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Re: Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

On Sun, Apr 20, 2003 at 05:35:14AM +0300, Richard Braakman wrote:
> -- would you prefer that they hadn't seconded the
> proposal either?  We could have had a nicely silent majority.

I don't really see much value in "me too" posts. We build consensus by
responding to criticism, and there hasn't been *any* internal criticism
of this stand since last November, when Branden found the FSF's responses
to the issues he and others had brought to the FSF's attention.

> > Debian's stance on the GNU Free Documentation License
> > ...OR NOT (completely unofficial, draft, blahblah)
> (Section I, 'Preserve the section entitled "History"', is also a candidate
>  for this list.)

Is it? I couldn't see how it was much different to the GPL's "You must
cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you
changed the files". I suppose having a History section like:

	2003-05-01 Title: _GNU Manifesto_      Debian
	           (Extracted the GNU Manifesto from the GDB docs)

	2003-04-28 Title: _GDB Documentation_  FSF
	2003-04-12 Title: _GDB Documentation_  Debian
	2003-04-11 Title: _GDB Documentation_  FSF
	2003-04-01 Title: _GDB Documentation_  Debian
	2003-03-20 Title: _GDB Documentation_  FSF

could get tiresome. Does that make it non-free, though? I can't see any
reason why it should.

There's been some question whether the front-cover texts are DFSG
free. Considering we accept the obnoxious advertising clause, I can't
see any reason for them not to be.

> I also have a list of other problems with the GFDL.  They should
> probably all be listed together, though we may want to skip some
> as being too nitpicky.  

I'd rather list them all in a comprehensive FAQ, and keep the statement
short and to the point -- if we're going to make statements on non-free
licenses that're commonly called and thought of as free, fair enough;
making statements about every seriously flawed license out there would
seem like a lot of effort. I'm happy to be shouted down, though.

> [1] I remember two in the GDB manual and one in the Emacs manual.
> (Un)fortunately these mistakes have been corrected and I no longer have
> the old versions around.  Does anyone have references?


In particular: for emacs21, ``with the Invariant Sections being "The
GNU Manifesto", "Distribution" and "GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE"'', and
for gdb ``with the Invariant Sections being "A Sample GDB Session" and
"Free Software"'' and ``with the Invariant Sections being "Stabs Types"
and "Stabs Sections"''

A stronger argument can be made that not only is it easy to misapply,
but that it's harmful even when correctly applied: the wikipedia example
of the addition of invariant backlinks making the modifications unusable
for the original author; and the hypothetical example of random people
who don't have RMS's credibility attaching their own manifestos to
free software documentation as some weird unerasable graffiti are both
convincing to me. Are they convincing to anyone else? If so, would
someone else who's convinced like to pen a FAQ paragraph about it? Are
there any other examples?

Updated statement draft, and a draft FAQ attached, that should cover all
your comments that I didn't address in this mail.


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!''
Debian's stance on the GNU Free Documentation License (2)
...OR NOT (completely unofficial, draft, blahblah)

24th April, 2003

In November 2002, 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, which apply to all modified
versions, that disallow modifications. In particular, these are:

 * 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.

  The GNU General Public License is a good license for documentation
  as well as software. It requires anyone who would want to do a print
  run of your documentation to either include a CD of the text with the
  book so anyone can modify it, or to include an offer to send copies
  to anyone who asks at cost; and also requires the modifiable copy to
  be in whichever transparent form was used to create the book originally.

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

  Example licenses include the FreeBSD Documentation License, and common
  software licenses such as the X11 license, or the updated BSD license.

  4) Convince the FSF to change the GNU FDL to allow the removal of 
  unmodifiable sections.

  While this does not prevent documents covered by the GNU FDL being
  non-free by Debian's definition of the term, it allows us to remove the
  non-free components (that by definition are irrelevant to the document),
  leaving simply the DFSG-free manual itself.

More Information



Debian and GNU Free Documentation License FAQ (1)

What does it mean that this document is a draft?

   It means it's not in its final form, that any or all of it may well
   be incomplete, unbalanced, or inserted only as Devil's Advocacy
   (which is to say wrong). Don't rely on it even as an indicator to
   what Debian thinks, what its authors think, or what you should think.

It's the Debian Free _Software_ Guidelines, Stupid -- Why Apply Them to

   This is a very fundamental question. Debian's decision is based
   on some fundamental premises: we are, at our heart, an operating
   system distribution, so we're interested in making a good operating
   system that you can do a lot with far more than distributing every
   possible essay someone may wish to read, or painting they might find
   artistic. However, a good operating system must at least include
   documentation of itself, and, at least within Debian, it's generally
   felt that a good piece of code should be deserving of as much artistic
   protection as a good piece of prose. As such, we have decided to draw
   the same line between "free" and "non-free" for documentation as we
   have drawn for programs: that which passes the DFSG can enter main
   and be part of the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution, that which doesn't,
   but is still redistributable, can enter non-free and thus still be
   available to Debian users who might want it.

What About Unmodifiable Software Licenses Like the GNU GPL?

