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

On Fri, Mar 07, 2003 at 11:47:52PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> 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],

As part of this, I think we should write a boilerplate rider that people
who want to use the GNU FDL can apply, which will void those sections of
the license we regard as non-free.  This is much like existing "OpenSSL
linking exception" riders that people put on GNU GPL, but I'd propose
that we add a twist; derivative works must retain the terms in the

This would ensure GNU FDL-licensed works would not be able to be
"re-propritarized" from our perspective.

> and a review of our documentation to see what needs to be forked from
> an earlier version or moved into non-free.

Yes, that's going to be the painful bit, and the one that gets our
hapless volunteer flamed to hell and back.

> 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'm not convinced either, but I do see a potential threat to freedom
here.  Can someone propose some rider language that would retract the
claws of that clause a little bit, such that most of us can agree it
couldn't be applied in unfree ways?

> 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?)

I think we should recommend multiple courses of action, one of
which would be my "GNU FDL plus Debian rider" approach.  I think if we
take some pains to assure people that there are many ways to satisfy the
DFSG (which is true), we'll meet with somewhat less hostility for
breaking ranks with the FSF on this issue.

> 	* How the GFDL could be fixed

It's my intention that the "Debian rider" language would pretty much
encapsulate this goal.

> Can someone other than me take care of this?

I'm willing to start a thread on here this weekend.

G. Branden Robinson                |    Humor is a rubber sword - it allows
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    you to make a point without drawing
branden@debian.org                 |    blood.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Mary Hirsch

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