(DRAFT) FAQ on documentation licensing
This should be useful for people who ask about the GFDL, documentation
licensing guidelines, etc.
Comments, additions, removals, rewordings are allowed and requested. There
are no invariant parts ;-)
When/if it becomes more or less stable, it would be useful for the DFSG
FAQ, I think...
Q: Why does Debian apply the DFSG to the GFDL (and other licenses)?
A: The DFSG is a set of minimum criteria that are taken into account when
deciding if a particular copyright license is free or not. Everything that
is distributed by Debian in its "main" distribution must be free, so the
DFSG are the criteria to be applied.
Q: But the GFDL (and other licenses) are not software licenses, but
documentation licenses. Software and documentation are not the same thing.
A: Even if by "software" you mean "programs", there's not always a
clear-cut distinction between programs and electronic documents. For
example, a Postscript file may contain the full text of the GNU Emacs manual
(that is a document), but it is really a program which is interpreted by
Postscript-capable printers to render that text on paper. Other examples
include literate programming (a style of writing programs in which what is
really written is an essay about how a program works, with code snippets) or
javadoc-like documentation embedded in program source code.
Of course, a copy of the GNU Emacs manual printed on dead trees is
unequivocally documentation, but Debian doesn't distribute physical goods,
so this example is irrelevant to the question.
Q: Why are the DFSG applied to documentation? There should be some "Debian
Free Documentation Guidelines" (DFDG) to be applied to documents instead of
A: See the previous question. Even if it doesn't convince you or you can
live with the ambiguity described there, the existence of different DFSG and
DFDG would mean that there are some freedoms that are necessary for programs
but are irrelevant for documents, and vice versa, as will be exemplified in
the following questions.
Q: The ability to keep certain parts of a document is essential for some
kinds of document. For example, RFC or other standards documents should not
be modifiable. Or a piece may contain the author's opinion on something, and
nobody should be allowed to represent the author's position by modifying
A: First, standards documents should be modifiable: that's how old
standards are improved and new standards are made. Modifying a copy of a
standards document, such as a RFC, does not modify the RFC itself.
If what's really intended is to stop someone from passing a modified
document as the original, other means can be used, such as trademark laws or
slander/libel laws already existing in most jurisdictions.
In other words, one should be allowed by the license to write a document
derived from RFC 2822 and titled "New proposed extensions to SMTP", or a
document titled "A layperson's comments on the GNU Manifesto" which was made
by modifying the GNU Manifesto itself.
It is the same situation in a program. For example, if the license of a
"kill all spiders" game forbade to make versions with cats instead of
spiders (because the authors love cats while they loathe spiders), this
license would be considered non-free, even when it would be protecting the
authors' own opinions.
Q: The authors of a document or a literary work deserve to be credited.
They should be able to add a restriction to the license so that their
names must be displayed prominently on the front cover. Shouldn't such a
license be considered free?
A: Debian would normally consider free a license that mandated that the
name of the authors appear "along with other credits" or something like
that. Specifying the form the credit must take, or its exact wording, or
where it must appear, are restrictions that aren't generally considered
free. Additionally, they have some problems of their own. For example,
how do you display a name prominently on the front cover of a text file? Or
what if someone makes a compilation of texts; should all names appear
prominently on the front cover?
Also, authors of programs deserve to be credited as well, and similar
restrictions have already considered non-free. For example, a license
that says that a three-screen credits text must appear on startup would be
Jacobo Tarrío | http://jacobo.tarrio.org/