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Re: Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

Anthony Towns wrote:
> 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.

It may be worth noting that GNU manuals are hardly the only thing
effected by the emerging consensus on treatment of document licenses.
The RFC's are moving to non-free already as they cannot be modified,
emacs contains a number of documents in its etc directory (WHY-FREE,
PROJECT, INTERVIEW, CENSORSHIP, etc, etc) that cannot be modified. There
are probably quite a few more examples.

>   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.

It might be good to point to another license written explicitly with
non-code in mind. What about the license used on the Debian web site?

> 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.

Apparently they do allow it, according to Brian T. Sniffen who points out
If the license portion of the GPL can indeed be reused and modified then it
is a bad example to use here. Or at least the reference to section 2c is
a bad example.

>    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.

It might be worth noting that Debian historically did not apply the DFSG
to software either (well, there was no DFSG), and had a large amount of
non-free software in the distribution, and that applying a strict
standard to the software we ship has led to a lot of software becoming
free, and has not hurt the distribution or our users in any way. We hope
applying these standards to documentation will have similar positive
effects. I think this is mostly implicit in your answer, but many people
will not know the history.

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

A little peice of me wonders if "why does the GNU FDL suck" is politic
even in a FAQ, but whatever.

>  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
>    texts.
>    ([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.])

Has anyone figured out what you have to do to print a FDL licensed work
as part of a collection like a magazine? I'm thinking particularly of my
Linux Journals which always seem to arrive with a giant honking mailing
lable right over the title of the two articles I'm most interested in.
It would be very amusing if the placement of a label could violate a

>  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.

I think if I were an author and was worried about this, I would quickly
add a little rider on my document's license, similar to the GPL + openssl
riders, that allowed sections to be translated.

> 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.

Unless of course it is put in another invariant section. But of course
that leads to this next point..

> 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.

I am deeply ambivilant.

I am very glad (and a little bit suprised) that we're finally close to a
consensus on DFSG for documentation. If this little exception is
required to win that consensus, that's one thing. If this exception is
just being made because we're worried about third-party perceptions of
us, I think the existence of an exception can do more harm than good. It
could weaken our stance, or complicate some future licensing discussion
(much as the excpetion for licenses that cannot be modified complicated
this one), or lead to ill feeling amoung other people whose non-free
manifestoes are not deemed worthy enough to go in. 

If we're worried about perceptions, especally by the FSF, then I think
we'd do better to make clear that we are not picking on them or their
license explicitly, and that this is a new general policy on document
licenses that we've decided on.

I hope that everyone who is in agreement about the FDL has no problem
with these same standards being applied to other documents in Debian.
This raises the possibility of another tack -- instead of a document
like this one that warns about and criticises the FDL, perhaps Debian
should issue a more general statement along the lines of: We have
decided documentation in Debian must comply with the DFSG, and this will
entail throwing the following documents out of the distribution, and
certian licenses (FDL etc) are causing problems in this task. Just an
idea and I don't feel like writing it myself, but it might be less

I'm pretty happy with the proposed statment anway.

see shy jo

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