[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Take two: GSFDL v1 draft 1 analysis [long, again]

Hi all again!

What follows is my own analysis of the first draft of GNU SFDL v1.

I apologize for repeating some of the comments I've already written
regarding the GNU FDL v2 draft, but... blame the FSF for publishing
*two* license drafts with large chunks of identical text in common...
Once more, I welcome any comments on my reasoning.

The full text of the draft is available at http://gplv3.fsf.org/

> GNU Simpler Free Documentation License
> Discussion Draft 1 of Version 1, 25 September 2006
> The purpose of this License is to make a work of authorship free. 

:::: Bad: license proliferation

There is no real need for the GNU Simpler Free Documentation License:
the GNU GPL is already suitable for making a work of authorship free. 
Writing yet another separate, incompatible, license only helps to
balkanize the Free Software community: license proliferation is bad and
should be avoided as much as possible.  Adding one more license is a
mistake made by the FSF and should be fixed as soon as possible.

The possible strategies to correct this mistake before it's too late,

 * the FSF avoids publishing the GSFDL, avoids publishing a new version
of GFDL, stops recommending/promoting the GFDL, and relicenses the GNU
manuals under the GNU GPL

 * the FSF avoids publishing the GSFDL, publishes version 2 of the GFDL
with an explicit conversion-to-GPL clause that permits relicensing of
GFDLed works under the GNU GPL, and stops recommending the adoption of
the GFDL

 * the FSF publishes the GSFDL and version 2 of the GFDL, both with an
explicit conversion-to-GPL clause that permits relicensing of GSFDLed
and GFDLed works under the GNU GPL

> This means giving all users the four essential freedoms:
> 0. The freedom to read, view, or use the work.
> 1. The freedom to change the work, with access to formats which make 
> that convenient to do.
> 2. The freedom to make and redistribute copies of the work.
> 3. The freedom to distribute modified versions.
> Secondarily, this License assures the author and publisher the credit 
> for their work, while sparing any appearance of being responsible for 
> modifications made by others.
> This License is a kind of "copyleft", which means that derivative 
> works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense. It 
> complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft 
> license designed for free software.
> This License is not limited to "documentation", or even to works that 
> are textual; it can be used for any work of authorship meant for 
> human appreciation, rather than machine execution.

:::: Bad: misleading distinction between works of authorship

As I said when commenting on the GFDLv2draft1, this distinction between
"human appreciation" and "machine execution" is really meaningless and
should be avoided.  There are many cases where a work is meant for both
"human appreciation" and "machine execution": think about literate
programming (in the TeX sense), documentation extracted from specially
crafted comments (for instance with Doxygen), documents written in
PostScript (which is actually a full-featured programming language), SID
tunes (which, AFAIK, are music files that consist of code executed by
the SID chip, or by a suitable emulator).

A good license should be recommendable for any work of authorship, be it
program code, documentation, audio, video, literature, journalism, and
so forth, or even more than one of the above at the same time!
A bad license should instead be avoided for everything.


:::: Off-topic: please keep propaganda outside license texts

I largely agree with the meaning of this section, but I disagree on its
placement.  It's basically a short philosophical essay about free
manuals, and should threfore be elsewhere: software freedom propaganda
does not belong in license texts.

> Free manuals are essential for free software. Users must have freedom 
> to redistribute (including commercial sale of printed copies), so 
> that the manual, on-line or on paper, can accompany every copy of the 
> program. When users modify the program, adding or changing features, 
> they must be free to update the manual too, to keep it accurate.
> Although free manuals are essential, many important free programs 
> lack good free reference manuals and free introductory texts. 
> Sometimes this is because the programs' developers wrote non-free 
> manuals, not recognizing the need for documentation to be free. 
> Please help spread the the word that free software needs free 
> reference manuals and free tutorials.
> You can encourage commercial publishers to publish more free manuals 
> and textbooks by buying printed copies of them, and by rejecting 
> non-free manuals. Pay money for value, but don't pay with your 
> freedom.
> If you are writing a manual or textbook, please insist on publishing 
> it under a free license. Don't let a publisher talk you out of it; if 
> one publisher refuses to use a free license, switch to one that will. 
> If you're not sure whether a proposed license is free, write to 
> <licensing@gnu.org>.
> In this License, each licensee is addressed as "you," while "the 
> Work" refers to any work, in any medium, that contains a notice 
> placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the 
> terms of this License.

