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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

On Wed, 14 May 2003, Mark Rafn wrote:

> > 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.
> I'm not sure I follow this.  There are useful non-free works of many 
> types, including software, art, books, specifications, etc.  Are you 
> saying that some types of work aren't more useful if they're free?  Or 
> that some categories are so useful that we should have different standards 
> of freedom or include non-free ones?

No.  Debian should maintain it's standards of freedom - it's not as though
Debian is the only possible medium for distribution.  I was trying to
highlight the need to modify documentation relating to free software by
showing that there is *some* documentation that doesn't.  Maybe it was
specious reasoning, it was very late at night.

> I can understand the "but it's too useful to be without even if it's
> non-free" argument.  However, this argument applies equally well to
> various softwares - it's not about categories of copyrighted material,
> it's about utility of individual works.  

If it's too useful to be without, then you make whatever accomodations you
need to make in order to be able to use it.  If someone says "in order to
use this piece of software you must type with a banana up your arse" you
make the decision - do you live with the discomfort, or work out some method
which doesn't involve self-buggery?  That's a choice which every user of
that software needs to make.

Debian has said "these are the things we can live with, and the rest is
unacceptable".  I think we fall well short of the banana-butt test, of
course... <g>

> > 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).
> So "must" specifications, documentation, and books.  Freedom is a large
> plus to the utility of a work.  Debian is one of few groups who has

You're misconstruing my meaning.  Free Software documentation, if
non-modifiable and non-derivable(ish) is far *less* useful than a
non-modifiable and non-derivable novel.  Yes, having a Free novel would be
nice, but it's still quite a useful work without it.  An emacs manual, if
emacs is fully modifiable and redistributable, is useless if it cannot be
converted, translated, and modified to keep up to pace with the program it

> It's really hard for me to see the line between "some documentation 
> doesn't need to be free to be useful" and "some software doesn't need to 
> be free to be useful".  Both are true statements, but not relevant to 
> Debian (IMO).

I fully agree.  The message I was replying to was talking about utility of
non-free documentation, and I was discussing that point.  Much as you are.

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

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