Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)
> I hope Debian won't adopt your views, but if it does, it won't be the
> first disagreement between Debian and the FSF. Debian wrote its own
> definition of free software which is different from ours. We also
> disagree about Debian's practice of distributing and recommending
> non-free software.
I would point out that the FSF has rewritten its views as well.
The term "as well" is misleading, because the point is that Debian and
GNU already have major disagreements. (We change our definitions of
free software and free documentation as we come across new issues and
make decisions about them.)
Debian insists that all which it distributes be free, under a single
definition which does not require asking whether a given bit of text
is "technical" or "political". Can you help us find a suitable
definition for that?
It makes no sense to apply the same standards to political and legal
text as to technical material. Ethically they are different
situations. Software and documentation are functional works--they
exist to do a job. The users have a right to control the functional
material so they can make it do the jobs they want to do. This reason
doesn't apply to political statements. I put my political essays
under a license that permits only verbatim copying because in my view
that's proper for for political essays.
It was clear from an early stage that companies might package parts of
GNU with non-free software and would present the non-free software to
the users as something legitimate and desirable. (This problem is
getting bigger, not smaller: today, nearly all packagers of GNU/Linux
distribute non-free software with it and try to argue it is a good
thing.) So we had to search for ways to make sure that our message
saying non-free software is wrong would at least be present in the GNU
packages that they redistribute. We did this by putting invariant
political statements into programs and manuals. In programs, these
statements are included in the license text, in the preamble to the
GPL. In manuals, they are separate sections.
When we make decisions in the GNU Project about what counts as free
software, or free documentation, they are based looking at freedom as
a practical question, not as an abstract mathematical one. These
sections are consistent with freedom because practically speaking they
don't stop people from making the software do what they want it to do,
or the making the manual the manual teach what they want it to teach.