Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)
Richard Stallman <email@example.com> wrote:
> 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.
That's fine when your political essay is distributed by itself. When
you include it and its license into a functional work, don't you agree
that you have tainted the functional work?
> 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
But you are doing the same thing by tainting the free work with non-free
content. You are packaging non-free components with free ones. Worse,
you have tainted the free work and it can't be separated and become free
again. At least I can separate out the GPL'ed bits from the package
that a compagny might ship along with non-free parts.
> 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.
They still introduce non-freeness into a free work, whether you find the
reason justifiable or not.
> 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.
As a practical consequence, I can't make a reference card from the Emacs
manual, nor can I extract bits for online help in Emacs itself. Since
the Emacs Info interface links into the docs, I wonder whether the
combination is allowed under Emacs' license.
> 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.
Yes they do. You can't merge the docs into software and you can't make
a reference card from the manual content.