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Re: Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

On Fri, 25 Apr 2003, Anthony Towns wrote:

> If we are willing to accept invariant chapters in DFSG-free
> documentation, I don't see how we could possibly claim the GNU FDL is not
> DFSG-free. Merely being able to delete something doesn't make it free --
> I can delete MS Office easily enough, eg.
> In short, I don't think that's a justifiable position.

The difference between Office and Invariants is (if I understand the licence
correctly) that Invariant sections can't be large chunks of the manual -
only so-called "secondary sections".  It's merely just extending the
unmodifiability from the copyright notice itself to other ephemeral parts of
the documentation, while keeping the meat of the document flexible.

I don't think Invariant sections are a good idea because if one small part
of them is out-of-date (for instance the project website in a section on
"Getting the Software") you can't just update the address.  Why someone
would make a section "Getting the Software" invariant is beyond me, but it
would probably fit in the definition of a "Secondary Section", so someone
somewhere would probably mark it as invariant through lack of knowledge.  At
least being able to remove an invariant section and replacing it with
something equivalent solves that problem.  I still don't like them, though.

> >      What we do want is for our *users* to be allowed to remove the
> >      GNU Manifesto from the manual if they can think of a reason to do
> >      so.
> No -- we want our users to be able to take everything we give them, and
> be able to build on any part of it they might choose, with few exceptions.

Being able to remove an invariant secondary section wholesale allows the
user to build on the meat of the document without having to put all of the
invariant sections into their derived documentation if it doesn't fit (see
"The Reference Card" example for why this is needed).

> >      If only we could be sure that the license on the manuals would
> >      allow a user who thinks that "because!" is reason enough for him,
> >      to remove the GNU Manifesto, we probably could still distribute
> >      the unmidified manuals with the Invariant Section in it. That
> >      would mean that part of what we distribute (namely the Invariant
> >      Section itself) would not, strictly speaking, be modifyable, but
> >      exceptions can be made for things that are both sufficiently
> >      non-software-like not to need modifyability for technical reasons
> >      and sufficienly relevant not to just constitute a waste of space
> >      in the distribution.
> Didn't we just say we're not making exceptions for things that are
> "sufficiently non-software-like"?

I didn't read that anywhere (though I may have missed it).  Since we're
allowing non-modifyable licence texts (which I think everyone would agree is
a given, and IIRC may be a legal requirement) allowing invariance on other
things which do not affect the "operability" of the documentation/software
doesn't seem like an overly huge problem.  Defining "operability" in the
realm of documentation would be the stumbling block.

#include <disclaimer.h>
Matthew Palmer, Geek In Residence

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