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Re: Gnus Manual License

On Thu, 12 Oct 2006 11:17:01 +0200, David Kastrup <dak@gnu.org> said:

> Hubert Chan <hubert@uhoreg.ca> writes:
>> On Wed, 11 Oct 2006 00:29:21 +0200, David Kastrup <dak@gnu.org> said:
>>> Hubert Chan <hubert@uhoreg.ca> writes:
>>>> In that case, what you wrote doesn't make sense to me.
>>>> If I make false claims, then the FSF has to bear the consequences?
>>> If they demand that you make false claims, yes, they have to bear
>>> the consequences.
>> Well, they are not actually demanding that I make false claims.  They
>> are demanding that if I modify, then I will have to make false
>> claims.  Which is a different matter, and I do not see as a general
>> waiver.  If I cannot legally satisfy the conditions of the license,
>> then I cannot redistribute.

> But you can satisfy the conditions of the license.

That is your claim.

And my claim is that a demand made in one context does not constitute a
waiver in another context.


> If you lose the key to your appartment and let a key service open your
> door, you can't afterwards sue them for breaking the lock: they were
> acting on your behalf and request.

So if I say that you may distribute my document as long as you break my
lock, then you say that I have just given everyone permission to break
my lock?

> Similarly, the FSF can't sue you
> for tacking "A GNU manual" on a publication of yours when they
> requested you to do that.

Again, it is not a straight request that I tack on "A GNU Manual" to the
publication.  It is a request based on a condition: "if A then B".

>> Or, a different example, if I have two pieces of software, A and B,
>> both copyrighted by the same person, and A is licensed under the GPL,
>> and B is under some proprietary non-free license, then if I want to
>> combine A and B, and release it to the public, then the copyright
>> holder, by releasing A under the GPL, _demands_ that I also release
>> the combined work under the GPL.  So would you say that I now have
>> the copyright holder's permission to release the combined work under
>> the GPL, or am I not legally allowed to release the combined work at
>> all?

> But we are not talking about this case.  But you don't have the
> copyright holder's permission to combine those pieces of software.
> And you don't have the copyright holder's permission to redistribute
> any such combination to the public.

Yes, exactly.  A demand made under one context does not constitute a
waiver in another context.

> In contrast, the GFDL is a permission to release a modified work to
> the public, stating the required conditions.

And if the required conditions are not legal, then you cannot release
the modified work legally.

>> As anyone who has taken a logic course

> Which you probably really should.

"If A then B".  "B is not legal" (i.e. "not B").  Thus the only legal
option is "not A".  This is good logic.

"If A then B".  Therefore B is legal.  This is bad logic.

>>> You asked "Is the FSF OK with this", and yes, they _have_ to be OK
>>> with this since they demanded you put "A GNU Manual" on every work
>>> derived from the GNU Manual.
>> Is this an official statement on behalf of the FSF, or is this just
>> your opinion based on your understanding of the license?

> This is far too silly to require an official statement.  Unless I get
> some evidence that anybody except yourself does even remotely consider
> this nonsensical interpretation possible, I won't bother anybody at
> the FSF with that.

One of Jérôme's replies much earlier in the thread indicated that his
initial reaction was that requiring "A GNU Manual" prevented derivative
works.  And Peter's reply indicates that he doesn't consider it a
completely "nonsensical" interpretation.  So that's at least two people
who "even remotely consider" my interpretation to be possible.

> Feel free to ask yourself at copyright-clerk at gnu dot org in order
> to get an official statement.

I will do so if I ever feel like modifying a GNU manual for my own

> But it really is nonsensical, since the official statement already
> exists in the form of the license text.

No, the license text does not include an explicit waiver on using the
"GNU" name.

>     You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document
> under the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you
> release the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the
> Modified Version filling the role of the Document, thus licensing
> distribution and modification of the Modified Version to whoever
> possesses a copy of it.  In addition, you must do these things in the
> Modified Version: [...]

> That is a _license_, a waiver of pursuing copyright interests.  It
Yes, thank you.  It is not a waiver against other claims.
> does not demand any factual connection between cover texts and
> contents.

Have I ever said that there was a demand in the license of factual
connection between cover texts and contents?  Haven't I always been
saying that those things are covered by laws outside of copyright, which
is why the copyright license is not a waiver against those laws?

>>>>> Then add "changed outside the GNU project" after it, and nobody
>>>>> need ever add another line in order to keep it true.
>>>> "A GNU Manual" "changed outside the GNU project" -- it still claims
>>>> to be a GNU manual.
>>> Then add "(at one time)" after it if that suits you better.
>> (Of course, this puts the FSF in a rather odd situation, if they ever
>> want to take parts of "'A GNU Manual' '(at one time)'" and
>> incorporate it back into their own work.

> That is the problem of the FSF, not of yourself.

That is true, and I never said it was my problem.  That is why I put
that comment in parentheses, as it was a side comment.

> You really are fond of purporting to act in the interest of the FSF by
> not wanting to follow the license.

Please stop trying to guess and my motivations.  I never said that I
didn't want to follow the license.

