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Re: POLL: Should Debian remove all GNU FDL-licensed documentation?

Brian Nelson wrote:
It seems that after sarge is released, Debian developers are planning to
declare the GNU Free Documentation License non-free.  This means that
all FDL documents currently in main will be either removed from the
archive altogether or moved into the non-free archive.  Since putting
documentation in non-free requires a creation and maintenance of a new
and separate source package, I believe most of the documentation will be
removed completely.  Only the most popular documents, or those with
maintainers willing to maintain them will appear in non-free.
Affected documents include virtually all documentation released by the
FSF, including:

* The various Emacs manuals
* The GDB manual
* The GCC manual
* The glibc manual
* The GNU make manual
and many others...

The three major releases for the GFDL being declared non-free are:

* Invariant Sections
* The "DRM" restriction
* Transparent and Opaque copies

Invariant sections are "secondary sections" that must not contain
anything that could fall directly within the document's overall subject.
They cannot be modified or removed from the document.  Most FDL
documents do not contain invariant sections--I only count 6 on my
system, though 5 of them are listed above.

The "DRM" restriction refers to the FDL clause that disallows "technical
measures to obstruct or control" reading and copying.  This is intended
to prevent the use of DRM on FDL documents, but can be interpreted to
mean that you can't use FDL on encrypted filesystems (though this is not
the intent of the writers of the FDL).

I honestly don't understand the problem with the "Transparent and Opaque
copies", so I won't try to summarize that here.  You may find a
discussion of it in the position statement link below.

You may find the full text of the FDL here:


And a draft Debian position statement here:


And now for the questions:

1. Is it acceptable for Debian to permanently remove most FDL documents
so that they are no longer available on Debian mirrors or on Debian CDs?

No. Many of these manuals are essentials to use Debian. It is not really possible, for instance, to use the full power of the emacs editor without the manual.

2. Is it acceptable if all FDL documents were moved to non-free so that
they could still be downloaded from Debian mirrors?  Note that they
still would not appear on most Debian CDs.

I think these documents should stay in main.

3. Should Debian allow documents without invariant sections in main, and
only remove/move-to-non-free those with invariant sections?

I don't understand why these invariant sections are a big problem since a section describing technical aspect on software can be modified.

The preamble of the GPL is totally similar to an invariant section: it says nothing (or few) about the licence itself but mailnly express political opinions and is not modifiable nor removable. The advertising close of the old BSD license is also a kind of invariant section and is considered free by rule 10 of the Social Contract.

For the DRM, from the spirit of the license, one can consider that it applies only to copies you distribute and not for our own private copy.

4. Should Debian modify the Social Contract and/or Debian Free Software
Guidelines[1] to allow all FDL documents to remain in the main archive
and appear on Debian CDs?

  [1] http://www.debian.org/social_contract

5. Is Debian making a big out of a minor issue?  Should Debian be
focusing more on creating a usable operating system and less on worrying
about licensing issues?


Please restrict your answers to "Yes", "No", or "Uhhhh I dunno".

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