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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.

--Nathanael Nerode

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