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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

On Mon, May 12, 2003 at 09:52:07AM +0530, Kapil Hari Paranjape wrote:
> I sent a couple of mails to Hans Reiser and Richard Stallman (RMS)
> on the issue of invariant sections (GFDL) and proper attribution (GPLv3?).
> 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.

Not consistently.  The GNU FDL is a licensing initiative that is
apparently intended to be used for all FSF documentation.  The
traditional GNU documentation license did not always include Invariant
Sections.  Cases in point:

* GAWK: The GNU Awk User's Guide; Edition 2, "for the 3.0.3 (or later)
  version of the GNU implementation of AWK."

* Debugging with GDB; "GDB version 5  May 2000"[1]

* GNU Make; "Make Version 3.77"

* "Texinfo: The GNU Documentation Format"; "for Texinfo version 4.0, 28
  September 1999".

There may be others; the above are just what I had handy on the
bookshelf.  The GCC manual has two proto-invariant section riders (for
"GNU General Public License" and "Funding Free Software"), and the GNU C
Library Reference Manual has one, for "GNU General Public License").

> > Today some people in Debian object to the practice, but I don't think
> > their reasons are valid.

You did not offer very specific rebuttals to any Debian forum of which
I'm aware.[2]

> > I thought about the ethics of this issue long ago, and decided that
> > invariant sections are legitimate.

Where is your ethical analysis articulated?  It would be particularly
helpful if you would explain if and why the arguments presented in


do not apply to documentation as they do to software.

> > So we are not going to change the policy.

To the best of my knowledge, this determination follows from arguments
that have not been publicly articulated.  You would be doing the
community a tremendous service if you would expostulate on this subject.

It may be that the Debian Project, collectively, will find your
reasoning persuasive.

[0] What I call the "traditional GNU documentation license" is the following:

   Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
   manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
   preserved on all copies.

   Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of
   this manual under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that
   the entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a
   permission notice identical to this one.

   Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this
   manual into another language, under the above conditions for modified
   versions, except that this permission notice may be stated in a
   translation approved by the Free Software Foundation.

[1] This manual is an interesting case because it started out with no
    invariant sections at all, but later adopted the GNU FDL and marked
    non-Secondary Sections as Invariant[3], which RMS said was "not

[2] The closest thing I can find is the following:


[RMS said:]
	We want to encourage widespread use of the FDL for two reasons:

	1. It leads to a pool of text that can be copied between manuals.

	2. It is (or at least ought to be) good for helping commercial
	publishers succeed publishing free manuals.

I do not understand how the traditional GNU documentation license,
without their proto-invariant sections, does not achieve either of the
above goals.  Perhaps there are other reasons, not enumerated above,
that you would like to see the GNU FDL widely adopted?

[3] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2001/debian-legal-200112/msg00417.html

[4] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2001/debian-legal-200111/msg00017.html

G. Branden Robinson                |     One man's "magic" is another man's
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     engineering.  "Supernatural" is a
branden@debian.org                 |     null word.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- Robert Heinlein

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