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Re: free licensing of TEI Guidelines

On Thu, Feb 12, 2004 at 12:17:52AM +0000, Henning Makholm wrote:
> Scripsit MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>
> > > Apparently Debian finds these minor restrictions acceptable. So I've
> > > been thinking that if we can write either
> > > a) a copyleft notice that requires those who modify the Guidelines to
> > >    retain unmodified or delete in its entirety the section that
> > >    defines TEI conformance, or
> > Is required deletion significantly better than required invariant
> > retention? I'm not sure.
> If the deletion is required, it must be possible - then Debian could
> at least distribute copies with the section removed. (And then ship a
> cleanroom rephrasing of the relevant information in README.Debian).

I agree.

During one of the many interminable GNU FDL threads, I proposed that it
would not be contrary to the spirit of Free Software if a work shipped
with a license that had an endorsement disclaimer ("UNLESS OTHERWISE
ITS AUTHORS AND CONTRIBUTORS"), accompanied by small endorsements that
would *have* to be removed if the work was changed (unless you arranged
for re-endorsement of the modified version).

I haven't planted my feet on this, but here's why I suspect such a
license would be aligned with the principled of Free Software:

* An endorsement disclaimer, while required text, is like a warranty
  disclaimer, which we are accustomed to.  An endorsement disclaimer
  can, I think be seen as analogous to a warranty disclaimer for
  non-functional works.  Consider these hypothetical examples: my Free
  floating point library might be good, but I'm not going to promise
  you that it's good enough for automated manipulation of control rods
  in a fission reactor -- because it's Free, I might not even be the
  author of the functions you would use for this purpose; my Free game
  level for Quake might be good, but any Satanic or Nazi imagery in
  it might not indicate that I am enthusiastic proponent of demons or
  John Ashcroft^W^WAdolf Hitler -- because it's Free, I might not even
  be the person who placed such imagery in the data file.

* A good way of distinguishing a work, which must be Free to be eligible
  for inclusion in Debian, from the legal jargon that accompanies it, is
  to consider the impact of the language in the absence of the legal and
  governmental conventions in which it was created.  Anything like a
  copyright notice or warranty disclaimer on the works of Homer, da
  Vinci, or Shakespeare would be irrelevant now.  I think this goes for
  endorsements as well.  It can be harmful to a person to be associated
  with certain ideologies, so it is not fair to compel an endorsement to
  be retained on a work that can be changed by other people such that
  they appear to endorse philosophies or practices that they actually
  don't endorse.  Whether it is reasonable or prudent for people to
  change the way they deal with each other based solely on unconcretized
  beliefs is another question, well out of scope for -legal, in my
  opinion.  I think it is difficult to deny that such assessments are
  made, and probably will be for quite some time to come.

* As you (Henning) noted, a Free license will permit deletion of
  endorsements even if the work is not modified.  If the common wisdom
  comes to be that this should be done as a matter of course when
  redistributing a work, then there's nothing wrong with that, and the
  author/copyright holder should not object.  No representation of
  his/her/their endorsement is being made.

* Requiring someone to stop representing to others that I approve of
  something ("required deletion" as MJ put it), seems obviously,
  phenomenologically distinct from requiring someone else to make an
  exact utterance ("required invariant retention" as MJ put it).
  Requring that you not put words in my mouth in public is distinct from
  me requiring you to deliver a speech to the public, exactly as I wrote
  it.  This is the essential differentiation, the telling apart of
  unlike things, that warrants distinct analysis in DFSG terms.
  Sometimes unlike things result in unlike outcomes from a DFSG-freeness
  perspective, and sometimes they don't.  Sometimes a difference is
  inessential from a DFSG perspective.

That is why I think endorsements can accompany copyright notices and
warranty disclaimers in Free works -- even if their removal is mandatory
upon retention -- and not violate the DFSG.

G. Branden Robinson                |     The power of accurate observation
Debian GNU/Linux                   |     is frequently called cynicism by
branden@debian.org                 |     those who don't have it.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |     -- George Bernard Shaw

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