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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

> 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.

Philosophically, that speech isn't functional is controversial claim.
See (the later works of) Witgenstein, for example, for an interesting
view on the subject.

But in more practical terms even, political speech is very functional
-- it's meant to persuade and educate.  By the same token it can have
bugs (typos or poor phraseology), malware (screeds advocating racism,
or encouraging people to kill themselves), and can be improved and/or
adapted to new purposes.  The difference, if there is one, is that it
is "executed" by our minds rather than our computers.

Just because IBM, Sun, or even MS, release software I like and admire,
doesn't mean I should be willing to give up freedom in order to use
it.  But that is exactly what you're asking us to do by distributing
non-free documents tied to documentation (if not to software as

Frankly, this whole episode saddens me tremendously.  I have the
utmost respect for you and the work you've done, but I simply can't
agree with you on this issue.  It has always been very comforting to
know that you were out there, fighting for free software, and refusing
to compromise.  That's gone now, however this issue works out.

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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