Re: A possible GFDL compromise: a proposal
So your purpose is to spread GNU propaganda in invariant sections of GNU
documentation, adding practical inconvenience where there shouldn't be.
It adds some practical inconvenience, but practically speaking the
magnitude is not great, so there's no reason not to do it.
How would you expect Debian to consider such manipulation free ?
It's free because you can change the technical substance of the manual
to say whatever you want it to say. That is the standard we have always
used in judging licenses. I suggest it would be useful for Debian
to follow the same standard.
Where do you place the limit above which a practical inconvenience makes a
license non-free ?
A free documentation license must give the freedom to modify the
technical text of the manual to say what you want it to say. It can
have packaging requirements about how you can publish that changed
If the packaging requirements are prohibitive, so that it is
impractical to publish the modified manual with the changed
documentation, then it's not really permitted. In that case, the
license is not a free license.
However, if the packaging requirements are feasible, so that it is
practical to publish the modified manual, then you really do have
the freedom to change the manual text. Then the license is a free
It is easier to apply a criterion when there is a bright line, but
there cannot be one here. There is no bright line to draw between
feasible requirements and prohibitive requirements. None of the
possible bright lines goes in the right place. It would be simple
to make a policy rejecting all packaging requirements, but there's
no valid reason to reject them. Many of the free software licenses
we agree are valid have packaging requirements.
Modifying a software in its binary form is possible, and allowed by my
This issue relate to software, rather than documentation, so we're
talking about free software licenses.
Changing a program by studying and patching the binary is so different
as to be prohibitive. In effect, this restriction would say you
cannot distributed a modified version (or determine what the program
By contrast, a requirement that the program must print a copyright
notice and permission notice does not stop you from changing the
program to do, substantially, what you want it to do. Some people
might dislike that requirement, they might say it stops them from
doing what they want to do with the program (such as, "I'm not allowed
to make it not print a message). Nonetheless, this requirement doesn't
stop you from making the program do substantially whatever you want.