LaTeX & DFSG
> Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 09:43:15 -0400
> From: Peter S Galbraith <GalbraithP@dfo-mpo.gc.ca>
> I have always appreciated the fact that you could run latex on 10
> year-old sources and get the same output, but I have also come to
> appreciate the rights granted by DFSG-compliant software.
I think we finally got to understanding what is allowed and what is
not in TeX and LaTeX licensing -- or at least in the licenses
Right now I as an end user and developer have the following rights:
R1. Change the appearance of any document I got by adding the line
inputting my set of macros to the document.
R2. Change the appearance of all documents by (1) using instead of the
command "latex file" a command "modified-latex file" or (2)
passing the corresponding options to tex or (3) using my own
version of tex with different name.
R3. Distribute my macros, modified versions of latex, tex, fonts etc.,
for profit or not, as long as I take care they will not be
confused with the original tex, latex and fonts, and (in case of
latex) impose the same "do not confuse users" restriction on the
modified product (TeX is trademarked, so this restriction would be
redundant for it).
Besides these right I have the following assurances:
A1. If I issue the command "latex file", the appearance of the
resulting document will be exactly the same as intended by the
author with discrepancy no more than tens of Angstroms.
A2. If I send my document to be latexed to my publisher, colleague,
friend, the appearance of the document on their desks will be
exactly same as on mine. This is true whether they use Debian
Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Macintosh or Palm Pilot.
A3. The propeties A1 and A2 are going to be there whether the document
is processed today, tomorrow or in any foreseeable future.
Now what other rights are you talking about? This could not be my
rights as a user a developer -- I have all that I need. Obviously it
must be some other rights. Probably *your* rights. I take from the
discussion that some people here want the right to modify parts of the
TeX suite while still calling the thing TeX and LaTeX. In other words
you want the right to change files on your server in such a way that
"apt-get upgrade" will make my machine produce slightly different
documents than my colleagues' machines. Worse than that, you want the
right to dump these changes on other Debian machines -- while I can
stop using your verson of LaTeX, I cannot presume my colleagues'
admins are clueful enough to make this decision.
Note that it is not a right to try to make a better LaTeX than LaTeX:
this right is already there and was excersized by, say, ConTeXt
team. This is exactly the right to break the existing standard.
Some people say they need this right to make (La)TeX more secure. This
argument is purely hypothetical: there was no vulnerabilities reported
during all the years of TeX and LaTeX existence, which is longer, than
the existence of Linux or popularity of Unix and C. On the other case
the dangers that LPPL tries to prevent are quite real: the story with
"improved" CM fonts comes to my mind. Again, the people who improved
CM fonts might think that they made a service to the community; they
might consider the changes to be small. Nevertheless they are NOT
small for me and I do not want this service. You break A1--A3 without
meaningfully adding anything to R1--R3.
Let me tell yuo this way. I am FOR the freedom of speech. However, I
am against the freedom of my grocer to call a 950g weight "a
To extend this analogy, I might say to an imaginary Debian maintainer:
you make beautiful toolsets and distribute them for free. Thanks. I
got used to your tools and really prefer them. However, it came to
your attention that your toolset includes a carefully crafted set of
standard weights. You now say that you need a freedom to make 950 g
weights and call them kilograms. You say that these weights might be
better or more secure. You even assure me that you might never need
to excersize this right or that your weights might be 999 g. However,
you consider the right to distribute altered kilograms very
Thanks, but no thanks. I do not want you to have this freedom. I do
not want you to send me these "maybe altered" weights. I do not want
you to be able to send them to anybody. I abhor the thought that my
business associates, colleagues or anybody else might use your weights
UNKNOWINGLY. You have the right to distribute any weights as long as
you call them deb-kilograms or Pickwickian kilograms -- but please do
not meddle with the standard weights.
Today I posted an article and forgot to include my signature.
What should I do?
Rush to your terminal right away and post an article that says,
"Oops, I forgot to post my signature with that last article. Here
Since most people will have forgotten your earlier article,
(particularly since it dared to be so boring as to not have a nice, juicy
signature) this will remind them of it. Besides, people care much more
about the signature anyway.
-- Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette
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