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Re: Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

On Thu, Apr 24, 2003 at 08:27:19AM -0500, John Goerzen wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 24, 2003 at 05:47:35PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > 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"''
> While in general I must say that I agree with Branden on this issue, I'm not
> yet completely convinced, and one reason was brought home to me by the
> above: I large majority of our software ships with the file COPYING, which
> states "changing it is not allowed".  Combined with the requirement in
> section 1 that the GPL be given to any recipients of the program, this
> strikes me as similar to the invariant section.  It leaves me wondering if
> we are being a bit hyopcritical about it.

The FAQ says: 

] 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.

Which doesn't really answer the question.

The real answer is that:

    (a) There's never any point making these things unmodifiable. Deriving
        a new license that uses some parts of the GPL doesn't change
        the license of old works, and isn't dangerous in any way --
        it merely makes it easier to write new license. Likewise for
        programs, documentation, and anything else.

    (b) We can't require freely modifiable licenses -- too much useful
        free software is covered by unmodifiable licenses. But conversely,
        this isn't something that can or should be extended: licenses
        aren't relevant to most users -- software and documentation is,
        and it's the users we're trying to protect here. Likewise, the
        line between software licenses, and documentation in general is
        much clearer than the line between documentation and software.
        Additionally, we're only required to give people a copy of the
        license, which is a much weaker requirement than including the
        complete text of the license in every binary we distribute.

        As such, we're happy to make a special exemption for licenses, that
        we're not willing to make for documentation in general.

That might make more sense.


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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