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Re: documentation eq software ?

Mathieu Roy <yeupou@gnu.org> writes:

> Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> a tapoté :
>> Mathieu Roy <yeupou@gnu.org> writes:
>> > Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> a tapoté :
>> >> Mathieu Roy <yeupou@gnu.org> writes:
>> >> Do you think we already have the right to modify invariant text in
>> >> the GFDL?
>> >
>> > Yes I do. 
>> > I can rewrite any idea expressed in any text, invariant or not.
>> rewrite != modify
>> > (I cannot rewrite any idea behind a software until I get access to
>> > the sources. If I don't, it's only mimetism.)
>> I looked up the word 'mimetism' since I'd not heard it before, and
>> it's evidently the same as 'mimicry'[1].  Unfortunately, that doesn't
>> help me to understand what you mean.  If you're happy to force people
>> to rewrite the emacs documentation, why aren't you happy to force
>> people to rewrite emacs?
> Please point out which parts of Emacs documentation are
> invariant. If I'm not mistaking, these parts express some personal
> feelings. Personals feelings are not something that can be enhanced by
> someone else.

First, in English, variant and non-invariant are not synonyms: variant
means something like "Subject to change" and non-invariant means, in
this context, "not marked invariant".

The invariant sections of the Emacs Manual are largely, but not all
"personal feelings".  So are many of the non-invariant sections: I
feel that C-c C-c will send this mail.  In a few minutes, I'll find
out.  Personal feelings, however, are not subject to copyright -- nor are
they set in a fixed form or performable.  An expression of a personal
feeling is copyrightable -- but also subject to improvement or

I think you may be falling prey to a technicality which I can only
express with subtle English:

There is a difference between variance and derivation.  Nobody can
change the GPL -- not even the FSF.  They could publish something new
called the GPL, which might derive from the older GPL.  I might even
publish a work called "GNU GPL", though I would violate trademark law
to do so.  Invariant sections are not merely invariant, but cannot be
used as the foundation for derived works.

Arguments like those you present here, which assert that I could
somehow mystically change another's opinion by editing text he
produced, are not useful or interesting.  The right question is not
"Should I be able to change this document, which carries an imprimatur
from a trademark?" but "Should I be able to derive works from this
work?" or "Should I be able to use this neat thing in making my own

> If a text express a personal feelings, typo are not about to be fixed
> to enhance the text: it would change the nature of the text. Would you
> like to enhance Cicero, for instance?

Certainly, I am glad Cicero's work is now Free: I've used several of
his techniques to enhance my own writing, in some cases deriving from
his text.  I've also published translations and annotated editions of
his work.  I cannot do this with a GFDL Invariant Section.

> The invariant text are not (should not be) manuals part but litteracy
> part in a manual, it's something to be kept in mind.
> As I already said, would you like the GPL or the DFSG to be variant?

Fortunately, they both are non-invariant (the GPL preamble is
invariant but removable, but the license text is not).  This is
wonderful: it means, for example, that authors of a hypothetical "Free
Invariant Document Guidelines" will be able to derive from the DFSG.
But the authors of a "Free Document Manifesto" will not be able to
derive from the GNU Manifesto, because it is not Free.


Brian T. Sniffen                                        bts@alum.mit.edu

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