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Re: LaTeX & DFSG

> Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 13:21:09 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Mark Rafn <dagon@dagon.net>

> > 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.
> This seems untrue.  The current proposal is that in addition to naming the 
> main invocation command something other than latex, there are a bunch of 
> files that cannot be changed without renaming.  I have no clue how onerous 
> this is in practice, but it definitely makes modification more difficult 
> than you state.  Perhaps difficult enough that it qualifies as non-free.

First, the documentation refereed to by the license allows you instead
of renaming files to take them away from the LaTeX search path and
change the banner (see modguide.tex). LPPL is VERY programmer-friendly
(in my opinion, too much friendly -- I'd rather take away this

Second, did you ever try to program in TeX or hack together a LaTeX
package? If you did, you might find that renaming files is the least
of your problems. TeX is a notoriously difficult language. If you can
master it, surely you can master the art of renaming files from a
shell script.

> > 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.
> Sure if "latex" even exists.  The modified version latex-local may be all 
> you have.  In that case, you'll need to get the original sources and build 
> it yourself.  Which you could do anyway without the license restriction.
> > 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.
> Sure, unless they use latex-local for all their processing.

In both cases this is a conscious decision of these users. Surely a
user might decide not to install TeX at all. I do not demand Microsoft
to make its Word to correctly process my .tex files. However, I want a
user that *decided* to use LaTeX to be able to use LaTeX and not
something that you concocted for him. 

> > A3. The propeties A1 and A2 are going to be there whether the document
> >     is processed today, tomorrow or in any foreseeable future.
> With enough caveats that it's not much of an assurance.

This might be not much for you. It is good enough for me, my
colleagues, publishers etc.

> "All the rights you need" is a scary concept, but I'll let it go.  The 
> rights you list are sufficient to go into Debian, IFF recipients of the 
> software really have them as you state.  

They are. I am glad we have this understanding.

> If the license clearly states that we're allowed to have modified versions 
> of any file in the package as long as we don't call the package latex, the 
> discussion is done.  It's free software.  

OK. Here is the quotation for you:

  Ensure that it contains no file with a name the same as that of
  a file in the standard distribution but with different contents.
  (If this is not possible then you must: 
    ensure that files from the non-\LaTeX{} system cannot be
    accidentally accessed whilst using a standard \LaTeX{};
  \item ensure that each file from the non-\LaTeX{} system clearly
    identifies itself as a non-\LaTeX{} file on the terminal and in the
    log file.)

> > Thanks, but no thanks. I do not want you to have this freedom.
> Fair enough.  That puts you clearly in the non-free camp.  I'm sorry that

You do not think clearly, I am afraid.

The only completely free license is public domain. Any other license
takes some freedom from you. Eg GPL takes from you the freedom to take
somebody else's code, improve it and sell the result as a proprietary
software. GPL takes away this freedom to protect another freedom which
it considers more important -- the freedom of everyone to enjoy free
software. LPPL takes from you the freedom to confuse your users by
making them use non-LaTeX *unknowingly*. It does this to protect
their freedom of using LaTeX when they want to use LaTeX. It considers
this freedom more important.

A law requiring truth in labeling food products takes away the
vendor's freedom to sell saccharine while calling it sugar. It does
this to protect consumers' freedom to use sugar when they want

Who is in the non-free camp -- the one who supports this law or the
one who opposes it?

> If you're looking for benign examples, imagine a constrained system (think
> embedded) that has a homegrown incomplete tinyTeX.  They want to use latex
> on it, and it just doesn't work out of the box.  Are they allowed to
> create and ship a tinylatex with modifications that make it kind of work,
> but produce vastly different output than regular latex on TeX?


> Or maybe someone wants to create a package that simply increases fontsize
> of all documents by 50%.  They don't want to (and maybe can't) edit the
> documents.

This is also explicitly allowed by the license. 

> It seems that both of these are technically allowed, but it may be that
> the implementation filename restrictions make it so impractical that it's
> not doable without tons of extra work.  THAT is the confusion - it's not
> disallowed, but it's made way too hard, so it comes down to human
> judgement whether it's "free enough".

Well, this is obviously doable because it was done several times for
several purposes. Look for, eg,  mylatex on CTAN.

It is difficult, however. Not because of the filename restrictions,
but because TeX programming *is* difficult. Sorry for this, but this
cannot be changed by license.

Good luck


To be great is to be misunderstood.
		-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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