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Re: Final Draft: Interpretive Guideline regarding DFSG clause 3

On Wed, Dec 12, 2001 at 08:15:23AM -0600, ichimunki wrote:
> So the crux of this proposal is that emacs (a signature piece in the history 
> of the Free Software) at least be moved into non-free,

No, just the Emacs Manual.  The editor itself does not appear to have
any license problems under this guideline, and, just as an aside, the
GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual is also okay (at least the last time I

> unless one includes 
> only older versions of the package-- before the GFDL was applied to the 
> manual/info text sections.

No.  Even the older versions -- unless there are extremely old versions
of which I am unaware -- identify non-modifiable such as the GNU

> I'm not looking in the right place-- emacs-21.1/etc/* contains numerous 
> non-free, non-GFDL documents.

According to the license on the Emacs Manual, only 3 parts of the Manual
are unmodifiable: The GNU GPL, the GNU Manifesto, and Distribution.

So I would assume that the other non-free, non-GFDL documents can be
safely removed from the package in main.

> So perhaps this is a necessary move on the part of the Debian
> community to get the FSF to clean up the emacs package a bit-- but it
> might be better swept under the rug for now and submitted as a bug
> patch. 

This has already been discussed with the FSF; please the list archives
of debian-legal as referenced by URL in my proposal.

> But even if they do clean it up, as long as the GFDL is used for the
> manual, I can't see them as willing to take the Manifesto out of the
> invariant sections list for the GNU Emacs Manual. And with good
> reason.

I personally sympathize with RMS's desire to keep the GNU Manifesto
unseverable from the rest of the Emacs manual.  Because I can
sympathize with it, though, does not make it Free.

> Invariant sections can form an integral part of a manual/book,

According to the GNU FDL, Invariant Sections are supposed to be
"Secondary", thus not "integral".

> (imho) There is no reason to change the portion of the manual relating to 
> the historical rationale for the development of the software, or the 
> philosophy of Free Software, or the dedication of countless man-hours to 
> one's dearly departed canine companion-- unless you are redistributing the 
> manual and you hated the original author's dog because it bit you, in which 
> case you might attach as invariant section your own screed about how great 
> your cat is and how it can kick any dog's butt one pawed. And at some point 
> the invariant section flamefest outweighs the utility of the manual itself 
> and some bright writer or group of writers simply writes a different manual 
> from scratch.

I broached several alternatives with RMS, including one which would
guarantee that at least one unmodified copy of all invariant texts
within a package.  He rejected all of my proposals.

> While it is easy to see why it is inconvenient to have to decide on a 
> case-by-case basis whether the document in question is "free enough" or 
> appropriate for you, it seems unlikely that we're going to see massive abuse 
> of the GFDL. If someone wants to include a whole novel as an invariant 
> section of their manual, I assume the rest of their manual is proportionally 
> larger and of extremely high quality. Otherwise no one in their right mind 
> will accept the manual in the first place...

Please review my discussions with RMS on these very matters.

> I hope that Debian will not decide to adopt a proposal which essentially 
> declares the GFDL a non-free license under some circumstances, especially 
> since this will affect the contents of the main tree. If there is a single 
> piece of GNU software that does not qualify for main, then it kind of makes 
> the phrase "Debian GNU/Linux" a little funny, doesn't it?

If you want to offer a counter-proposal that no piece of work that
identifies itself as part of the GNU Project will ever be regarded as
non-free, ever, please feel free to do so.  I, however, will not support

> I apologize for the length of this email, but I've been following this thread 
> in silence up to now, and I wanted to get my thoughts into a single, 
> hopefully coherent form before sharing them.

You're perfectly coherent; unfortunately, you don't seem to be recalling
quite large portions of the discussion leading up to this proposal.

My previous proposal ("REVISED PROPOSAL") would in fact have let the GCC
and Emacs manuals be interpreted as DFSG-free works.  It was rejected by
other developers on this list.

In any event, my proposal does not forbid the grandfathering of any
particular package in main.  It also doesn't forbid making exceptions in
the future.  It's an interpretive guideline.  That means it's an
analysis of how we (Debian) actually apply the DFSG consistently in
practice.  I could be wrong, but I think clarifying the exceptions to
DFSG 3 as I have is not going to be unobjectionable to most people.  (In
other words, who's going to be shocked that we think it's okay for
copyright notices and license texts to not be modifiable?)

Who here actually feels that my proposal contradicts the intent of DFSG
3?  If the intent of the DFSG is to include any and all GNU materials
irrespective of the license placed upon them, why doesn't it say so?
Try as I might, I cannot discern such intent in the DFSG even if I grant
myself some creative latitude with its language.

Note that my proposal does say that any such packages shall be removed
from main.  I don't maintain any affected packages, and I'm not an
archive administrator, nor do I have any other authority to cause
packages to be removed from main.

How consistent Debian wants to be with its stated principles in the
future is not something I have sole power to determine.

G. Branden Robinson                |       The only way to get rid of a
Debian GNU/Linux                   |       temptation is to yield to it.
branden@debian.org                 |       -- Oscar Wilde
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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