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Re: the FSF's definition of Free Software and its value for Debian

On Thu, Mar 06, 2003 at 06:35:24PM -0500, David Turner wrote:
> On Wed, 2003-03-05 at 15:42, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> > The status quo is not tolerable, and if the comments are not published
> > by the FSF soon, it seems to me that someone else should take the task
> > upon them of publishing them.
> They were eventually published:
> http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl-1.2-comments.txt

(in May 2002, linked from http://www.gnu.org/server/whatsnew.html;
but in spite of the comment on that page, apparently not from

On Thu, Mar 06, 2003 at 06:39:16PM -0500, David Turner wrote:
> Sure -- that's one reason why the standardizing on the FSF's Four
> Freedoms is so good -- invariant sections *clearly* don't serve any of
> the four.

So, considering the comments made and the FSF's lack of response [0],
it's probably time for us to do a brief and simple "GNU FDL Considered
Harmful" write up [1], and a review of our documentation to see what
needs to be forked from an earlier version or moved into non-free.

What, exactly, do we consider harmful about it? I'm not convinced that
``You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading
or further copying of the copies you make or distribute.'' [2] is enough
to make GFDL docs non-free even without invariant (&c) sections; applying
that to things like an padlock or an off-switch on a photocopier doesn't
seem entirely reasonable to me.

I guess we need to cover:

	* What's wrong with the GFDL and what problems can it cause
	* What documentation authors can do to avoid these problems
		(use the GPL instead? avoid invariant sections?)
	* How the GFDL could be fixed

Can someone other than me take care of this?


[0] See Branden's summary from November:


[1] A la KDE's old Qt v GPL issue, http://www.debian.org/News/1998/19981008

[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2002/debian-legal-200211/msg00287.html

Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

  ``Dear Anthony Towns: [...] Congratulations -- 
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