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Re: Problems in GNU FDL 1.2 Draft

[Excellent Analysis by Stephen Ryan omitted]

This all begs the question, why does the FDL exist at all?  The
rationale given at


is that it will encourage commercial entities to fund free
documentation.  However, it still requires the documentation to be
free, and it doesn't seem to have been adopted by any commercial
publishers.  I am willing to be educated, though.  The GPL, on the
other hand, has been used by Red Hat to publish their documentation
(at least around 5.2 or so) and by New Riders to publish a book on
installing Debian.  In fact, it seems like the GPL is better worded
for this sort of thing.

As a specific example of where the GPL is better worded, instead of
arbitrarily listing certain formats as Transparent and others as
Opaque, it simply refers to "the preferred form for modification."  As
one person already noted, Postscript is not necessarily opaque.  What
about Power Point presentations created using Open Office?  I would
hardly call Open Office a "generic text editor."  What about Lyx
files?  Is anything created using a WYSIWIG interface not free?

As another example, the GFDL requires me to include a copy of the
license in the documentation.  The GPL only requires a copy of the
license along with the software.  I would be quite annoyed if my
MagicPoint presentation (which I can edit with generic text editors)
had to have a copy of the license inside it.  Also, what if the
document is an image?  Inserting a copy of the license might be
not be possible.

Finally, the GFDL has a number of requirements that don't seem to
help.  It requires me to preserve the network location of where
Transparent versions can be found for four years.  Even if it is no
longer correct, and the original author can not be reached.  This is
probably not uncommon.  This does not raise the quality of free

It also adds a number of clauses about copying in quantity,
Endorsements, Title Page, and Cover Texts that unnecessarily confuse
anyone who wants to apply the license to their work.  These, I suspect
from the rationale given in the link above, are to encourage
commercial use of the license.  The thing is, I don't understand how
they actually help.  The document can still be replicated without
paying anyone anything (which is the whole point).  These conditions
just confuse the person using the license.

There is also the noxious Invariant Sections clause, which has been
adequately discussed by others.

Overall, I think that the FSF should just get rid of the GFDL, and use
the GPL for documentation.  There might have to be a clarification of
what object code means, but otherwise it's application is

Walter Landry

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