Re: The debate on Invariant sections (long)
Oops, now posting my reply to the list as I originally intended...
On Mon, 2003-05-26 at 18:04, Branden Robinson wrote:
> On Sun, May 25, 2003 at 01:49:07PM +1200, Adam Warner wrote:
> > Frankly this claim that it is "always better to keep the manual
> > separate"--as if it is always better to keep data separate from code--is a
> > shocking and nonsensical claim from someone with such a distinguished Lisp
> > background as yourself. I suppose for your next trick you'll claim
> > ignorance of what Knuth achieved with literate programming.
> > Don't think you can treat us all like fools by glossing over sound
> > methodologies of documentation and software engineering in order to push
> > the mandatory inclusion of your political texts.
> Your message would have been better without these last two paragraphs.
> Please try to maintain civility with Richard. I sympathize with your
> frustration but acerbic remarks like this do not help to remind him that
> we, as a Project, are on the same side as he in most philosophical
> battles of relevance to Debian's mission.
> From a more selfish perspective, remarks like those quoted above make it
> easier for RMS to be unfairly dismissive of our critiques of his
> documentation licensing enterprise. When you offer him bait like this,
> he takes, while leaving more important, point-blank questions about the
> motivations behind the GNU FDL answered. I've asked these several
> times and he has yet to address them at all. He just snips them out
> of my mails, and doesn't reply to messages at all that contain nothing
I would welcome keeping out of this Branden (especially if it is of
threat to Debian's mission!) since the personal and professional cost of
making such acerbic remarks is very high. The fact remains RMS was
writing nonsense about a central issue and I highlighted it.
I do not accept that I have in any way given RMS "bait like this" while
allowing "more important, point-blank questions about the motivations
behind the GNU FDL" to be left unanswered. As you state RMS is yet to
address this. And he is yet to address me. The only bait I have placed
is a chance to defend the indefensible.
Thank you for your tireless attempts as a prominent Debian developer to
highlight and resolve this issue. I suspect Debian is going to have to
force the issue before the ignominy of defending non-free/unmodifiable
data sinks in. But I leave that in your capable hands.
By the way there are numerous situations where only invariant/verbatim
transcription of my comments would be acceptable. I could not tolerate
the modification of my comments _while still attributing them to me_. We
accept that one cannot falsely attribute the works of one person to
another and many free software licences make this explicit (e.g.
"Neither the name of the <ORGANIZATION> nor the names of its
contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from
this software without specific prior written permission.")
Yet these free software licences still allow software to be derived and
modified. This is the same standard we should use for DFSG
documentation. If I want free documentation in Debian I must be prepared
to _let my message be distorted_ just as software can be distorted by
downstream authors. What we must also do is vigorously defend authors
rights not be misrepresented. If the message is changed then one cannot
claim the author or organisation represents that position.
Such a position would still allow Debian to respect official standards
since even if the text could be modified Debian would choose not to do
so (because it would misrepresent the organisation's endorsement).
Differing texts would be clearly marked as non-official.
Likewise, a package in main called fsf-official-position could only
reasonably contain a transcription of the FSF's official position. Yet
to get into main the FSF would have to accept that someone could modify
the text to create their own position just as someone can build upon the
shoulders of giants in modifying free software.
I need to highlight that this is definitely not an assault upon authors
rights to present their position with comprehensiveness and unswerving
invariance. But it is simply not enough for them to claim that one
cannot modify parts of their text while also seeking inclusion as DFSG
data in Debian.
The FSF claims that Freedom 3 is "The freedom to improve the program,
and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community
benefits". Only the ability to modify text is sufficient to ensure this
freedom in general. Distributable but invariant data only satisfies
freedoms 0 and 2 (and perhaps 1). Freedom 3/DFSG clause 3 is what Debian
aspires to ("The license must allow modifications and derived works, and
must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of
the original software.")
"The criterion for a free manual is pretty much the same as for free
software: it is a matter of giving all users certain freedoms.
Redistribution (including commercial redistribution) must be permitted,
so that the manual can accompany every copy of the program, on-line or
on paper. Permission for modification is crucial too."
No objection that permission for modification is _crucial_. RMS
"As a general rule, I don't believe that it is essential for people to
have permission to modify all sorts of articles and books. The issues
for writings are not necessarily the same as those for software. For
example, I don't think you or I are obliged to give permission to modify
articles like this one, which describe our actions and our views."
Of course not. And Debian is not obliged to give it the status of free
because it is not modifiable. We can protect freedom _and_ the right for
RMS and others' actions or views not to be misrepresented by clearly
distinguishing between these orthogonal issues.
RMS feels an obligation that everything he produces should be Free. So
when he writes "I don't think you or I are obliged to give permission to
modify articles like this one" he is likely to conclude that his kinds
of non-modification are Free. I don't labour under the same weight of
obligation that everything I produce should be free. Things I produce
aren't free until I let go far enough that the community can _build_
upon my works (while not misrepresenting their works as my own).
Modification is a necessary condition for this "so that the whole
community benefits," even those with contrary political positions.