Re: query from Georg Greve of GNU about Debian's opinion of the FDL
At first I thought the GNU FDL was okay. And I tend to cut RMS a lot
of slack. But the more I think about it, the less I like it.
One principle of a proper free license is that it doesn't allow the
thing it is protecting to be poisoned. In the case of the GNU FDL,
despite the laudatory goals, it basically makes a deal: here's the
text or code or whatever, and in exchange you have to give the author
a soapbox. Some advertising space, really.
New and contributing authors can add their own little soapbox
speeches, their own little bon mots. There's nothing to prevent a
manual from becoming rapidly covered with a hundred little impassioned
pleas. Once there are two, adding a third is irresistible. And each
one would be considered using a "marginal cost/benefit" analysis.
Each one would be little extra cost, so the benefit of added meat for
the document itself that comes along with each extra invariant blurb
could actually be pretty small.
This would be a bad result. It is not a road we should start down.
Don't get me wrong - I don't have a problem with RMS's impassioned
pleas for free software sitting on *my* machine. If he asked me, as a
personal favor, to let him put up a collection of his writings on each
machine in my lab, and make them all web servers, and put an FSF
billboard on the sign on the top of my car, and some FSF decals on my
luggage, I would. As a personal favor. Because I'm so grateful to
him for the wonderful things he's done.
But I do have a problem with forcing people who just want some
documentation to keep unrelated "invariant text" around. Especially
since it wouldn't have to be RMS's, it could end up also having some
advertising copy from IBM, and some more adds from a book publisher,
and a sad story from a native american about how his people were
screwed a hundred years ago, and another little bit about the horrors
of Waco, and something from the ACLU, and then an add for UNICEF, and
some gun nut screed of Eric Raymond's added by one of his disciples.
This is a very bad direction to go.
At heart, the FDL allows an add-space-for-usage deal. This is roughly
equivalent to licenses we've rejected, like link-on-your-web-page-ware.
I really hope the GNU project comes to its senses on this one.
(The technical argument - that the line between code & documentation
can be blurry and therefore the documentation should have something
GNU GPL compatible - also seems rather strong.)