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Re: A possible GFDL compromise: a proposal

Op za 20-09-2003, om 09:50 schreef Richard Stallman:
> 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.

If you're suggesting that we should not reject the license on account of
that inconvenience, I disagree.

There's a difference between that situation, and the current issues with
the GFDL. The difference is that Donald Knuth was not trying to create a
Free operating system, while the FSF is. As a result, it can be
understood that D.E. Knuth's license would not be completely and openly
free, whereas that should not be the same for a license by the FSF.

In other words: I can live with Donald Knuth issuing a license in the
gray areay between free and non-free. I cannot live with the same thing
coming from the FSF.

> 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, 

It does nothing of the sort; there is no mention of the word 'TeX' in
the DFSG.

What it /does/ do, however, is allow for the requirement of patch files
for modification. Not because that is an inconvenient "packaging
requirement for publishing modified versions", but because it allows the
modification of the /entire/ work. The packaging requirements are not of
our interest when it comes to the freedom of a program (it is important
in other areas of Debian, of course, but not in our principles); only
the fact whether or not one is allowed to modify the software is.

> but doesn't explicitly say
> anything about the rest of the issue.  I recommend interpreting it in
> a way that follows this principle.

That's not the right way. The wording of the DFSG does not allow that.


On a side note: I think it's important you check your goals. If I read
the general tone of your mails right, the reason you (personally, or the
FSF) chose to use Invariant sections in your license is so that you can
"spread the word" about free software without the risk of it being
removed by someone who does not agree with your ideas. Propaganda, as
some called it. Correct?

You also say it's still required, because the Open Source Initiative,
who disagrees with you in certain aspects, has more momentum than you
have, and you want the Free Software movement to grow, not the Open
Source Initiative, because you think the ideas behind the latter would
not be good for Free Software in the long term. Still correct?

If so, are you sure the Invariant Sections will do what you want them to
do, i.e. make sure more people will submit to the ideas of the Free
Software Foundation? A worst case scenario (from your point of view, at
least) is that the Debian Project could end up being better friends with
the Open Source Initiative than with the FSF; while most Debian
Developers and users nowadays think the FSF is a "good" organization[1],
this might change if the FSF insists on having those Invariant Sections.
As a result, instead of having Invariant Sections spreading the word of
Free Software, resulting in more people supporting and/or joining the
FSF specifically, and the Free Software movement as a whole, the net
effect of the Invariant Sections may be that there could be another
split of the Free Software movement, as has happened with the Open
Source people before. Are you sure that is what you want?

[1] not that I believe in 'good' and 'bad' organizations, but you know
what I mean.

Wouter Verhelst
Debian GNU/Linux -- http://www.debian.org
Nederlandstalige Linux-documentatie -- http://nl.linux.org
"Stop breathing down my neck." "My breathing is merely a simulation."
"So is my neck, stop it anyway!"
  -- Voyager's EMH versus the Prometheus' EMH, stardate 51462.

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