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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> wrote:
> 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
>     manual, 
> 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.

The GFDL is broken in so many ways.  That is just one more way.  The
GPL (and all of the other free licenses that I can think of) allows
you to _accompany_ the license with the covered material.  The GFDL
requires the license to be _included_ in the material.  I (and others,
I think) raised this point during the comment period for GFDL 1.2, but
the license was not fixed.

> 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.

You obviously haven't looked at reference cards recently.  They can be
quite dense, with lots of little type, far more than is allowed by
fair use.

> 	    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
> sophisticated ways.

  I work on a piece of GPL'd software that has significant amounts of
hard-coded online documentation [1].  It also has a GFDL'd manual
inherited from the original implementor.  I can't improve the manual
by including the online documentation, and I can't improve the online
documentation by using the manual.  Are you saying that I just have to
rewrite the manual or online documentation?  I thought I was working
on free software, where I don't have to jump through these kinds of

This is a real problem for me personally, and I really wish that you
would stop encouraging people to use non-free licenses on
documentation.  I don't understand why you've been so good about
ensuring freedom for software and so terrible about ensuring freedom
for documentation.  It it hadn't been the _GNU_ FDL, this obviously
unfree license would have been ignored.

Walter Landry

[1] http://arx.fifthvision.net

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