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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,               
  Ernakulam, Cochin-682018,               
  Kerala, India.                          

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