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Re: The old DFSG-lemma again...



On Tue, Nov 06, 2001 at 05:55:13PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> But I think this means that we should reconsider the standard you're
> proposing.
> 
> I don't think there is anything inimical to the notion that author's
> works should be preserved intact; at least, nothing contrary to free
> software--as long as we are talking about non-functional parts of the
> work.

I've already addressed this point in previous messages.

I don't object to non-modification of non-functional[1] parts of
documentation on ideological grounds so much as I do practical and
operational ones.  As I kept saying before, if you open the door for
this much subjectivity, you invite flamewars between maintainers of
potential package maintainers and Debian's DFSG gatekeepers.  Does the
FSF have to care about Debian's operational exigencies?  No.  Should it
be surprised if its apathy results in Debian having to use a crude tool
that may impose some collateral damage?  Again, I think not.

(Selfishly, I can always consult the paper copies I own of:
	The GNU Awk Manual
	The GNU CC Manual
	Debugging with GNU GDB
	The GNU C Library Reference Manual
	GNU Make
	Texinfo
	[I plead guilty to not being a parishoner of the Church of Emacs]
in the event that some or all of these manuals have to be removed from
Debian for non-compliance with the DFSG.  I also have no problem
encouraging people to buy the paper copies of the manuals, at least as
long as they are licensed under the current terms or the GNU FDL.)

Incidentally, maybe there's another way to work this out.  A lot of the
GNU tools include the "Funding Free Software" document, and Bram
Moolenaar includes a document with Vim that encourages people to donate
to a Childrens' Centre in Uganda that cares for children orphaned by the
AIDS pandemic in that country.  Again, I don't find documents like these
objectionable in and of themselves; I just don't want them used as
camel's noses to permit the encroachment of all sorts of non-modifiable
text into documentation.  Therefore, I'm willing to expand on my
proposed non-modifiability exception by permitting up to a certain
amount of auxiliary text (what should this amount be?  8kB?  16kB?
Less?  More?) to be appended to a package's licensing information in the
/usr/share/doc/<package>/copyright file.  The section of the copyright
file would be regarded as non-modifiable, and used as the Free Software
author's platform to advocate for whatever cause he/she sees fit; this
could be a request for donations to his or her organization, to a
charity, a polemical rant about "Open Source" is good and "Free
Software" bad (I'm sure we could expect such a thing in the fetchmail
package), or just crass advertising singing the praises of some megacorp
that sponsored the development of some Free Software.  It could be
anything that would be otherwise acceptable in the package but for its
licensing.  Other copies of this text may, of course, exist in the
package, but those copies must be modifiable (so you can still type
":help uganda" in Vim, or use Emacs's info browser to view the Funding
Free Software and History Emacs documents, among others).

In practice, I think most package maintainers will not fool with the
modifiable versions of the texts, at least in the examples I am
providing.  Package maintainer can and should be able to modify or
excise (preferably with a reference to the copyright file) such texts if
they get obnoxious or annoying, in the same way that we would accept
Free Software users' right to modify code to disable a GUI window that
popped up every 30 seconds to say "YOU'VE BEEN USING MY COOL PROGRAM FOR
X MINUTES!  HAVE YOU SENT ME MONEY YET SO I CAN CONTINUE TO WRITE NIFTY
SOFTWARE?"

What do folks think of this proposal?  What should the limit on the size
of the of the permitted addition to license text be?

[1] Incidentally, I have no interest in reinforcing recent arguments in
US Court opinions that sweat blood over how much a given piece of speech
(a computer program) is "expressive" vs. "functional", and determining
how much to violate the First Amendment based on where a given work lies
on this continuum.  The 1st Amendment doesn't say "Congress shall make
no law...abridging the freedom of speech, except to the extent that such
speech is non-functional."  For me, speech is speech is speech and
should not be abridged.

-- 
G. Branden Robinson                |    A celibate clergy is an especially
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    good idea, because it tends to
branden@debian.org                 |    suppress any hereditary propensity
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    toward fanaticism.    -- Carl Sagan

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