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query from Georg Greve of GNU about Debian's opinion of the FDL

On Sat, Apr 12, 2003 at 02:08:47PM +1000, Martin Michlmayr wrote:
> perhaps you want to follow up with Georg in private or somewhere.

>  || On Tue, 8 Apr 2003 12:15:11 +0200
>  || Christoph Hellwig <hch@lst.de> wrote: 
>  >> I was told that there was no official Debian policy decision
>  >> against the GNU Free Documentation License the last time I
>  >> inquired.
>  ch> Well, the consensus is that a FDL document with invariants
>  ch> sections or covert texts is not DFSG-free, although it's not
>  ch> decided how to proceed with this docs yet.  
> Could you please tell me where that decision has been made official?

When the FSF released the GNU FDL 1.2, we analyzed it on the
debian-legal mailing list.  At that time, no one was willing to defend
it as a DFSG-free license if cover texts or invariant sections were


...and followups.

> Because the last time I asked Debian people about it, they told me
> this was a minority opinion and not official.

When did you ask?  Who did you ask?

>  ch> Umm, no.  The problem with FDL is that RMS forgot his idea of
>  ch> freedom about a chance of keeping GNU advocacy in the docs
>  ch> without anyone having a chance of removing it.  
> So you are ruling a license as non-Free because you don't like the
> person who wrote it and the opinion that is stated in the license?

No.  Please don't put words in people's mouths.

> >From what I read about it, people seemed to think that because of the
> invariant sections, documents might be non-free. Which is a too
> literal-minded application of software criteria to documentation.
> First of all: documents and software are entirely different issues and
> should be treated differently.

The Debian Project does not, in general, appear to agree.  See:


...and followups.

> In reality, existance of invariant sections and the possibility to
> define them -- as given in the GNU Free Documentation License -- makes
> a document *more* free and legally secure. Let me explain why.
> In continental Europe we have to consider moral rights of the author.
> This means that certain modifications that an author feels to be
> infringing upon his or her moral rights can never be allowed. Much
> more so than in software, documents tend to contain parts where the
> author feels that way about them or where certain modifications will
> be percieved that way.
> There is no way any license or legal document could change the legal
> status of such parts and a license that tries to do so is potentially
> invalid.
> But the GNU FDL allows authors to mark such sections, consequently
> strengthening the argument that if the author did not make use of this
> feature, the author didn't consider that section to be needy of such
> restrictions.
> For another license that does not offer the capability of invariant
> sections, one has to assume that potentially the whole document is
> equally invariant and as such non-free regardless of the license.

Your analysis ignores the fact that the GNU FDL does not permit
Invariant Sections to be omitted entirely from the work when it is
redistributed.  If the GNU FDL did that, it would take a giant step
towards DFSG-freeness.

Please followup to debian-legal.

G. Branden Robinson                |
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     Music is the brandy of the damned.
branden@debian.org                 |     -- George Bernard Shaw
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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