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Re: Defining 'preferred form for making modifications'

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> writes:

> The difference is that a gif is a lot richer than binary software, in
> the sense of humans being able to do stuff with it.

This is a real difference.

So we have two ways of distinguishing between binary and source:

Way one says that binaries cannot be reasonably modified, whereas
source can.

Way two says that source is the preferred form for modification, and
binaries are not.

For C code vs. machine language, these give the same answer.  I would
agree that for other situations, including the case we are considering
about images, way number one would allow for more things to be
"source" than the second way.

*But*, and this is, *once again*, my point: the GPL clearly and
unequivocally goes for the second way.  In that context, there is no
doubt that it doesn't matter whether the form given *can* be usefully
modified or used or whatever.  The GPL's definition is perfectly
unambiguous as it is, and, I think, perfectly reasonable for a

I have not yet decided what I think about the broader case of defining
free software.

> I can certainly see the argument that under certain circumstances a
> gif would be considered a binary and something like a .xcf would be
> required source (for copyleft).  But I think it's quite a stretch to
> say that that's always the case.  That's exactly why the phrase
> "preferred form" is so important.  Some of the boundary cases would
> have to be decided on a situational basis; that's not a reason to say
> that gifs can't be copyleft unless they have accompanying source.

I have never said that a gif can't be copyleft.  A gif might be the
actual source.  Similarly, assembly language is usually not source,
but sometimes indeed it is.  In some weird cases, both C and assembly
might *together* be the source: for example, where the assembly is a
human-modified version of what the C compiler produced.

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