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[OT] free novels vs free software documentation

[I think we basically agree, so I've marked this OT]

> > > 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

On Thu, 15 May 2003, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> You're misconstruing my meaning.

Partly by intent, but at least partly because I really didn't understand 
that you were trying to distinguish categories of prose, as opposed to 
just distinguishing software from documentation.

> Free Software documentation, if non-modifiable and non-derivable(ish) is
> far *less* useful than a non-modifiable and non-derivable novel.

This is the first time I've seen this distinction drawn, and it may 
deserve more attention.  I don't agree with it, but I suspect it may 
underlie at least some of the arguments in favor of the GFDL.

> 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 documents.

I'm still not buying this line of reasoning.  A Free novel is considerably 
more useful than a non-free one.  A Free emacs manual would also be more 
useful than a non-free one.  Both retain much utility without freedom.

A novel which cannot be translated is no more useful to someone who
doesn't read the original language than a manual which cannot be
translated.  A novel which cannot be redistributed is no more useful to 
someone who cannot afford the license fee than is an emacs manual which 
cannot be redistributed.

Likewise, an emacs manual which is completely proprietary can still be 
valuable (I paid for and retain a few instances of such work), much as the 
many non-free novels I read. 

I can't think of a freedom that is useful for program documentation that 
it not equally important for a novel.  Likewise software itself -> 
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>  

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