   Many software licenses unfortunately disallow the creation ofderivative
   works. The FSF give everyone permission to distribute verbatim
   copies of the GPL, eg, but do not give you permission to take the
   text of the GPL and change section (2(c)) to something you prefer,
   and license your own works under this new GPL-based license. This,
   clearly, does not pass the DFSG.

   Debian does not generally apply the DFSG to the text of licenses
   themselves, but rather to the software (programs, documentation,
   artwork) they cover. In the past, Debian has similarly overlooked
   applying the DFSG to documentation, but with the increasing focus on
   providing good free documentation, this no longer seems appropriate.

Beyond allowing invariant sections, why does the GNU FDL suck?

 It's easy to misapply the GNU FDL.

   The GNU FDL says that only "Secondary Sections" (a term it defines)
   may be marked Invariant, but does not say what should happen if a
   section that is not Secondary is listed as an Invariant Section.
   The FSF itself has made this mistake several times[1], so we know
   it's an easy mistake to make.

 Definition of "Transparent copy" is limiting

   The GNU FDL defines the words "Transparent" and "Opaque" to
   distinguish between source-like and object-like documents
   (e.g. comparing LaTeX to PDF).  Unfortunately, this definition
   focuses on implementation rather than intent.  It requires
   that every component of a document is either text, or an image,
   or a drawing.  This leaves out for example sound files, which
   can never be distributed as part of a document under the GNU FDL.
   ([Maybe insert rant about PostScript not being Opaque by definition.
     In fact, PostScript is the perfect example for documentation ==

 GNU FDL creates a wall between documentation and code

   The GFDL is incompatible with the GPL, and many of its requirements
   don't translate well to functional software.  This makes it
   difficult to embed such documents into a program, for example in
   order to present on-line help.  In the other direction, many documents
   contain example code, sometimes sizeable chunks of it, which will be
   unusable by default unless specifically licensed otherwise. Literate
   programs included substantial amounts of documentation (usually design
   documentation) in the code itself.

 Obnoxious Accumulation of Cover Texts

   Every contributor can add up to 5 words of Front-Cover Text and up to
   25 words of Back-Cover Text.  It won't take long before there is no
   space for artwork on the front cover, just a dense list of short
   ([Nit: "The front cover must present the full title with all words
    of the title equally prominent and visible".  So no artistic license
    allowed in title arrangement.  "Nethack: Journey through the MAZES
    of MENACE" is right out, especially if "MENACE" has little goblins
    holding up the letters.])

 The GNU FDL restricts the presentation of documents

   (This is a general point, I'm not sure how to word it.  We accept
   many limitations in free software licenses, such as changelog
   requirements, because they affect the source code but not the
   object code.  It's still possible to create whatever technical
   effect is desired, even if manipulating the source can get a little
   awkward.  The GFDL, by contrast, makes nearly all of its demands
   on the "object" of a document, not its source.  For example, its
   requirements for Front-Cover Texts are very similar to the Zope
   and PHP-Nuke requirements that we have rejected as non-free.  This
   point is also the root problem of the reference-card scenario.)

 Languages other than English are poorly supported

   The GNU FDL defines special roles for several kinds of sections
   (such as "History" and "Dedications"), but refers to these
   sections by their names in English.  A document under the GNU FDL
   will have to include a section with the title "History", regardless
   of the language it's written in.

Why are Unmodifiable Sections a Problem?

 Outdated Invariant sections

   Invariant Sections can become outdated, and there's no way to
   update them.  Even adding a note saying they're obsolete is
   not allowed.

 Obnoxious Accumulation of Invariant Sections

   If two documents under the GNU FDL are reorganized (producing two
   new documents with parts from each), then the Invariant Sections
   from each of them have to be duplicated in both, except for sections
   that are identical.  If they differ (for example, both documents
   have a "Distribution" section, but one has the old FSF address and
   another has the new one), then both have to be included.  This can
   become unmanageable as documents evolve.
   ([This point might be subsumed under "Invariant Sections are bad",
     and in any case we might not care because DFSG#4 allows something
     similar.  Do we care?])

   This means that you can't take the text of the GNU Manifesto from
   one of the GNU FDL-licensed manuals that includes it and print it
   on its own -- you have to include all the other invariant sections,
   front cover texts and so forth as well.

   It means that you can't include small portions of a manual, and print
   it on a reference card, without also including the complete text of
   arbitrarily large texts on the reference card.

   It means that you have to include invariant texts which may actively
   detract from the quality of your derivative work. Wikipedia and FOLDOC
   experienced such a situation, where FOLDOC could not make use of some
   changes Wikipedia made to FOLDOC's texs, because each such change
   was tied to an invariant chunk of HTML that would have had to have
   been included in FOLDOC's non-HTML dictionary. See:

   One of the key points of copyleft is ensuring that if someone updates
   a program, other people can take just the changes they consider useful
   for their own use; the GNU FDL fails here.

Given the GNU Projects influence on Debian, shouldn't the GNU Manifesto
be included in the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution anyway?

   Probably. Should we have a special DFSG exemption for doc-debian, and
   include things like the GNU Manifesto (and "Why Free Software?" and
   "Free Software needs Free Documentation" and whatever else) in there?
   I think so.

Why does this document use various Capitalisation Styles?

 Because you haven't edited it yet.

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