:::: Good: neutral term

As I said when commenting on the GFDLv2draft1, using the neutral term
"Work" is a good thing to do: it avoids misleading people into thinking
that a license can be applied to one category of works only.  I wish the
FSF did the same in the GNU GPL v3 (as I said when I commented on the
GPLv3 drafts).

> It may physically consist of multiple volumes. 
> A "modified" work includes versions that have been translated, 
> transformed, or adapted, or to which material has been added. A work 
> "based on" another work means any modified version for which 
> permission is necessary under applicable copyright law.

:::: Good: clear definitions

As I said for GPLv3draft2 and for GFDLv2draft1, it's good that the
definition of "based on" exploits applicable copyright law.  This helps
to ensure that the license does not place restrictions on activities
that do not require permission under applicable copyright law.

> To "propagate" a work means doing anything with it that requires 
> permission under applicable copyright law, except making 
> modifications that you do not share. Propagation includes copying, 
> distribution (with or without modification), making available or 
> communicating to the public,publicly displaying or performing the 
> work and in some countries other activities as well. To "convey" a 
> work means any kind of propagation that enables other parties to make 
> or receive copies, excluding sublicensing.

:::: Good: clear definitions

The definitions of "propagate" and "convey" are very similar to the ones
found in GPLv3draft2 and identical to those of GFDLv2draft1.  They seem
fairly clear and their linking to copyright law helps to ensure that the
license does not place restrictions on activities that do not require
permission under applicable copyright law.

> A "Transparent" copy of the Work means a machine-readable copy, 
> represented in a format whose specification is available to the 
> general public, that is suitable for revision straightforwardly by 
> generic editors appropriate to the medium (text, sound, video, etc.), 
> and that is suitable (perhaps through programmed format conversion) 
> for input to a wide variety of programs for processing that medium. 

:::: Improvable: suboptimal definition of "Transparent" copy

The definition of "Transparent" copy is the same as found in
GFDLv2draft1: as I said when commenting on the GFDL draft, it's
suboptimal, IMO.  In some cases, we could end up in a situation where no
"Transparent" version of the work exist anymore (for instance, after
modifying the work with a proprietary word processor that saves in a
closed-spec format): at that point it would become impossible to comply
with the requirement of section 3. (COPYING IN QUANTITY).

I think that what is really needed to be able to exercise the freedom to
modify the work is the "preferred form for making modifications".  In
other words: we have a good definition of source code in the GPL text;
why creating a different definition here?

I suggest dropping the "Transparent"/"Opaque" distinction and adopting
the "Source"/"Object" one, as in the GPL text.

> Material stored in an otherwise Transparent file format in a way that 
> thwarts or discourages subsequent substantial modification by others 
> is not Transparent. A copy that is not "Transparent" is called 
> "Opaque".
> Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies of textual works 
> include plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX input 
> format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD or schema, 
> OpenDocument format, and standard-conforming simple HTML, PostScript 
> or PDF designed for human modification. Examples of transparent image 
> formats include PNG, XCF and JPG. Examples of transparent video 
> formats include MPEG2 and Ogg Theora. Opaque formats include 
> proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary 
> word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD, schema and/or 
> processing tools are not generally available, and the 
> machine-generated HTML, PostScript or PDF produced by some word 
> processors for output purposes only.

:::: Inappropriate: examples may be misleading and soon become outdated

As I already said when commenting on GFDLv2draft1, I'm not sure that
listing a series of concrete examples of "Transparent" and "Opaque"
formats is a good idea.

It may easily be misleading.  Imagine someone that actually modifies
images in SVG format, but distributes them in PNG format: I don't think
he/she would be acting fair, but nonetheless, he/she could claim being
in compliance with the license, as its very text states that PNG is a
"transparent image format".

Moreover, it may soon become outdated: some of the mentioned formats
could be considered obsolete in the near future and new formats will be
defined.  In other words, this paragraph could rapidly become less and
less useful...

> You may propagate the Work unmodified in any medium, either 
> commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the 
> copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies 
> to the Work are reproduced in all copies,

:::: Unpractical: giving license text along with the Work should be

As I said in my comments to GFDLv2draft1, being forced to include the
license text *in* the Work is an inconvenience and could in some cases
be very unpractical, if not worse.
The GPL has a looser requirement, as it allows giving the license text
*along* with the Work, rather than forcing the inclusion *into* the
Work.  I think that the same should be allowed for the GSFDL.

