Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)
When people think that invariant sections cause a practical problem,
they tend to be overlooking something--either the scenario is
unrealistic anyway, or the problem can be solved.
> 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
The invariant sections make no practical difference to this scenario,
because the license itself is 6 pages, which already would not fit on
a reference card.
But that the issue is a moot point, because a reference card would use
so little of the text of the manual that it would be fair use. In
fact, the very idea that a reference card is derived from the manual
in copyright terms seems like an unrealistic idea.
nor can I extract bits for online help in Emacs itself.
If they were small bits, that too would be fair use. You can use the
manual in its entirety, and have Emacs display parts of the manual.
That is the best approach technically if you are using a substantial
part. Either way, there is no problem.
The idea of "merging the documentation into the software" is in
general a purely academic issue--a hoop that there is no reason to
jump through. It is always better to keep the manual separate and
have the program display it, as in fact Emacs already does in
More fundamentally, the argument that "I can't merge A with B so A is
non-free" is generally invalid. That criterion is simply wrong,
because there are many cases when you can't merge a free program A
with a free program B. For instance, you can't merge Emacs with TeX,
or TeX with Emacs, because their licenses are incompatible. This is
despite the fact that they are both free licenses.
Incompatibility of licenses is a significant practical inconvenience,
and we have sometimes made changes for the sake of compatibility, but
mere inconvenience doesn't make a license non-free.