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Re: A possible GFDL compromise: a proposal

Florian Weimer <fw@deneb.enyo.de> writes:

> bts@alum.mit.edu (Brian T. Sniffen) writes:
>>> The GFDL allows you to make any changes you like in the technical
>>> substance of the manual, just as the TeX license allows you to make
>>> any changes you like in the technical substance of TeX.
>> This is not true.  There is no way for me to create a work of free
>> software which is a derivative work of the Emacs Manual.
> If it's software, it can easily extract the relevant parts of the
> manual while it's running.  Think of Emacs and its Info viewer.

You are countering a point I have not made.  First off, software is
still software even when it is not executing at the moment -- the
pieces of software I am most glad to have are those I rarely run, but
use as educational texts themselves: TeX, for example.  Second, and
perhaps more relevantly, I don't mean "Write software which displays
the Emacs manual" -- I mean software where the creative features of
the algorithm depend critically and derive from the Emacs manual, or
which links against the Emacs manual.  As I said, I want to make a
derivative work of the Emacs manual which is Free Software.

For example, let's say I want to distribute all the sample code in the
Emacs manual as a library of code.  There's no way for me to make that
library Free Software, by either the FSF's or Debian's definitions.
And any work into which I link that library will also not be Free Software.

As a second and more contrived example, say I wish to use my new
English-to-Elisp Compiler to generate code based on the text of the
Emacs manual.  Maybe it's good code, maybe it's crap, but I still
can't distribute the result as Free Software, only as an opaque form
under the GFDL.

As a third example, let's switch over to the GDB manual.  It has
several example runs in it.  Let's say I want to use them for a
regression-testing suite for GDB.  Because they define the test cases,
they are essentially code: even if I write a very general regression
tester which reads the example pages in -- like the Info viewer in
Emacs -- what I'm doing is much more like linking to a program library
than displaying text.  So that, too, is prohibited by the GFDL.

As a fourth example, perhaps I would like to take the Emacs Manual and
treat it as a basis for a literate programming work: I will derive
from it a work which is both the documentation for my new Sniffmacs
editor and the source code.  The binary for that program, being a
derivative of the Emacs manual, cannot be Free Software: it must be
distributed only under the GFDL.
All of these are examples of legitimate derivative works of Free
Software which cannot be created from GFDL'd works.  Notice that none
of these are mere issues of license conflict: the only fixed license
in here is the GFDL.


Brian T. Sniffen                                        bts@alum.mit.edu

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