> You may not apply technical measures to obstruct or control the use 
> or further copying of any copies you make or distribute, by those to 
> whom they may be distributed.

:::: Bad: fighting against DRM is good, but not through a non-free

As I already stated with respect to GFDLv2draft1, the anti-DRM clause
needs to be modified in order to become a free restriction.

I think that the current language is unclear: "by those to whom they may
be distributed" fails to really qualify the people who could perform the
use or further copying that cannot be obstructed or controlled.  Assume
that I downloaded a GSFDLed work and I decide to distribute it to some
people that pay me a fee in exchange for copies (this is allowed by the
very next sentence of the license): I perform this distribution through
an encrypted channel (HTTP over TLS, say).  The encrypted channel could
well be seen as a technical measure to obstruct the use of copies I
distribute, by third non-paying parties.  Are those third non-paying
parties people to whom the copies *may* be distributed?  I would say
yes, because I *might* distribute the copies to them as well, *if* I
wanted to.  Hence, it seems I would be violating the license in this
scenario.  I hope that's not intended.

Moreover "make or distribute" implies that even copies that I only make,
but not distribute, are in the scope of this clause: this should *not*
be the case!  Assume I downloaded a GSFDLed work and I decide to make
some backup copies on encrypted filesystems, or even on unencrypted
directories that are not world-readable.  The encrypted filesystem or
the Unix file permissions could well be seen as technical measures to
obstruct the use or further copying of those backup copies I made, by
people to whom the copies *may* be distributed (that is to say, by
anyone else, since I *might* distribute those copies to anyone I like
to).  Hence, once more it seems I would be violating the license. 
Again, I hope that's not intended.

Finally, DRM should be disallowed only when it actually harms by denying
the full exercise of the permissions granted by the license.  Hence,
distributing a GSFDLed work through DRMed media or channels should be
allowed in some cases: for instance, when an *un*encumbered copy is made
available as well (in parallel), provided that this is enough to
re-enable the full exercise of the legal rights granted by the license.

BTW, why have the denationalized terms ("convey", "propagate") vanished
in this clause?

I suggest rephrasing the anti-DRM clause in a different way, by
modelling it after the GPLv3draft2 formulation.

Proposed text: "Regardless of any other provision of this License, no
permission is given for modes of conveying that deny users that receive
the Work the full exercise of the legal rights granted by this License."

===> fails DFSG#1 (restricts selling and/or giving away) and DFSG#5
(discriminates against persons who need privacy)

> However, you may charge a fee in 
> exchange for copies.
> If you convey Opaque copies of the Work numbering more than 100, you 
> must also convey a corresponding machine-readable Transparent 
> version. The Transparent version need not have identical formatting 
> as long as its contents are the same and are clearly visible, and 
> non-textual contents have equal or superior resolution and quality. 
> When you convey the Opaque copies by offering access to copy from a 
> designated place, you must offer equivalent access to copy the 
> Transparent version from the same place.

:::: Good: here are the Opaque and Transparent copies, pick what you

As I said when commenting GFDLv2draft1, allowing this is really
With this language, I don't have to force users to download the
Transparent copy, if they don't want to get it, and this is really good.

> You may convey a Modified Version of the Work under the conditions of 
> sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified 
> Version under precisely this License, with the Modified Version 
> filling the role of the Work, thus licensing distribution and 
> modification of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of 
> it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:
> B. List as authors (on the Title Page, if any), one or more persons 
> or entities responsible for authorship of the modifications in the 
> Modified Version.
> D. Prominently state the name of the publisher of the Modified 
> Version.
> G. Include, immediately after the copyright notices, a license notice 
> giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the 
> terms of this License, in the form shown in the Addendum below.

:::: Misleading: which Addendum?

Same problem as in GFDLv2draf1: since the new FSF policy seems to be
that instructions on how to use licenses are not anymore attached to
license texts, but hosted elsewhere, I think that mentioning an
"Addendum" confuses the reader.

I think that ", in the form shown in the Addendum below" should be
dropped entirely.

> H. Include an unaltered copy of this License.

