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Re: A possible GFDL compromise



On Thu, 04 Sep 2003 21:55:07 -0400
Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> wrote:
>     This clause has a direct effect on all users,
>     restricting the use of e.g. encrypted filesystems.
> 
> That's a new one on me.  I don't think the GFDL restricts
> the use of encrypted filesystems.

I have mentioned it at least a half-dozen times myself, and at least
once to you explicitly. (I believe you also responded to that mail,
though not addressing the point in question.)

As Jamin mentions, in section 2:

"You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading
or further copying of the copies you make or distribute."

I'll also mention the first half of the sentence of section 4:

"You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under
the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above ..."

Please don't think that I'm quoting that out-of-context. I assume that
anybody who will respond to this message has read the GFDL as fully as I
have, and will instead point out other sections or clauses which render
the above sentence irrelevant (I wasn't able to find any myself, and I
looked quite hard).

Taken literally (ie: should a copyright holder take a distributor to
court over this point), the clause forbids _anything_ which might
obstruct the reading or futher copying of the copies you make or
distribute. Thus, we may not host the GFDL document on a
password-protected portion of a web site. Nor may we use SSL to transmit
any of the text. Nor may we store any text on an encrypted filesystem.
An anonymous FTP server that requires USER and PASS would also fall into
this category (regardless of whether the USER is "anonymous" or not).

I've asked a couple of lawyers, and they strongly feel that a case could
be made (though not so clear-cut as the above examples) for copying the
document to a place that's already protected in some form (a $HOME
that's not world-readable for instance, or on a machine that has a
firewall), or distributing the document in a format that may be
extraordinarily well-documented and not patent-encumbered, but for which
the only reader implementation is non-Free.

To RMS specifically: I have always assumed that this was simply a bug in
the license, but it _has_ been brought up a lot, by myself as well as
others, sometimes in messages you replied to. Now that you've noticed
the point in question, I'm trying to present the rationale for the
conclusion. It's not meant in a combatitive manner, nor is it meant as a
personal attack against yourself. If for whatever reason somebody
interprets as either of the above, I apologise and will correct that
person if they're pointed out to me.

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