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Re: A possible GFDL compromise

Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

>       They may cause practical
>     > inconvenience for some kinds of uses, but no more than that.  The
>     > issue is basically the same as the issue of the preamble of the GPL.
>     Yes, they do.  They say "you may not use this technical material
>     unless you also do this unrelated non-technical thing".
> They say that if you redistribute modified versions the technical
> material, you must do so in certain ways.  That is a packaging
> requirement.  The GPL also contains packaging requirements: inclusion
> of the preamble, inclusion of copyright notices, etc.  The TeX
> license has a much more annoying packaging requirement.  Those are
> both licenses that Debian accepts, I believe.

The problem is that the packaging requirements do not affect the
actual presentation of the item.

What Debian does with TeX is:

1) Distribute a source package which includes the unmodified TeX
   source and a patch file.

2) Distribute a binary package which is built from the patched TeX.

If a user chooses not to install the source package, they do not get
unmodified anything (speaking here only of the main TeX source file

Indeed, it would be quite a pain for a user to take the unmodified
tex.web and do much with it, nor are we under any obligation to make
tex.web useful in a near-unmodified form.

We could, if we chose, distribute only:

1a) A source package with the unmodified tex.web, and radical
    modifications that fundamentally alter the nature of the TeX
    language; and

2a) A binary package build from that patched version.

If we chose this option, we would not be allowed to call the resulting
thing "TeX", but otherwise, we would be entirely legal.

Of course, we are not currently taking advantage of this freedom,
because we share the interest of everyone else in keeping the TeX
language consistent and standardized.  But it is critical to us that
we have the *right* to do this, because some of our users might *not*
want a standardized TeX language, and we must preserve their right to
make and distribute such an altered version.

But the parallel does not hold.  The GFDL would prohibit the strategy:

1b) A source package with the unmodified emacs manual, and a set of
    patches to remove the invariant sections, and
2b) A binary package with the patched version set up to install into a
    Debian system.

I believe that if the GFDL allowed this strategy it would be fine by
Debian.  But as I understand it, the GFDL does not permit this.

It is critical to us that we can modify the text.  It is ok if the
only legal way to modify it is by patch files, provided we are also
allowed to distribute the patched version; but this is not allowed by
the GFDL.


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