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Re: (DRAFT) FAQ on documentation licensing

On Wed, 2005-04-13 at 16:14 +0200, Jacobo Tarrio wrote:

>  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
> that piece.
>  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.

Probably another point worth making is that "being in Debian" or "being
DFSG-free" is not equivalent to "being good" or "being righteous".

Being "Free" doesn't automatically make things good. You can make Free
Software computer viruses that are pretty evil, and you can make Open
Content kiddie porn and racist propaganda.*

The converse is true, too. Plenty of authors have unmodifiable programs
and non-program works for whatever reason. There's nothing _wrong_ with
that. There's nothing _wrong_ or _bad_ about not wanting your works
distributed or distributed in modified form. I don't want love letters
distributed to the world in Debian, nor do I want my will modifiable by
anyone. Everyone has their reasons and their comfort level with how they
send their brainchildren into the world.

We'd love it if every author of digitally distributable works would
seriously consider releasing their works under a Free license. But if
they don't, well, that's their decision.

BUT... if works don't meet our standards for Freedom, they can't be in
Debian. That's OUR decision. Debian is not a public library where all
the world gets to put its works; it's OUR operating system, and we make
it how we like it. And: we like it Free. Folks who want us to respect
their reasons for not making their works DFSG-free should respect our
deeply-held beliefs in freedom, enshrined in our Social Contract.

We have a special distribution, non-free, for works that can be
distributed but for some reason or another can't be in Debian. This lets
Debian users get at non-free works as easily as they get at packages in
Debian. This is our compromise and show of good faith with the world.

Standards documents are an example of works that a) may need to stay
unmodified (depending on the authors' wishes) and b) are useful for
Debian users. They're a great candidate for non-free packages.

We haven't yet seen the package that was so absolutely indispensable
that we had to give up our principles to include it in Debian. The
chances that some bit of documentation or a desktop background is going
to be worth compromising what we believe in are _extremely_ slim. 


* Most of this stuff wouldn't get into Debian, either, though.

Evan Prodromou <evan@debian.org>

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