[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Proposed statement wrt GNU FDL

On Fri, 25 Apr 2003, Jeremy Hankins wrote:

[Disclaimer: if, at any point during the reading of this message, you see a
point which has been raised and covered before, please point me to the
archive message.  I couldn't find anything in the d-legal archives back to
Jan-2002 which appeared to deal with this.  My apologies if I've rehashed
something done to death before.]

> I think this is definitely not the d-l consensus.  On one hand, the
> benefits to be gained from a free-software-like approach to purely
> artistic/aesthetic (i.e., non-functional) works aren't as obvious.
> While one can imagine exceptions, it's not as useful to mix-and-match
> bits of a novel into your own novel.  You don't see nearly as many
> collaborative novels or paintings as programs, and I imagine that an
> authors pride in a work is much more associated with the work as a
> whole in the case of a novel or painting than in a program.

I was about to pipe up with "but we don't distribute novels with Debian"
until I realised that we want to distribute a few other novel-like things -
pure documentation not associated with a specific software program (eg the
hoary old chestnut of the RFCs).  So, I have to start thinking again about
documentation in a different light to software.  Could we produce a
distinction amongst our offerings in the following manner:

* Software.  Anything intended to instruct a computational device to perform
some action.  Yes, total crap definition, but it gets the idea across.

* Documentation for software.  Intended to enlighten humans on the design,
implementation, usage, etc of a specific piece software.

* Other documentation.  Standards, DFSG, GNU manifesto, etc.

DFSG applies to software.  (duh).  DFSG applied to docs for software (for
all the very good reasons given in the draft Debian GFDL FAQ).  But for
"other documentation" (and we'd need to have a pretty clear definition of
what that was before going too far forward) there could be a second set of
guidelines for it's inclusion in Debian.

To roast a hoary chestnut, I've not yet seen a good argument why we'd want
the RFCs to be relicensed as DFSG-free, apart from the "so it can go into
Debian main".  Modifying an RFC and re-releasing it is not a good thing, but
the DFSG says it is, and we want that right (if we're applying DFSG to
everything that goes into main, that is).

The non-software documentation category seems to fit everything else we're
worried about, too.  The DFSG, social contract, GNU Manifesto, software
licences, all of these are non-software documentation which we want to
distribute (OK, maybe not the GM) but which in general we don't *want* to be

So, could it be possible to come up with a definition of non-software
documentation, about which we could say "it must be free for verbatim
distribution (with copyright notices attached), translation, and conversion
into other machine-readable formats" but which, apart from that,
normal copyright restrictions could apply?

My first stab at a non-software documentation definition would be something

* It must be intended for final consumption by a human reader.

* It must not be specifically intended to apply to, or to refer to, a
particular piece of software [I'm trying to word this so that the same doc
which could be for many softwares, like a licence text, qualifies, but a
README doesn't, because we'd want to modify a readme]

* If distributed with a package of software, modification of the software or
changing circumstance should not require a modification of the

Not perfectly clear, and probably with loopholes you could put a jumbo
through, but I think it's enough for the open-minded reader to get an
understanding of.

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

Reply to: