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Re: Defining 'preferred form for making modifications'

Richard Braakman <dark@xs4all.nl> writes:

> > Is it not obvious that the preferred form is .xcf?
> It is preferred, but does that make the other formats non-free?

I'm not sure.  The talk about "preferred form" first comes up in the
requirement of the GPL to provide source.  I don't know whether or not
the same restriction is the right one in defining free software in
general.  I was just answering the claim that the term is somehow
hopelessly vague.  In the context it was originally used, the
copyleft, it's just fine.

> Often the .xcf is simply not available anymore, not even to the
> creator.  The strength of the preference for it depends on the
> complexity of the image and on the exact format (lossy jpeg?
> blurred png? reduced palette?).  It's an area where reasonable
> people might disagree.

If it isn't available at all, then that's an entirely different
question from what if it is available, but a different format is being
provided instead.  

If there is no longer any source code for a program, can the binary
still be free software on its own?  I don't know the answer, but
that's the question.  I don't see how the answer is different for
image formats than executable programs.

The point is that yes, there are unusual cases where it isn't clear
exactly which form is preferred.  This is precisely why the current
language in the GPL is good: because it allows for human beings to try
and make reasoned judgments about it, rather than be boxed in by a
needlessly too-narrow technical definition. 

> There are also variations in usefulness of a .xcf file.  Does it have
> all the layers still separate, or have some of them been merged and
> smoothed?  Combining those layers into the final image is often part
> of the creative process and is usually not automated.  At least, not
> the way I do it :)

The preferred form for modifications, again, is the *preferred* one.  

It's the form you would *actually* prefer to use in *modifying* the
thing.  In general, that's going to be an unflattened .xcf.  

It is the case that many people make images and then completely
destroy the source.  This is a shame, and we should stress that it's
contrary to the general principles of preserving and providing source.
At least in the case of the GPL, it just isn't the preferred form for
making modifications, and (again, in the GPL context) I don't think we
can allow "I lost track of where the source is" to count as an
exception, much less "I deliberately destroyed the source."


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