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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

On Tue, 13 May 2003, [iso-8859-15] Jérôme Marant wrote:

> > 1) Are works under the GFDL with invariant sections free?
>   It depends on 2) If documentation is software then no. 

It also depends on your definition of 'free', of course.  What's yours?

> > 2) Can Debian usefully distinguish documentation from software?
>   This is the point I would like to be convienced about.

When it's in a distribution primarily formed of software, I don't think it
can be.  There is some stuff - specifications, standards, effectively
electronic copies of what would otherwise be 'standalone' documentation,
which doesn't have to be "really free" (for want of a better term) in order
for it to be truly useful to those who would use Debian.  I'm thinking
things more of a bookish nature -- which don't *need* to be modifiable in
order to get close to maximum utility.

Documentation relating to software needs to be really free, in order that we
can manipulate it in far more interesting ways (such as refcarding it, 
embedding it as online help, or updating it because of advances in the
program it documents).  This is a transformation much more intrusive
than merely reformatting it or similar actions which you would 

> > 5) is everything from the FSF free by definition, even if the license 
> > would be non-free for someone else?
> > 6) should Debian grant special status to the FSF and allow non-free FSF 
> > work to be part of Debian?
>   5) and 6) are interesting questions. This wouldn't be fair of course :-) 

Acknowledging the FSF for all their work is a good move and should be done
far more often than it is.  According them some special right of passage
goes over the top.

> > On Tue, 13 May 2003, [iso-8859-15] Jérôme Marant wrote:
> >> Could we consider some invariant sections as "non-problematic"?
> >
> > This would seem to be issue #6.  I'd say "no" for a lot of reasons, but 
> > I'm happy to hear yours.
>   For instance, does the GNU manifesto as invariant section hurt?

In the sense that our SC and DFSG state that what we hand to our users meets
certain criteria, yes, it does, by leaving our users somewhat confused (to
some greater or lesser degree).  Drawing the line somewhere is going to be a
mighty painful process.  We only have one line at present by which we can
say 'yes' or 'no' (take a guess what it is <g>), drawing up a bunch more for
progressively smaller benefit doesn't look like a winning strategy to me...

> >> >> But then, if we're seeking for enemies, I believe they
> >> >> are not on GNU side ...
> >
> > Quite agreed.  I don't consider this to be seeking enemies, but rather 
> > refusing to go along with a friend who is making a very bad mistake.
>   Althought we can convince some random upstream author, do we
>   have any chance about FSF manuals?

Not likely, from the GNU responses I've seen.  But if you are a true friend,
you will continue to pester them until they throw you out and block your
number with CNI... <g>

> >> Err, it is a regression isn't it? I've always considered it as part
> >> of Emacs, and even its online help. It has always worked like that. 
> >
> > If it's part of emacs, then it's very clearly non-free software and the 
> > whole thing should be removed from Debian (unless the FSF doesn't have to 
> > follow everyone else's definition of freedom).
>   "The whole thing"? Emacs itself?


This emacs thing actually amuses me somewhat.  The FSF appears to take as
broad a line as possible in defining linking and other 'combined work'
things (so as to get as much GPL'd software as possible, of course).  But if
that work was really successful, they'd probably end up having embedded
documentation (which emacs may or may not contain).  At any rate, the GPL
says "thou shalt not distribute a Program with both GPL and other stuff",
and then goes and does that very same thing themselves...

> >> Althought people can be motivated in forking or reimplementing
> >> applications, I doubt anyone will be motivated enough to fork
> >> documentation and noone'll be able to be as up-to-date as the
> >> Emacs manual.
> >
> > I see the motivations as very similar.
>   Did people suddenly decide to love writing docs?

I think it's more that some people get very motivated where ideology is

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

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