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Re: Preprints/Reprints of Academic Papers in Packages

On Sat, 16 Mar 2002, C.M. Connelly wrote:

>Many packages contain preprints or reprints of academic papers as
>part of their documentation.  In many cases, there is no
>``source'' available for these documents -- they are distributed
>as PostScript or PDF files.

Postscript is source.  One assumes, of course, that upstream has the right 
to relicense the documents, or that the documents are under a DFSG-free 
license already...

>Examples of packages that include such documents include (but are
>certainly not limited to) bind-doc, cricket, ddd-doc, fastlink,
>and tetex-doc.
>My feeling is that as ``historical documents'' -- frozen documents
>describing some early state or underlayment of the software, and
>not day-to-day documentation -- we shouldn't worry that much about
>not having the source for these documents.  Others may disagree,
>believing that we need to have source for everything that we

What precisely would be source for a postscript document?  Would it change 
if postscript was turing-complete?  I'm thinking that the first priority 
is ensuring that Debian has rights to distribute IAW the DFSG, and that's 
a substantial question in some of the aforementioned cases...

>In any case, I think that it would be useful to come to some
>conclusion about whether or not it's okay to include such
>documents in main at all, and, if so, under what conditions.
>Some questions that occur to me include
>   1. If such a document is in a subdirectory of a GPLed program,
>      is that enough permission to distribute it, even if the
>      document itself has no distribution (or copyright)
>      information attached to it (or in a file in the same
>      directory)?

Only if the grantor of the GPL rights is the same as the author of the 
document.  I can grant you GPL rights to the Microsoft Windows source, 
for all the good it'll do you.

>   2. Do we need a specific statement from the author(s) (or
>      original publisher) allowing us (and anyone else) to
>      distribute the document?

If my addendum to 1 above isn't satisfied, yes.

>   3. Do we need to build the document from source to feel
>      confident about distributing it?

I submit since postscript is turing complete, postscript documents are 
actually already in source form.

>   4. If we actually do have source, are we allowed to create a
>      typeset version (DVI, PS, PDF) or some other form of
>      ``compiled'' documentation (texi, HTML) and distribute that
>      without the source?

One would assume that this question becomes meaningless if the typesetting 
language is turing complete, since one would never presume to say that a 
perlscript, for example, isn't in source form because perl is turing 

>   5. If an ``article'' or ``technical report'' really is the only
>      documentation for a program, should we try to get the author
>      to provide the source with a license that allows
>      modification -- keeping the original document(s) intact, as
>      historical records, but still allowing the documentation to
>      evolve as the program changes?

Ahh, the crux.  We get back to the Question Of The Hour: are there special 
rules for documentation.  The short answer is that the jury's still out on 
that one, and probably will be for the forseeable future. The long answer 
is that you can't even tell what sides the debaters are on without an 
updated scorecard.

>Anyway, just some ideas to kick around....
>   CMC
> Man cannot be civilised, or be kept civilised by what he does in his
>	    spare time; only by what he does as his work.
>			     W.R. Lethaby
>  C.M. Connelly               cmc@debian.org                   SHC, DS

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Who is John Galt?  galt@inconnu.isu.edu, that's who!  

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