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Re: LDP in main?

On Sun, 2 Dec 2001 at 16:48:03 -0500, David Merrill wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 08:14:22PM +0000, Colin Watson wrote:
> > 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?

Yes, absolutely. Most (all?) of the publicly readable Debian lists are
also publicly writable. The archives are at
http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/ if you want to catch up.

> > 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.

I haven't followed the discussion in detail, but I understand the
problems are with invariant sections used on anything but rather small
sections of text (typically the copyright itself, a note about company
sponsorship, or things like that). Documents without invariant sections
are fine as far as I know.

> > 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.

The XML should be easy enough to manipulate. In fact, this might be
convenient as a replacement for some of the awkward automatic indexing I
currently do in the doc-linux build process.

> 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'm sure the assembled folks in the Debian project won't find this at
all familiar. :-)

> > 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.

I'll send a note to DWN when there's been a little more discussion about
this. The main/non-free distinction has encouraged a number of software
authors to free their software in the past, and I'd like to think the
same might happen with documentation authors.

My current plan is to have my refresh scripts get the XML database dump
first, then use that plus a set of licence rules to decide which
documents to download to produce this month's doc-linux tarball. The
main problem is likely to be deciding which of the documents with
licences flagged as "OTHER" are free and which aren't, which is where
debian-legal's decisions about documentation licences are likely to
become most important.

Colin Watson                                  [cjwatson@flatline.org.uk]

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