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Re: Poll results: User views on the FDL issue

--- Glenn Maynard <glenn@zewt.org> wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 21, 2005 at 12:23:40AM -0700,
> foo_bar_baz_boo-deb@yahoo.com wrote:
> > Sometimes having invariant sections protects a user's right to see
> the
> > author's work as the author intended it to be seen, which is a
> point I
> > made before that you seem to be sidestepping. Is it inconvenient
> for
> > you to consider it?
> Debian explicitly considers the ability to modify and reuse a work to
> be
> crucial and fundamental.  Are you arguing that the "right" to "see
> the
> author's work as the author intended it to be seen" is more important
> than that?  (I'll pass on the question of whether such a right
> exists,
> except to note that I've never heard of such a thing.)

I fully agree this sounds crackbrained and radical. It does not have
precedent in the field of free software, but my thinking here is not
totally original either, there is some basis for it in other fields.

The place I saw this before is the artists' rights movement in the film
and music industries. In short, this is the idea that artists have the
right to see to it that those who receive their content, have received
a version that is similar in letter and spirit to what the artist
intended them to get.

I am not totally sure of whether this is something that would be
valuable to Debian. I am trying to figure out whether it is. In the
mean time, I wanted to bring this idea into the discussion to see what
others (who are more involved in Debian that I am) thought of the

I think that for things like GNU GFDL invariant sections that have a
political and philosophical nature to them, there could be merit in the
idea. Whether there is enough merit to compensate for some loss in near
total freedom to edit (have to keep the license text of course) is a
different story.

I think there are times where GFDL protected documents are
substantially free works, and I can see the value in preserving the
invariant sections so that their content gets spread widely for
consideration by all.

I feel that there's something free and democratic about the possibility
for a controversial philosophical or political idea related to free
software, to have a chance to spread and be considered, even if it does
not seem that way right off the bat.

> > Dude, that's not true. You are making a straw man out of GFDL by
> saying
> > stuff licensed under it "can't be modified at all." The real GFDL
> is
> > not like that. The real GFDL allows for the preservation of the
> > integrity of certain important but unrelated special sections of
> the
> > document that have some sort of political importance or benefit to
> Free
> > Software as a whole. It does not cause something to be put into a
> state
> > where it "can't be modified at all."
> DFSG#4 does not say "... must allow modifications and derived works
> to select
> parts of the work".  Free works don't get to pick and choose which
> parts I
> get to modify (the only exceptions are narrow and made explicit in
> the DFSG).
> A license for a program with hundreds of source files, allowing
> modifications
> to all but one, and requires a $100 payment to remove or modify the
> one, is
> non-free; the relative size is irrelevant.  It's non-free even if
> that file
> happens to implement the charity notifications in Vim, or any other
> good,
> noble cause.

I think it's a little more clear cut for source code because it's not
used to convey political or philosophical ideas like documentation is.
We allow offtopic swearing and rants in Linux kernel source to go out
unedited to Debian users everywhere. Look at arch/sparc for example.

I can't see the obvious harm in an occasional GFDL invariant section,
most of which seem to contain political and philosophical material of a
higher caliber that often is important to the history of the software
and might even be its very reason for existence. One could argue users
have a right to know that information and creators have a right to see
that it get passed on.

If it were part of the license text for the software like the GPL
preamble, nobody would even be giving the content or its freeness a
second thought right now. Why is it so hard for people to at least see
the other side of the coin, even if they don't agree?

> > 2) We have shown how invariant sections can prevent the supression
> of
> > unpopular views or opinions that the software or documentation's
> author
> > finds are important for users to see. This really should not be
> > construed as utter failure to prove that there is potential merit
> to
> > allowing the use of these restrictions in some fashion, so please
> quit
> > saying we failed when we really haven't.
> You havn't shown how "preventing the suppression of unpopular views
> or
> opinions" is a goal important enough to abandon the ability to
> modify,
> maintain and reuse works.

I agree that I have not shown this too well yet. Forgive my
delinquency. I am trying to show the other perspective on the issue,
but I did not want to speak prematurely before I had really meditated
on the issue. Even though it does not seem like it, I am trying to
avoid pointless time-wasting in my discussion of this topic.

Is the perspective I am elaborating starting to look more clear to you
now, even if you have a distaste with the principle being espoused?

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