> It is none of your business to worry about the bad effects _to_ the
> FSF that a demand _from_ the FSF might have.

As an associate member of the FSF, and as someone who has already signed
over copyright for some software that I have written (nothing major, but
still...), and who will likely do so again in the future, it is my
concern if the FSF does things that I do not think are beneficial.

> Wrong.  The copyright holder gives his permissions only to copies he
> distributed himself.  That the copyright holder at some point of time
> or other gave somebody else a license with different conditions does
> not mean that you can give yourself that license on a whim.  Not even
> when the copyright holder permitted some other party to redistribute.
> _IF_ and only if you got your copy _accompanied_ by a license and
> _understood_ to be under such a license, _then_ you have the right to
> redistribute under the conditions granted by that license.

Wrong.  If I get my copy by other means, and am able to obtain a
different license from the copyright holder, then I am also allowed to
redistribute under the conditions granted by that license.  The license
does not always have to accompany the copy.  It can be obtained through
a separate channel (as long as that channel is legal).

I'm not talking about recreating a license out of the blue.  I'm talking
about obtaining permission from the copyright holder for a copy obtained
from a third party.

If I download some software from Debian that's licensed under the GPL,
and I can get the copyright holder to let me use it under the terms of
the BSD license (say, in exchange for $[unspecified sum]), then he
cannot turn around and sue me if I distribute the software under the
terms of the BSD license.

> I am a developer of Free Software myself, and I get _paid_ for it.

Good for you.  I would like to be in that position some day too.

> You can't just hack into my server and steal the software, claiming
> that because I licensed it to somebody under the GPL, anybody should
> be able to attach the GPL to a copy he has acquired without a license.

Straw man.  Did I ever say anything about hacking into a server?  The
documentation that I obtain from Debian is exactly the same as what I
would get from the FSF's own _publicly_ available sources.  They give it
to _everyone_ under the GFDL.  To sue somebody under these situations
would be completely stupid.


>> Actually, given that Debian developers are supposed to pass their
>> changes upstream, and work closely with upstream as much as possible,
>> this is highly unlikely.

> Debian developers having their own work licensed under the GFDL?

Most Debian-related changes to documentation are probably very minor,
which are probably too small to fall under copyright, or Debian-specific
things.  If they had to pass a larger chunk upstream to, say the FSF, I
assume they would have to sign the standard copyright assignment.  Most
other upstreams do not care much about copyright assignment, but if a
Debian developer pushes his changes upstream, and upstream is known to
license the documentation under the GFDL, I don't see why the Debian
changes would not be licensed under the GFDL.

Whenever I push my changes upstream, it is always with the understanding
that it is licensed under the same terms as upstream's original license.

Does it really surprise you that there might be some Debian developers
who are not so fanatical against the GFDL that they would refuse to have
any of their work GFDLed?  Would it surprise you to hear that even I
would not be opposed to contributing to a GFDLed document, and having my
own contributions licensed under the GFDL?

>> And Debian developers are, for the most part, not hostile to the
>> GFDL.  Most are hostile to non-modifiable bits being included within
>> Debian, which the GFDL allows under certain circumstances.  If you'll
>> recall the GR, Debian voted to allow GFDLed documentation if it
>> didn't have any invariant sections.

> In a vote that did not leave an option for minimal front- and
> backcover texts like those used by the GNU project.

Because nobody felt it necessary to put forward such a proposal.
_Nobody_.  Such an issue was not even brought up in the debate, let
alone put forward as a proposal.  Even though everyone knew what would
happen to the GNU manuals.

If you want to have such a vote, you are free to put forward such a
proposal.  Although if you are not a Debian developer, you would need to
get someone to make the proposal for you.  Of course, given the current
debates going on in d-vote, I would suggest delaying putting forward
such a proposal until later.  I don't think that anyone would be very
receptive to yet another vote at this point in time.

[... snip anecdote ...]
> So just judging from factual experience I have as project maintainer
> with Debian developers, I can tell you that your assurances about
> Debian developers in general don't hold.  Even a Debian vote does not
> assure that the people ending up in a minority position of a vote will
> be interested in implementing or supporting what others have decided.

That's one developer.  My experience is different.  Of course there will
be people who refuse to package GFDLed documentation, under any
circumstances, just like there are people who refused to remove GFDLed
documentation until after they were forced to by the vote.  Anyways, I
don't really care too much to debate this point, if we're just going to
swap anecdotes.

>>> Why should Debian be able to remove the way the FSF provided for
>>> printing a manual?
>> And again, how does the GPL present insurmountable barriers to mass
>> printing?

> Maybe you should ask that question to the publishers who refused
> printing GNU manuals under simpler licenses.  There is a _reason_ that
> the GFDL was created.

Yes, I agree that there is a reason the GFDL was created.  I don't think
that "the GPL makes it too hard for printers" tells the whole story.
(And no, I'm not trying to imply some sort if insidious motivation for
the GFDL, just in case you got that impression.)

Hubert Chan - email & Jabber: hubert@uhoreg.ca - http://www.uhoreg.ca/
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