I had a discussion with a DD friend on the GFDL; and we both felt that
I should share my views with the list. What follows is slightly
modified text of one of my messages on the subject.
> I do not agree with RMS on GFDL. It is too restrictive on
But I do.
> transparent copies. The debian position statement, nicely sums up
> all the issues.
And I agree with that also.
Did I hear somebody say`huh?'?
The point is that there are very valid arugments in favour of, and
against, GFDL's (degree of) freeness. GFDL suits the way FSF wants to
do things; but does not suit the Debian way.
FSF stands for users' freedoms.
Debian stands for users' freedoms.
`Users' for the FSF are the users in general.
`Users' for Debian, are people who use Debian. `Use' of Debian (the
software collection), for Debian (the community), means, among other
things, distribution of CDs, mirroring, and repackaging/modifying
packages from Debian archives. (correct me if I am wrong).
FSF has to be distro neutral, because FSF knows that its works will be
used by people other than Debian, and has to strategize accordingly.
Debian is a distro in itself, uses a large portion of material from
others, and is not concerned with how others use its works.
For the FSF, freedom is the message, and has to be conveyed. FSF's
invariant clauses speak of free software and how users' rights are
affected by software. FSF is not, should not (and justifiably so)
concerned with, or can control what other people who use the GFDL (NOT
FSF's GFDL'd work) put in their invariant clauses. FSF rarely puts
technical info in invariant clauses. Its invariant clauses are very
For Debian, the distro is the message. Debian distributes work created
by others (Including the FSF). It has no control over what others
people put in the invariant clauses. Or the proportion of a document
declared as invariant. Debian is very much justified in what people
put in invariant clauses, what exactly invariant clauses say.
Several people in Debian (and outside it too) have other problems with
the GFDL. Such opinion typically is that the GFDL obstructs further
copying of the copies you *make*. These people think the GFDL is
written in English, which is a mistake.
If you read the GFDL in legalese, (and that is what a court will do,
if a dispute arises), you will realise that the GFDL does not oblige
me to allow people access to a copy of a GFDL'd document I made for my
use. Therefore, I am justified in things like using an encrypted
filesystem to store GFDL'd document.
FSF has very valid points in having invariant sections, because
invariant sections, as used by FSF serve a very useful purpose. (I am
an example of how these invariant sections introduce - rather
enlighten - people about freedom.) The FSF is happy when people are
compelled to reproduce the invariant sections from works owned by the
FSF, because it furthers FSF's objective - spreading the message of
freedom. Invariant sections, which enable FSF to do this, are likely
to be misused by others; but that is not FSF's fault.
The real objection Debian has about invariant sections is that they
impose a burden on people who wish to modify packages from Debian
repositories. (like using a small snippet from a GFDL'd work).
Imposing burdens on people wishing to modify works (or redistribute
modified works) is *not* desirable for the Debian community. (I
understand this aspect of Debian's arguments. Recently, I used
material from some pages in HTML format to create a man page. If the
HTML was GFDL'd, I would have taken a few weeks to write an entirely
new manual, and the new manual still would have been substantially
identical with the HTML version.)
FSF sees documentation as a vehicle to carry its message.
Debian sees documentation as a vehicle to carry technical information.
FSF says - `freedom is important, spread the word'.
Debian says `here is a free operating system, spread it, use it,
modify it; there is no obligation attached to it'.
My take on the whole issue is this:-
FSF seeks to achieve its objectives through the GFDL. The way GFDL
is written, while perfectly suits the FSF way, is contrary to way
Debian does things.
Obviously, the two are not likely to meet.
> Anyway, talks are on between FSF and Debian, a committee has been
> formed at the instance of Bruce Perens, a new draft of GFDL is
> expected by June '04.
RMS informed me when he was here (in January) that (1) he is not aware
of this committee, (2) he sees no problem with the GFDL. Obviously,
the communication `gap' still persists.
Mahesh T. Pai, LL.M.,
'NANDINI', S. R. M. Road,
- Re: GFDL
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- Re: GFDL
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- Re: GFDL
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