:::: Unpractical: accompanying the Work with the license text should be

As I said elsewhere, being forced to include the license text *in* the
Work is an inconvenience and could in some cases be very unpractical, if
not worse.
For some kinds of work, it could even be impossible (think about an
audio file, for instance).

Proposed text: "Accompany the Modified Version with an unaltered copy of
this License."

> I. Preserve the section Entitled "History", Preserve its Title, and 
> add to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and 
> publisher of the Modified Version.
> If there is no section Entitled "History" in the Work, create one 
> stating the title, year, authors, and publisher of the Work, then add 
> an item describing the Modified Version as stated in the previous 
> sentence.

:::: Bad: are anonymous modifications disallowed?

As I commented on the GFDLv2draf1, items B., D. and I. seem to forbid
anonymous modifications to a work.  If the restrictions on the Title
Page and the History require an actual name (and a pseudonym or the term
"anonymous" are not enough), then the license fails to give the
important freedom to exercise the granted rights while remaining

===> fails the Dissident Test and thus discrimates against persons that
need anonymity (DFSG#5)

> K. For any section Entitled "Acknowledgements" or "Dedications", 
> Preserve the Title of the section, and preserve in the section all 
> the substance and tone of each of the contributor acknowledgements 
> and/or dedications given therein.
> Acknowledgments and Dedications can be deleted when a Modified 
> Version deletes all material to which the Acknowledgments and 
> Dedications could reasonably have applied.

:::: Bad: unmodifiable content has no place in a free work

Same comment as for GFDLv2draft1: item K. restricts the freedom to
modify to the work, and hence makes it non-free.  Such restrictions have
no place in a license that claims to have the purpose "to make a work of
authorship free".

I recommend dropping any special restriction for sections Entitled
"Acknowledgements" or "Dedications".

===> works that include a section Entitled "Acknowledgements" or
"Dedications" fail DFSG#3.

> L. Delete any section Entitled "Endorsements".
> Such a section may not be included in the Modified Version.
> M. Do not retitle any existing section to be Entitled "Endorsements".

:::: Bad: restrictions on titles

Item M. restricts the modifiability of the work, since it forbids
changing section titles so that they become Entitled "Endorsements". 
What if a section actually talks about endorsements?  Why cannot it be
Entitled "Endorsements"?  Forbidding possibly appropriate titles is a
non-free restriction.

I suggest dropping restrictions on section titles entirely.

===> fails DFSG#3

> You may add a section Entitled "Endorsements", provided it contains 
> nothing but endorsements of your Modified Version

:::: Bad: restrictions on section content

As I said for GFDLv2draft1, this clause restricts the modifiability of
the work, since it forbids adding a section Entitled "Endorsements", if
it contains anything other than endorsements of the Modified Version. 
What if the added section actually talks about endorsements, rather than
containing endorsements?  Forbidding possibly appropriate titles or
content is a non-free restriction.

I suggest dropping restrictions on the content of a section Entitled
"Endorsements".  Proposed text: "You may add endorsements of your
Modified Version by various parties" 

===> fails DFSG#3

> by various 
> parties--for example, statements of peer review or that the text has 
> been approved by an organization as the authoritative definition of a 
> standard.
> You may combine the Work with other works released under this 
> License, under the terms defined in section 4 above for modified 
> versions. Clause 4C applies to all the principal authors of all the 
> combined documents,

:::: Style: documents?

We were talking about works in general, not documents.  I think that
here the word "documents" is misleading.

> taken together.
> A compilation of the Work or its derivatives with other separate and 
> independent works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution 
> medium, is called an "aggregate" if the combination

:::: Style: combination?

We were talking about a compilation, not a combination.  Typo?

> and the copyright 
> resulting from the compilation are not used to limit the legal rights 
> of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit. 
> Including the Work in an aggregate does not cause this License to 
> apply to the other works in the aggregate which are not themselves 
> derivative works of the Work.

:::: Style: what happened to denationalization?

Same suggestion as for the GFDL: this section seems to be drafted with
U.S. centric terminology in mind.  For instance, what happened to the
term "based on", as defined in section 1.?

I suggest rephrasing this section in a more denationalized form.


But it is also tradition that times *must* and always
do change, my friend.   -- from _Coming to America_
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
 GnuPG key fpr == C979 F34B 27CE 5CD8 DC12  31B5 78F4 279B DD6D FCF4

Attachment: pgp65iwrWp4s1.pgp
Description: PGP signature

Reply to: