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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

> A political essay is (typically) written by certain persons to
> persuade the public of a certain position.  If it is modified, it does
> not do its job.  So it makes sense, socially, to say that these cannot
> be modified.

This may be true of some political speech; I'm not sure enough in my
own mind to give a definitive answer one way or the other.  (For
example, how much of this is due to conflating the role of the text
for the author with the role of the text for the reader?  The job of
the text for society and the job of the text for the author are not
necessarily the same.)

But changing political speech is only part of the issue.  That
political speech is also, in the form of invariant sections, being
irrevocably attached to technical, more obviously functional speech.
Thus we're also concerned with the ability to modify the documentation

One example that was raised in discussions here that you may not have
heard, is that of taking documentation for one purpose and combining
it into a greater work with a new purpose, such that the invariant
texts are no longer secondary.

> The essay does not really "do a job" for the reader.  You read it, you
> think, and then you formulate your own views.  If you want to think
> differently from the authors, you can just do it--a modified essay
> isn't necessary.

On an individual level, what you say may be true.  But there is still
a benefit for society if the work can be modified and redistributed.

> I have spent many years fighting for freedom, and I continue to stand
> up for my views.  I have stated the above views in speeches many
> times, though here I have gone further into the reasoning behind them.
> My views are not the most extreme possible (though my detractors often
> call them extreme), and it appears you have views that are more
> radical than mine.  I have always tried to be a pragmatic idealist.

Certainly, and I didn't mean to give the impression that I doubt
that you continue to stand up for your views.  But nonetheless I think
that invariant sections are a compromise with freedom, and that when
more people than just the FSF are adding invariant sections to
documents the interests of Free Software will be damaged.

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

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