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Re: A possible GFDL compromise: a proposal


On Sat, Sep 20, 2003 at 05:27:14PM -0400, Richard Stallman wrote:
>     > Manuals are not free software, because they are not software.
>     > The DFSG very clearly treats "software" and "programs" as
>     > synonymous.

>     In that case, the DFSG prohibits their distribution outright.

> That's one way to interpret it, but I don't think it is the best way.
> The DFSG is written as if the system consists entirely of programs and
> contains nothing else.  But there surely was never an intention to
> develop a system that didn't have manuals and essays and licenses in
> it.  I think that this was an error of thinking at the time.

>     Why should we listen to your arguments to convince us if you will not
>     listen to our arguments trying to convince you?

> I started discussing this issue here because I thought that Debian
> developers were still making up their minds on the issue.  I am not
> presenting a demand, just a proposal.  I don't want to nag, and if
> Debian developers are not interested in what I have to say, I will let
> the issue drop.

> I'm inclined to let the issue drop pretty soon, but I think the
> current discussion about the DFSG is getting to the heart of the
> matter, so I think I will continue until this point is fully explored
> and then let it drop.

Since you've already made it clear that you don't have time to review
the mailing list archives, I feel it's in everyone's best interest to
point out that these arguments about the meaning of the DFSG are not
new; in fact, this precise debate has been a recurrent theme on this
mailing list for several months now, to the point that many of us are by
now quite sick of it.

Fundamentally, the subscribers to this mailing list are only empowered
to decide whether a given work meets the DFSG as written -- we are not
empowered to decide whether certain classes of works should be allowed
into Debian without being DFSG-compliant.  The definition of software
that includes documentation is simply the only one that permits Debian
to include documentation at all, and only if it complies with the DFSG.
For anything else, you need the approval of the Debian developership as
a whole, and this is not an effective forum for trying to reach that
larger class of developers.

I certainly welcome you to continue your dialogue with this group about
how the GFDL could be better phrased to remove some of the ambiguities
that have turned up (namely, those points about which you've expressed
an understanding different from that of the list).  If, OTOH, your only
goal is to persuade Debian to accept the GFDL with invariant sections as
free enough for inclusion in our distribution, I don't see that such a
discussion could ever bear fruit without a concrete proposal spelling
out the alternative guidelines that should apply to documentation.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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