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Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)



On Sat, 24 May 2003 19:19:50 -0400
Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> wrote:
> 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.

Just to nitpick here, the original essay may not do its job either. You
may wish to "persuade" people to the same view, but you have a different
audience than the original author targetted.

(I know that further on you say that essays don't "do a job" for the
reader, but I believe that's only accurate if the reader is entirely
passive and not interested in spreading that information.)

This is surprisingly similar to Free Software; the basic assumption is
that people should be free to modify it for their own uses - presumably
the original author didn't cater to their uses well enough.

There are unfortunate side-effects. If you wish those "legitimate"
changes to be possible, you must also allow changes which you may not
believe are correct. For instance, changing your 3D virtual world engine
to simulate battlefields within which soldiers train to kill people.

Likewise, if you want to let people spread your message as effectively
as possible, you need to allow them to cater the message to the intended
audience. However, allowing them to do so would let others pervert your
message.

This is something we've accepted for software - the implicit
acknowledgement that people can misuse our work.

You can say that "political" messages within documentation are too
important to risk - but that still rules out adapting them to a given
individual's circumstances. Whether for good or bad, people can't build
upon your work.

In my opinion (and in my experience, the opinion of everybody who's read
the GNU FDL), this makes Invariant sections non-Free. Since they can't
be removed and replaced with something that *can* be adapted to people's
needs, that makes the documents which use them non-Free as well. Again,
in my opnion :)

> 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.

While I have your ear; much ado has been made about Invariant sections,
but I have some other questions about the GNU FDL.

I'll just start with one; if the conversation is productive I'll go into
the others. I'm not sure I understand "2. VERBATIM COPYING".

To quote, "You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the
reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute."

Realistically, in the legal system, how would this be interpreted?
Specifically, if I stored the document on an encrypted filesystem, for
instance, might I be in violation of that clause? (Or were I to transmit
it in an encrypted fasion?)

This is a real-world scenario for me, and a quick check with some others
indicates that it's not just me. There's another scenario; for instance,
if I had a Free operating system and Free applications for a
low-resource environment (say, a PDA), I may wish to munge the document
in some way that's uncommon. A compression routine that wasn't
particularily standard, for instance.

Would the author of the document be able to convince a court
(realistically) that that munging amounts to a "technical measure to
control the reading" of the document?

(Yeah, I know, two seperate scenarios - they're also two seperate
questions :)

Thanks very much for your time.

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