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Re: LDP in main?

For the benefit of debian-legal: David Merrill, the Linux Documentation
Project coordinator, e-mailed me recently with concerns about the LDP
documents (doc-linux-html and doc-linux-text, plus the various
translations) being in non-free. I'm forwarding on the most recent mail
in that discussion, and will add my own reply in a moment.

Colin Watson                                  [cjwatson@flatline.org.uk]

----- Forwarded message from David Merrill <david@lupercalia.net> -----

Envelope-to: cjwatson@localhost
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2001 16:48:03 -0500
To: Colin Watson <cjwatson@debian.org>
Subject: Re: LDP in main?
User-Agent: Mutt/1.3.23i
X-message-flag: Free Dmitry Sklyarov!  http://www.FreeSklyarov.org
From: David Merrill <david@lupercalia.net>

On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 08:14:22PM +0000, Colin Watson wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 02:23:55PM -0500, David Merrill wrote:
> > I was just kidding about annoy Colin day, but...
> > 
> > I suggest you check with debian-legal about including the LDP in main.
> Would you mind if I forwarded this e-mail of mine on to -legal? It seems
> as good a place as any to start the discussion.

Please do. I would like to be part of that discussion if possible. Is
that an open list?

> > Unfortunately many LDP documents are encumbered by distribution
> > requirements. Most of them do not allow derived works. I have had to
> > throw away many documents because their authors disappeared and we had
> > no legal right to them, and they were too outdated to be useful.
> Ugh. Double ugh. This is going to be decidedly complex ...

See http://db.linuxdoc.org -- the LDP database which I wrote and
operate. It will give you various meta-data about the collection,
including licensing statistics. Log in with username guest, pw guest.

> You're right, of course, although there has been a lot of discussion
> recently about how the DFSG should apply to documentation (especially
> documentation licensed under the GFDL, because exercising some of the
> options renders it non-free), so I'm not exactly sure where to draw the
> line.

We do not exercise any of those options. Only a few documents have
invariant sections. Does that make it non-free? What options do? I
would want to avoid them.

> > It all goes back to the freewheeling early days, when the LDP was
> > started. They didn't bother much about licensing of documentation.
> > People just sent stuff in, and it got posted. I've been working my ass
> > off to get all our documents under the GFDL, but it is taking a lot of
> > time and conversations with authors. I did get about 10 more
> > relicensed just last week, though.
> Your work's greatly appreciated here. What sort of reactions do you
> normally get? I've just started doing application manager work for
> Debian (accepting new maintainers), but I may have some free time to
> help.

Most people just don't care one way or the other. They say sure,
whatever you want. A few authors prefer a BSD-style license, and a few
make their work public domain. Only 1 or 2 have flat refused to use
any kind of free license, and I pull them from the site. Since we're
the top shop for Linux documentation, that pretty much means they're
relegated to obscurity unless their stuff is top notch.

> > Getting moved into non-free would be a sad thing to see happen, but
> > I'm afraid I don't see how it can be avoided, except by splitting the
> > LDP up into free and a non-free packages. The only good thing is that
> > it might prompt more authors to use a free license.
> I won't move things into non-free that should be in main, so the
> packages will have to be split. This means that somewhere I'll have to
> have a list of every item of documentation with its status, synchronized
> with the database, which is something I've been trying very hard to
> avoid - unless it would be possible to split the tarballs you distribute
> into free and non-free portions. Of course, this would involve the LDP
> accepting the DFSG's definition of free.

You should pull it from the LDP database, then. I will have to fix the
xml output that got broken when I switched servers last weekend. It's
a downloadable omf xml file. Or I can script whatever you want to work
with. It's a postgresql back end, so it's powerful and easy to
manipulate. Take a look at the database and let me know what would
work best for you.

As to the LDP accepting the DFSG's definition of free, it Ain't Gonna
Happen. We are so loosely coordinated it's basically everyone for
himself. No decisions are ever made, which means, of course, that the
status quo never dies. And the status quo is chaos.

I decided some time ago (I've been the collection editor for about 1.5
year, and with the LDP for about 2.5 iirc) that I would just make the
most of that, by doing my own thing. Nobody else wants to step up and
do the drudge work I do, and I tell them if they don't want to do the
work then they shouldn't bitch about how I do it.

Remember, it is the *authors* who determine the licenses. And I work
with the authors. So I ask for GFDL whenever I make contact with an
author, although I make it very clear that it is a personal request
and not LDP policy, because that's the way it is. Nobody at the LDP
has given me grief for this.

> It's a shame that this is likely to involve many fewer items of
> documentation being installed on Debian systems by default.

In the short term, yes. But I suspect when people read "LDP documents
non-free?" in the LWN it will actually cause more documents to
*become* free. Let's hope so. And I will step up my efforts to get
more documents under the GFDL.

Dr. David C. Merrill                     http://www.lupercalia.net
Linux Documentation Project                   david@lupercalia.net
Collection Editor & Coordinator            http://www.linuxdoc.org

We turn the wheel to welcome her
	Every breath is sacred
Opening, we welcome her
	Every breath is sacred
As we walk this ancient path
	Every breath is sacred
We are stronger than we know
	Every breath is sacred
		-- The Midwife's Song, Calla Unsworth

----- End forwarded message -----

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