Re: query from Georg Greve of GNU about Debian's opinion of the FDL
Since it has not been specifically mentioned in this discussion, I would like
to point out the following particular message from Richard Braakman:
This appears to represent a consensus view of Debian:
* Some people believe that immutable sections are not acceptable in a free
document, but a majority of Debian seems to think that immutable sections are
free provided they consist of non-technical material.
* A large majority of Debian seems to think that *non-removable* immutable
sections (which GFDL "invariant sections" are) are an unacceptable
infringement of the right to modify, the sole exceptions being copyright
notices and the associated licence texts.
Several thought experiments have been worked out showing disturbing problems
with "Invariant Sections":
Perhaps the most impressive is the following: Suppose I wish to use large
sections of the Emacs manual in a treatise on free software. The GNU FDL
grants me *NO* rights to do so, because I must keep the invariant section
(the GNU Manifesto), but it would become an illegitimate invariant section
(because it is now on the main topic of the work). I'd better hope my use is
minimal enough to qualify under fair use principles.
A practical problem is invariant section bloat, under which each new project
developer adds a new invariant section until they begin to outweigh the main
material. Quite possible if the GFDL is promoted and invariant sections are
encouraged as the FSF's website current does.
Another practical problem is invariant section obsolescence. A fair part of
"Funding Free Software" is already considered obsolete by some people.
Suppose Stallman decides to issue "Funding Free Software in the 21st
Century". Non-FSF-owned forks of GCC will still have to carry around the
*old* version forever, and after merging FSF documentation in, will have to
carry around *both* versions!
Then there's the invariant section war: A developer, seeing an invariant
section he strongly dislikes, could add a new invariant section saying "The
previous invariant section is crap because....". The next developer may
disagree and write a third invariant section... and invariant section bloat
arrives, in a particularly unpleasant form.
Better to simply state "We would really like you to include this Immutable
Section; it's rude to remove it", rather than making non-removability a legal
condition and opening the can of worms.