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

On Mon, 14 Apr 2003, Georg C. F. Greve wrote:

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

I'm not sure whether prose or software is more shortchanged by this
"distinction".  Both art and software are simultaneously functional and

Even if I were to accept this as the difference between the two things
(which I very strongly do not), does this lead to the claim that invariant
sections are allowable in free software whose primary purpose (as defined
by the author, I guess) is aesthetic?

> 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:

They're often created by different teams, and have different licensing 
terms in the proprietary world.  That's all I can read into the fact that 
many people use different words for "software" and "content".

> 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
> one.

This is simply wrong.  I'll bet the average computer user will use dozens
of different word processors over her lifetime.  Some will differ only in
minor ways, of course.  

> 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.

If I have one piece of software that I like, I usually do not have all the 
software I need/want.  In fact, running some piece of software 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
> supportive.

Strongly disagree.  Software (especially free software) is perhaps more 
mutually supportive than is art.

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

I think you're very confused, or I am.  There's a whole lot of software I 
run ONLY because it brings me joy to do so.  A significant number of books 
I own do nothing for me aesthetically but are very functional.  You 
wouldn't believe how much my kitchen table used to wobble...

Even "pure art" is functional.  I have a painting which is covering a hole 
in my wall.

> 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.

I have yet to see a case where the GFDL is superior to the GPL for free 
work.  It's primary "advancement" seems to be the legitimization of 
non-free author control of a work to the harm of creators of derived 
works, and therefore users.  

I have no doubt that the license authors had and have only good
intentions, but they completely missed the boat when deciding that
freedoms vital to software aren't needed by other sequences of bits.
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>  

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