to hear a reason to prevent free modification of a
> copyrighted work that doesn't apply as well to softare as it does to
> documentation.

The reason for documentation guidelines because the DFSG and GPL only
protects code.  The code is not the same as published text and published
text has a longer and more established legal history than code does.  If
a person would print out documentation and reprint it under their name
the GPL and DFSG will not apply.  You have converted the digital text to
published text and published text follows very different rules.  This is
the main reason why Debian and the Free Software world needs a
documentation license which the GFDL has met.

The vast majority of the documentation contained within all the GNOME
core packages is licensed under the GFDL.  If Debian were to declare the
GFDL a non-free license then almost all the GNOME packages would have to
be put into non-free.  The GNOME project has already debated the GFDL. 
Unfortunately the discussion occurred at GUADEC and there is not much in
the lists.  However, the only drawback we have seen is the GFDL's
complexity tends to make people misinterpret it.  I would hate for
Debian to do this.

Eric Baudais

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