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Re: migrating away from the FDL

 --- Dylan Thurston <dpt@math.harvard.edu> wrote: 
> [...] please
> note that Richard Stallman does _not_ advocate different standards of
> freedom for documentation and for software, according to, for instance,
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/debian-legal-200305/msg00593.html

Any two things, no matter how unlike, can always be made to satisfy
a single common description.  (At minimum, they alike in both being
things.)  So it is not surprising that two rather different licenses
can be made to satisfy the single description you quote below.
The fact remains that the GPL grants more freedom than the FDL.

> Let me quote the relevant paragraph:
> > Free documentation, like free software, refers to specific freedoms.
> > It doesn't mean that you can do absolutely whatever you want to do.
> > ... It means you can redistribute the work, change it
> > (functionally), and redistribute modified versions.  It is ok to
> > have requirements on how you can do this, provided they don't
> > prevent you from substantively making the functional changes you
> > want to make.
> Note the provisos "functionally" and "substantively".

Obviously I don't speak for Debian, but I think most Debian developers
would agree with the following.  The freedoms granted to distributees
should not be qualified any more than is necessary.  The distributee
should be granted not only the right to make functional changes, but
the right to make any changes he or she sees fit.  This right may be
restricted -- "Don't distribute any modified work under any other
license!", perhaps, or "Don't change the work such that it misrep-
resents your upstream!"  And so on.  But each such restriction must
have a clear and compelling justification.  In other words, I think
that Debian has a higher standard of freedom than the FSF does.

That is not surprising, given that Debian, unlike the FSF, is not a

> Based on this,
> I believe that RMS would say that a program with an unremovable,
> unmodifiable, 10,000 word "Ode to my goldfish" and no other
> restrictions would be free software, although inconvenient.  I haven't
> seen anyone from Debian defend that position yet.

I don't think that RMS would say that the documentation+ode document
was free.  I think he would say that the goldfish ode was ... erm ...
a red herring.  An Invariant Section must be a Secondary Section, and

     A "Secondary Section" is a named appendix or a front-matter
     section of the Document that deals exclusively with the
     relationship of the publishers or authors of the Document
     to the Document's overall subject (or to related matters)
     and contains nothing that could fall directly within that
     overall subject. (Thus, if the Document is in part a textbook
     of mathematics, a Secondary Section may not explain any
     mathematics.) The relationship could be a matter of historical
     connection with the subject or with related matters, or of
     legal, commercial, philosophical, ethical or political
     position regarding them.  [FDL v.1.2]

This is a pretty restrictive condition on what can be dubbed Invariant.
(It seems to have been crafted in order to describe the GNU manifesto.)
The goldfish ode pretty clearly would not satisfy it.

However, it isn't hard to imagine texts that would satisfy it and
thus be eligible for immutability under the Invariant Sections clauses
of the FDL.

Thomas Hood

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