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Re: PROPOSED: interpretive guidelines regarding DFSG 3, modifiability, and invariant text

Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> writes:

> > 6: I am *still* unclear why we need a policy.
> I don't trust everyone in the world to live up to the standard set by
> the FSF.  The FSF put out a license called the GNU FDL and is asking the
> world to use it.  That's great.  The license contains no internal checks
> on abuse of Invariant Sections.  I think that's not so great.  I want an
> established rule that makes it clear that not everything licensed under
> the GNU FDL is rubberstamped "DFSG-free", since this could lead to
> violation of our Social Contract.  Moreover, I want to reduce the amount
> of ad hockery that goes on with respect to license checking.  If you'll
> ask around I think you'll find this is a goal of the FSF as well.

I think I agree with your goal here completely.  For that reason, we
should not make any kind of statement that "everything licensed under
the GFDL is ok".  *Somebody* will always need to look at the exact
details and then make a judgment call.  I see your proposal as a way
to try and automate the judgment call; I would rather we had a policy
(if we need one) that gave guidance on that judgment call.  

> I think it is inappropriate for Debian to permit Richard Stallman,
> Eric Raymond, or Bruce Perens, among others, to fire off a mail to
> debian-legal and unilaterally tell Debian what it will and will not
> accept.


> All I'm trying to say is, "you can't piggyback anything you want on the
> precedent that Debian allows non-modifiable texts like that of the GPL
> into packages in main".  We need boundaries.

I agree about that.

> > 7: Here is the sort of policy I would happily support, presuming you
> > can explain why, exactly, we need one at all:
> I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that there is no explanation I can
> offer that you will accept.  You want Debian to finesse these issues.  I
> don't.

Oh, I could certainly accept many!  But it just takes time to bear
with me, and I do listen and learn.  I think, for example, that I'm
coming around to seeing some kind of "official guidance" as a
reasonable thing, so that debian-legal can offer a fairly clear
guideline for developers to follow.

> > "Some documentation or other matter in Debian packages is sometimes
> > distributed under licenses that do not permit modification or the
> > distribution of modified versions.  When these portions are small
> > relative to the size of the package, no harm accrues from distributing
> > them as part of Debian.  However, when it comes to actual programs of
> > whatever sort, we continue to insist that modification always be
> > permitted.  And, since changes to a program necessitate changes to its
> > associated documentation, any portion of documentation which might
> > need to be changed to correctly describe a change in the program must
> > also permit modification and distribution of modified versions."
> You are asking us to allow a lot more non-modifiable, and thus non-Free,
> material into Debian than we currently do.  I find this stance
> unacceptable.

Really?  I'm stunned that you could say this.  Any packages consisting
of mostly non-modifiable text would not have such portions be "small
relative to the size of the package".  That's a very important part of
my paragraph.

> What kind of crisis do you require to justify action in your
> opinion?

I think if we found that there were a bunch of developers confused
about the issue, then it would be good to work out something
concrete.  So far, that just hasn't happened.  

> The
> threat of a lawsuit?  Charges that the Debian team are hypocrites
> because we'll let the GNU Emacs Manual (under the GNU FDL) into main,
> but not some other manual?  What sort of strife will convince you of the
> need for even the feeblest of gestures, such as the one I have made?

Oh, I think *any* such strife would convince me.  It's just that I
don't see any such strife.  But I can understand the desire to avoid
it, and indeed, it can be much harder to work out a sane policy once
the strife is upon us.  So I think I'm happy to have a sane policy for
debian-legal to suggest to developers.

So, you see, we are closing in on issues.  :)

I think we agree about the following--much of which *is* cast in
stone, some of which is not:

1) All software must permit modification.
2) All text which is documentation of the software must permit
3) Licenses and similar things quite reasonably do not permit
4) We would prefer it if other text not falling in categories (1),
   (2), and (3) also permitted modification, but we recognize that
   many of them historically have not (the Manifesto chapter of the
   Emacs manual, for example).  We think that it's OK for Debian to
   include such things, but we are nervous and sketchy about it.  We
   think at the least the following should be true:
   a) No bending on principles (1) and (2).
   b) Any such unmodifiable text must be a small portion of the

And I'm willing to go along with the creation of some kind of clear
debian-legal advice to developers encapsulating these principles.

Where I think we do still disagree is about:

A) Whether we should codify a specific numeric standard for "small
B) What that numeric standard should be, if we want to codify it;
C) Whether the numeric standard should vary depending on exactly what
   kind of text is involved.

Is that a fair summary of "the show so far"?


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