Re: A possible GFDL compromise: a proposal
> Manuals are not free software, because they are not software.
> The DFSG very clearly treats "software" and "programs" as
Richard, once and for all, please read
Thanks for mentioning that message to me; nobody had mentioned to me
before (at least since the start of 2003). It is a message from Bruce
Perens, suggesting that the DFSG should be taken to mean something
quite contrary to what it actually says.
If you are willing to disregard the meaning of some of the words in
the DFSG in order to reinterpret it, there is more than one way to do
so. It is absurd to argue rigidly that "the DFSG obviously says
exactly this" when what it actually says is something else.
There is more than one way to generalize the concept of free software
to deal with documentation. I think the right way is to go back to
the basic four freedoms, and then consider what they should mean for
documentation. But this issue is not just about documentation. I
think you're drawing the line too strictly for software, too, and the
DFSG doesn't explicitly say to put the line there.
> The arguments appear to be:
> 1) There are many GFDL manuals.
> 2) The many GFDL manuals would be useful to include.
> That's two parts out of the three I mentioned, and the third part is
But they are an irrelevant two parts.
They are relevant if you would like to use the many manuals
that are released under the GFDL.
If Joe Blow writes a license
for his program or documentation, it should get the same consideration
under the DFSG as when the FSF does.
It's not an issue of giving special consideration to the FSF, or to
anyone else. It's an issue of what could be useful for Debian.
At the start of the GNU Project, I was in a similar situation. When I
wrestled with the question of whether TeX was free software, I did not
owe Donald Knuth any special consideration, but I did want to use TeX
in the GNU system. The most obvious place to draw the line would have
rejected TeX's license, but that was not the only place to draw the
line. I asked myself if it was really unacceptable to draw it in a
place that would allow that license. I concluded that was acceptable,
that TeX does provide the necessary freedom though in a somewhat
inconvenient way, and that it would have been counterproductive to
reject the license on account of that inconvenience.
Subsequently I generalized this to the idea that any sort of packaging
requirement for publishing modified versions was acceptable in a free
software license, as long as it was feasible to meet and did not
substantially limit the substance of the changes. The DFSG explicitly
codifies my specific decision about TeX, but doesn't explicitly say
anything about the rest of the issue. I recommend interpreting it in
a way that follows this principle.
Section 3 says "The license must allow modifications and derived
works[...]"; if that's ambiguous in any way about everything being
modifiable, a note on section 4, talking about patch files, says
"The Debian group encourages all authors not to restrict any
files, source or binary, from being modified.".
Section 3 is rather general, and doesn't directly address this issue.
The statement in section 4, because it only "encourages", clearly
shows this is not a requirement. I take it to mean that people are
urged not to use licenses like TeX's license.