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

 || On Mon, 14 Apr 2003 10:18:10 -0500
 || Steve Langasek <vorlon@netexpress.net> wrote: 

 sl> The perceived goal of the GPL is to establish a creative commons
 sl> for the mutual benefit of all in the community.  

I would agree to the sentiment, but I must say that I have some issues
using the commons example and terminology as commons are traditionally
established by sharing limited resources.

Software -- and anything else that can be digitally copied -- is not
per se a limited resource, although some people try to create
artificial sparsity.

In software this is traditionally done through proprietary software
with the well-known negative implications.

That is what the GPL was crafted to prevent and countermand for the
sake of society.

 sl> This is not a goal that's inherently bound to the nature of
 sl> software; one can derive many of the same benefits from a
 sl> creative commons built around prose.


But unlike prose, most software derives its justification to exist
From its function, not its aesthetics.

The very same people who have been lumping together totally different
areas of law such as copyright, patents and trademarks under the
"intellectual property rights" terminology are still careful enough to
differentiate between software and what they call "content."

That is because there is a significant difference between software and
music, documents, prose or other things usually referred to as content
by these people:

If I have a single word processor that I like, I usually have all the
word processors that I need, only very few people will use more than

If I have one piece of prose that I like, I usually do not have all
the prose I need/want. The same goes for documentation or music. In
fact hearing some piece of music usually motivates me to get more.

So the patterns of distribution of software are mutually exclusive,
whereas the distribution patterns of works of art are mutually

And unlike most works of art -- for which aesthetics or philosophical
advancement is the use -- software derives its usefulness almost
exclusively from its function.

 sl> However, the FDL (when invariant sections are invoked) has
 sl> something quite different from a commons as its aim.

That is your personal interpretation of it, which you are of course
entitled to. 

From knowing the people who worked on it, I know that creating such a
"commons" -- I will use your word despite its shortcomings I explained
above -- is exactly what they had and still have in mind.

I will gladly grant you that the GFDL is imperfect -- but in a
real-world situation it is one of the most advanced licenses for
documentation to create such a shared knowledge base that I know of.

Georg Greve

Georg C. F. Greve                                       <greve@gnu.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
Brave GNU World	                           (http://brave-gnu-world.org)

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