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Re: Unidentified subject!

On 2003-09-21 23:33:41 +0100 Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> wrote:
Defining all these thing as software is a peculiar way to use the

Not at all. It is the original and proper meaning, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a neologism created to cover all things stored in the computer, when the WW2-ish phrase "stored program" was not adequate. The first known use in print is John W Tukey in the January 1958 edition of American Mathematical Monthly, with a short and vague explanation as "interpretive routines, compilers, and other aspects," contrasted with hardware. As with any neologism, it may have fuzzed a little, but the contrast with hardware is constant.

I don't think that is the best way to interpret the DFSG,
because it leads to unnecessary inflexibility.

That is your opinion and you are entitled to it. Debian does not seem to want to make contradictory decisions on similar cases, so having an unambiguous public policy is desirable.

I do not try to tell the Debian developers how to make this decision
about interpreting the DFSG.

Thank you.  Your respect is noted.

My point is that it is a decision, and
that it goes contrary to the words of article 4 of the DFSG, which
seems to treat "software" as equivalent to "programs".

There is no article 4 of the DFSG. Maybe you mean DFSG 4? That says "Integrity of The Author's Source Code" and then has an explanation which uses a program as an example. As you no doubt appreciate, programs are the most obvious example of software compiled from source code and it is only natural to use it in the explanation.

For the sake of avoiding confusion, please note that I use "software"
in the meaning I believe is standard, referring to computer programs

That is your belief but not one shared by many on this list or the authors of the DFSG and Debian Social Contract, as far as we can tell.

Likewise, in the term "Free
Software Movement" and "Free Software Foundation", "software" refers
specifically to computer programs.  Our criteria for free software
licenses concern licenses for computer programs.

I am not familiar with the "Free Software Movement" organisation and can find no record of it. The "Free Software Foundation" uses an odd definition of software.

You've asked me to explain why the criteria for free documentation
licenses should be different from free software licenses (or, as you
would perhaps put it, free computer program licenses).  I would rather
ask why they should be the same, since they deal with different

Why should they be different? The freedom to adapt other literary works is no less necessary than the freedom to adapt programs. I suspect we have opinions on that, if your views are similar to the other GNU project members who support FDL and have participated on this list.

If you reinterpret the DFSG's words by defining software
to include manuals, you are forced to treat them alike.

This is not a reinterpretation. According to the authors who have discussed it, this is the original interpretation. It should not be a surprise to anyone.

The main difference between a program and documentation is that a
program does something, while documentation is passive; you look at
it.  Another difference is that distribution of programs on paper is
rare, and not an important case to consider, whereas distribution of
documentation on paper is a very important case.

Another difference is that the you can see the words of the text in
the manual, whereas you cannot see the source code in the executable
of a program.  For software, the danger is that the source won't be
available at all.  For manuals, there is a real danger that the
"source" will be in a format that free software cannot read, and thus
useless.  This is why we designed the requirement for "transparent"

Another difference is that DRM systems to stop people from accessing
documents are a real threat to our freedom, and we need to try to push
against them in any way we can.

None of these differences correctly classifies Hello as both a program and documentation, as far as I can tell. I suspect the other edge cases mentioned would also cause problems for this. It is difficult to deal with such grey areas and I assume that it requires a case-by-case review. Fortunately, Debian is spared that by requiring a common standard of freedom for all software in the operating system.

MJR/slef     My Opinion Only and possibly not of any group I know.
http://mjr.towers.org.uk/ gopher://g.towers.org.uk/ slef@jabber.at
 Creative copyleft computing services via http://www.ttllp.co.uk/

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