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Re: A possible GFDL compromise

On Fri, 22 Aug 2003 14:11:07 -0500
John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org> wrote:
> > addresses the problems which affect all GFDL documents: the
> > requirements for transparent formats, and the "anti-DMCA" clause (the
> > ban on technical access control measures).  It also doesn't
> That doesn't seem to me to be any more non-free than the GPL requiring
> people that distribute binaries also distribute soures.

The GPL is not worded in such a way that can realistically open
distributors up to lawsuits. The GFDL is. It is very vague, and anything
that may be classified as a "technical measure to obstruct or control
the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute" can
be argued in court as a license violation.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if there were many judges who would
say that putting the document in a directory that's readable only by
yourself (or storing it on an encrypted volume, for instance) is a
violation of the license. Certainly copying it by transmitting it over
SSL is a violation of the license, no doubts about that. SSL is
explicitly designed and used to restrict who has access to the data (the
server and the recipient only, generally speaking), and as such would
certainly be described as a technical measure intended to obstruct the
copying of the document.

Less likely, though I certainly wouldn't say it's impossible, is a judge
ruling that without providing electricity, a working computer with a CD
reader, and a technician to operate it and read the words aloud,
distributing the documentation on a standard ISO9660 CD is in violation
of the license.

(Yes, the above is a deliberately silly example. It's obsurd. If a judge
did maintain that position, we would all think the judge is nuts. But
there are judges that are nuts when it comes to technology - a LOT of
them. The example is meant to show a flaw in the GFDL.)

> > well-address the problems with the difficulty of properly applying the
> > license: what happens when someone says a non-secondary section is
> > invariant, for example?
> That is indeed a problem, and we'd probably have to err on the side of
> caution and consider it invariant.

If the license used is the GFDL, and somebody marks a non-secondary
section as Invariant, you either don't distribute the documentation or
you go to court to clarify the issue. The documentation would be
licensing inconsistent, and you may or may not be able to distribute
it. Go to court, to not pass GO, do not collect $200.

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