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Re: GDB manual

On Tue, May 27, 2003 at 08:45:41AM -0400, Richard Stallman wrote:
> To call a program or a manual non-free is a serious accusation, and it
> needs more grounds than inconvenience alone. 

I think this is a fundamental difference between the way you evaluate
freedom and the way Debian does.

Debian sometimes sees licenses with clauses like these:

	Send me a postcard if you like this software.

	If you distribute this software, you must pet a cat.

	You may modify this software, but all bugfixes must be
	sent to the author.

All of these are fairly minor restrictions on use, distribution, or
modification, but Debian has uniformly classified them as non-free.
This is done for both practical and moral reasons.  Practical, because
while a restriction might be minor in the context of one package, it
is difficult to deal with an archive of 10000 packages that all might
have different little restrictions.  Moral, because there is no
clear line between suffering an inconvenience and paying a price.
(Consider that sending a postcard costs money.)

There is also the hard-to-classify reason that any inconvenience can
have unforeseen consequences.  For example, someone who is allergic
to cats will have a hard time complying with the second license,
which is probably not something the author has thought about.

Now, just to see if we're on the same page: do you consider clauses
like the one above to be "inconvenience alone", or reasons to
consider a license non-free?  Do you distinguish between the examples?
(I deliberately chose one for use, one for distribution, and one
for modification).

> The invariant section is
> a requirement on packaging of modified versions of the technical
> material, and that is an area where tolerance is called for.

I think Debian agrees with that area of tolerance.  For example, many
licenses require specific attribution or changelog activity when a
modified version is prepared, and that is not seen as a problem.
In fact, DFSG#4 allows a considerable amount of inconvenience there,
though DFSG#4 is controversial. (It's the one that allows licenses
to require that all modifications be distributed as original source
plus diffs.)

However, I see a distinction in kind between that area and what the
GFDL requires.  The GFDL's restrictions mostly apply to the finished
product which the user sees and interacts with, rather than (like the
GPL) applying mostly to accompanying materials.  This makes them
much more like functional restrictions in my view.

There's a somewhat similar situation in software, namely a license
which says "You may modify the software, but you must retain the
part that puts an advertisement for the author in its user interface".
Debian has also considered those to be non-free, though a similar
requirement to put an advertisement in accompanying materials
(such as the BSD license required) was accepted.

Richard Braakman

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