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Re: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)

> Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2002 16:15:01 +0200
> From: Frank Mittelbach <frank.mittelbach@latex-project.org>

Frank, thanks for a very lucid and thoughtful comment. It is very

I must say, however, that I somewhat disagree with one of your points,

>  Thus our point is that building a distribution consisting of the
>  executable TeX plus a replacement of Computer Modern fonts (eg free
>  replacements as somebody called them) is against the explicit wish
>  of Don Knuth and if Debian intends to produce such a package then
>  (and only then!) it would be better to omit the whole thing and
>  just put everything into the non-free part of Debian.

I do NOT think that Debian really wishes to do this or to change
LaTeX. My understanding it that they want to have a *right* to do
this, but do not wish to exercise this right. The argument between
Thomas and me was exactly this: Thomas thinks that he has a legal
right to do this and does not exercise it only out of deference to
Knuth. He would like LaTeX people to do the same: allow people to do
change article.sty as a matter of principle, but politely ask them not
to. Thomas, is this a correct understanding of your position?

To say the truth, it is amusing to see the contortions Thomas must
suffer to defense the idea that "TeX is more free than LaTeX". When a
copyright notice does not agree with him, he cites Knuth's writings
and says that Knuth does not know how to write licenses, but his
writings show his intent. When Knuth's writings do not agree, he says
that the writings are irrelevant, but legal notices are important. I
personally think that the issue is clear: Knuth lucidly explained that
(1) he has the right to request the filename change under his
copyright notice; (2) in this particular case of Slackware violation
he does not want to defend this right legally because of his respect
to Linux people; (3) rather he wants the community to exercise the
peer pressure. He never says he abandons or waives this right or that
he would not consider other means of defense if the violator is
somebody else. This is how I understand his words; if Thomas thinks I
am misguided and ignorant here, let it be so.

> so no Branden, we really don't want TeX martyred or claim that
> Debian has lost its way from the "true freedom". Not at all. All we
> want is that Debian accepts Don Knuth understanding of his freedom
> as "his freedom" and either
>  - come to the understanding that it is also acceptable under the
>    DSFG
> or
>  - come to the conclusion that it is not compatible with DSFG, in which case
>    honouring Don's understanding of freedom would be to put teTeX out of main
>    but not to explicitly undercut his wish by splitting what he
>    considers "TeX" apart.

A very good wording. 

Branden thinks I want to make a noise about "your freedom is worse
than my freedom". This would be as meaningless as a discussion, what
is better, a minivan or a pickup truck? Each is good for its own
purpose. In my different roles as scientist, computer specialist,
editor, writer, etc. I learned to appreciate the *diversity* of
freedom. BSD license and GPL are both *good* for their purposes, as
well as many other licenses. Unfortunately, many people here have
mindsets formed by a narrow experience of work with computer programs,
written mostly in compiled languages with a certain class of
grammar. DFSG mentions source code, executables and compilation; this
has little meaning for LaTeX macros, styles and documents, and is
completely meaningless in, say, the scientific community. The latter
also wants the information to be free (and struggles with the
publishers of journals and books), but the ways of free distribution
of this information ARE different. When you use tools other than
hammer, you might realize, that not every problem looks like a nail. 

The TeX community enjoys the freedom in the way that is best suited
for its needs and practices. Its ways ARE different because the
environment is different. You *may* decide that you cannot accept
these ways; it would be bad for us. I think it would be bad for you
too. It would be bad both because (La)TeX is an important of the
toolset for many people, and because your understanding of freedom, in
my opinion, will be poorer, as a symphony is poorer if an instrument
is withdrawn. This will be a sad event. Still, in my opinion, this
outcome will be better than murkiness, word juggling and chicanery,
or sacrificing the TeX community goals and needs for political

Good luck


"Never make any mistaeks."
(Anonymous, in a mail discussion about to a kernel bug report.)

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