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The debate on Invariant sections (long)


As a fool I have rushed in where angels fear to tread :-)

I sent a couple of mails to Hans Reiser and Richard Stallman (RMS)
on the issue of invariant sections (GFDL) and proper attribution (GPLv3?).

The discussion with Hans revolved on issues regarding "social" vs.
"legal" obligation. My opinion is summarised in (3) below (Hans did
not respond this suggestion of "social" obligation).

The response from RMS was very clear regarding the invariant sections
clause in the GFDL.

I wrote:
    I believe that GNU with the GFDL is headed for confrontation with the
    Debian Community (which forms a big part of the Free software community)
    over the issue of "invariant sections".

RMS responded:
> That description is misleading--we are not "headed" anywhere on this
> issue.  We are already there, and we have been there for many years.
> We have been using invariant sections since the 80s, and we continue
> to use them.
> Today some people in Debian object to the practice, but I don't think
> their reasons are valid.  I thought about the ethics of this issue
> long ago, and decided that invariant sections are legitimate.  So we
> are not going to change the policy.

So it does look like GNU is going to stick with the Invariant sections
for a while. I would like to humbly (as a non-developer and occasional
reader of debian-legal) make the following suggestions:

1. Debian should indicate in its documentation that (under the DFSG)
   the GFDL is free only if there are no invariant sections.

2. In addition, (indicate that) material that is under the GFDL and
   contains invariant sections that are already distributed by Debian
   separately (such as the GNU manifesto and the various licenses) *is*
   (as far as I can see from the GFDL) distributable by Debian but is
   non-free. Clearly a clarifying mail (regarding distributability)
   from GNU, or failing that from the author(s) of the documentation
   would help.

3. Indicate (on some DFSG related page) that Debian has encouraged(*) and
   continues to encourage the distribution of author supplied documents
   that accompany software even when such distribution is not legally
   mandated by the license or required in order for the software to
   function. (*) There are numerous cases such as "emacs",
   "vim" and the write-ups associated with various network sniffing

The point (3) would encourage authors from avoiding invariant sections
or legally mandated advertising clauses.

Thanks and regards,


The biggest difference between time and space is that you can't reuse time.
		-- Merrick Furst
 http://www.imsc.res.in/~kapil/gpg.html for my Public Key.
 768D/FED1D08D 2000-02-19 Kapil Hari Paranjape <kapil@imsc.res.in>
1024g/CECEB39B 2000-02-19 Kapil Hari Paranjape <kapil@imsc.res.in>
Key fingerprint = B6D2 F4F2 A37C B887 DFA2  9100 5F22 0D1D FED1 D08D

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