[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: FunnelWeb manuals copyright issues

Yann Dirson wrote:
> [this is a mail I intend to send to the author of FunnelWeb - I'd like
> to be sure of my interpretation - probably this requires
> funnelweb-docs to be discarded ASAP from the archive]
> Reading the copyright notice available at
> http://www.ross.net/funnelweb/tutorial/copyright.html
> I think it does not comply with:
> - section 1 (free redistribution) - the copyright does not seem to
> allow distribution of the docs without the software, whereas some
> people may like to look at the doc before installing the software
> itself.
> - section 2 (source code) - I thought the HTML format you distribute
> may not be the "prefered format for modification"
> - section 3 (Derived Works) - these do not appear to be allowed

I agree with all three, but the motivation for 1 will probably not convince
the author; he will say that people can browse the docs on the WWW without any
commitment to installing the software. But it is clear that the docs were
never intended to be DFSG-free. Instead the licence basically gives NO
permission for redistribution; by way of exception you are allowed to make
copies only for personal use, or for inclusion with the program sources.

> I thought it would be a possible candidate for the "non-free"
> distribution that we maintain as a service to the community, but the
> copyright does not appear to allow distributing the docs separately
> from the program, so I'm afraid we can't even distribute it like this.
> The last possibility I see to have the FunnelWeb docs integrated in
> the Debian documentation system, is to provide a "wrapper package",
> which will allow the admin to automatically download the docs and
> install them, but this, as well as the non-free solution, would
> require net access for users who would like to browse the doc.

Again I agree. One might consider having the docs in non-free but depending on
the program in main; this would make it difficult to install the docs without
installing the program. However, this would be using a technical directive
(you need to install the program in order to install the docs) while the
intended meaning is legal (you are not allowed to install the docs unless you
install the program too); I don't think it would be appropriate. Better tell
the author that his requirements and the Debian policy make it impossible to
include the docs with the program in Debian at all, and have him consider
changing the requirements.

By the way, just being curious, I took a look at the FunnelWeb sources. Since
it is a literate programming tool, a macro processor that (among other things)
can produce compilable code from "literate" sources, I expected to find source
files that have to be processed by FunnelWeb (and some directly compilable
ones as well, for bootstrapping); this is the situation for most literate
programming tools I know of (just like most C compilers are written in C).
Instead however I found just ordinary .c and .h files. My first impression
was: the author is cheating, and distributing just the derived files, while
keeping his real sources for himself; this would mean the program violates the
spirit of its GPL licence. On second consideration, I start to think that the
distributed source files might be the real sources, in particular since the
documented capabilities of FunnelWeb do not appear to be very helpful in
producing the kind of code formatting used (however, it is emphasised that
"the author has complete control of the product files produced", so one can
never be sure). Nevertheless, it would avoid confusion if the author stated
somewhere explicitly that, despite all the advantages it advertises, FunnelWeb
is itself not a literate program.

Marc van Leeuwen
Universite de Poitiers

Reply to: