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Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

(Hrm, asking for someone to handle this results in a motion for it
to be handled, and lots of seconds that aren't willing to actually do
anything. How helpful.)

Debian's stance on the GNU Free Documentation License
...OR NOT (completely unofficial, draft, blahblah)

20th April, 2003

In November 2002, the version 1.2 of the GNU Free Documentation License
(GNU FDL) was released by the Free Software Foundation after a long
period of consultation. Unfortunately, some concerns raised by members
of the Debian Project were not addressed, and as such the GNU FDL can
apply to works that do not pass the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG),
and may thus only be included in the non-free component of the Debian
archive, not the Debian distribution itself.

This document attempts to explain the reasoning behind this conclusion,
and offers some suggestions on how authors of free documentation may
avoid these problems.

The Problem

The GNU FDL includes a number of conditions that apply to all modified
versions that disallow modifications, particularly:

 * K. For any section Entitled "Acknowledgements" or "Dedications",
   Preserve the Title of the section, and preserve in the section all
   the substance and tone of each of the contributor acknowledgements
   and/or dedications given therein.

 * L. Preserve all the Invariant Sections of the Document, unaltered in
   their text and in their titles. Section numbers or the equivalent
   are not considered part of the section titles.

However, modifiability is a fundamental requirement of the Debian Free
Software Guidelines, which state:

 3. Derived Works

    The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must
    allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of
    the original software.

As such, we cannot accept works that include "Invariant Sections" and
similar unmodifiable components into our distribution, which unfortunately
includes a number of current manuals for GNU software.

The Solution

There are a number of things that can be done to avoid this problem.

  1) Avoid using the various options the GNU FDL allows.

  If you do not make use of Invariant Sections, or include an
  Acknowledgements or Dedication section, there are no problems with
  your GNU FDL licensed document passing the DFSG. However, if someone
  modifies your document, and adds an Invariant Section, the new document
  will become "tainted" and can no longer be made to pass the DFSG.

  2) Use an alternative copyleft license for your document.

  Alternative licenses that you should consider for your documentation
  include the GNU General Public License, or the Creative Commons
  ShareAlike or Attribution-ShareAlike licenses.

  3) Use a non-copyleft free license for your document.

  Example licenses include the FreeBSD Documentation License, the Creative
  Commons ShareAlike license, and common software licenses such as the
  X11 license, or the updated BSD license.
  4) Update the GNU FDL to allow the removal of unmodifiable sections.

  While this does not prevent documents covered by the GNU FDL being
  non-free, it allows you to extract the non-free components from the
  document, leaving just the juicy DFSG-free goodness.

More Information






Open Questions

We want to do a FAQ as well. Should the "documentation = software" thing
be justified there? How about the practical examples we have? What other
practical examples are there?

Which packages are affected?

What are we going to do about all the documentation with clearly non-free
licenses, or that lack clear licenses? This seems to include things like
the Debian Manifesto, that's part of doc-debian.

Do we really want to recommend Creative Commons Licenses? They've very
long and legalistic -- even the "do what you want, but keep my name"
license is disgustingly complicated, to the point where it's not obviously

Are those all that makes the GFDL conflict with the DFSG?

What else needs to be covered?


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

  ``Dear Anthony Towns: [...] Congratulations -- 
        you are now certified as a Red Hat Certified Engineer!''

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