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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> 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
> thing.) 

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.

>                                                             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.

Yes they do.  You can't merge the docs into software and you can't make
a reference card from the manual content.


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