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Re: documentation x executable code

On Wed, Jan 05, 2005 at 04:13:25PM +1100, Matthew Palmer wrote:
> Ghods, not this one again.  The GPL, as a text of it's own, would most
> certainly fail the DFSG.  We only include the GPL as a description of the
> terms under which much of the software in Debian is distributed, which is
> very, very inviolable -- the moment you start trying to modify the licence
> terms of a piece of software without the permission of the copyright holder,
> you're deep in "do not pass go, do not collect $200" territory.

His argument is old and broken, of course, but I partially disagree with
this logic.

License texts--as texts--do not have to be inviolate.  The only thing
that must be inviolate is the represented terms of a program.  This means
"you can change this license, but if you do so, don't claim that my program
is under the modified license" is (roughly) enough to allow modification
and reuse of the license.  The GPL does, in fact (with some restrictions
for misrepresentation and the preamble) allow modifications, though those
terms are not quite DFSG-free.

License texts are allowed to be invariant because there's no choice.  Debian
could try to lobby for modifiable licenses, but it can't use the "punt it to
non-free" lever that it has available with everything else.

(The fact that most people with any licensing experience want to minimize
license proliferation is probably one reason there's not much effort to fix
this.  Given their stonewalling with the GFDL, there'd be no hope of the
FSF changing this with the GPL, either.)

Glenn Maynard

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