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Re: one of the many reasons why removing non-free is a dumb idea

Craig Sanders wrote:
On Tue, Jan 13, 2004 at 05:07:18PM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:

copyrights do not affect the usage of a document, they only affect the right
to copy and distribute.  that's why it's called a "COPYRIGHT", not a
"USERIGHT".  what you do with your own legally-obtained copy is your own

Yes, well, that's technically true.  Unfortunately modifying a work on a
computer involves copying it.

not necessarily.  editors and patching tools can edit a file without copying it
(if you try to define loading into memory as copying, then running software or
viewing documentation is illegal)
It may be, without a license. :-/ It obviously shouldn't be and I hope it's not, but recent laws and court cases have made this questionable. I think in current US law it *is* considered copying, and there's a specific legal exception for normal transitory copying to memory during normal use. :-P

a handful of developers may find it convenient to have the right to modify
docs, but that's a convenience only - errata sheets and submission of
documentation patches to the author/copyright-holder are adequate.

any possible need to modify can easily be worked around with an errata

"Any possible need to modify a program can be easily worked around with

this does not make something non-free.

we (grudgingly) accept software that can only be modified by patches as
DFSG-free.  it's annoying and it's a hassle, but it still qualifies as

OK, that's an acceptable claim.  However, we require explicit permission to
modify in patch form, because the patches may (though they may not) be
considered a derivative of the original.

why should documentation be held to a higher standard of freeness than

We should require explicit permission to modify in patch form, as noted
above.  We don't have that for a lot of documentation.  Not a higher

1. your scenario made no mention of explicit permission, now it suddenly
appears because you need to prove you weren't wrong on this point.
I didn't think I needed to mention explicit permission because I thought it was understood that lack of explicit permission is generally lack of permission. I'm sorry I was wrong about that understanding. :-/

2. explicit permission to write and distribute errata sheets or patches is NOT
required, copyright (in the original) does not extend to someone else's work
(the patch).
Nice theory, but Debian doesn't assume that it's correct. :-P There is in fact a good case to be made that context diffs *do* contain elements of the original.

If you intend that errata sheets all be 'free-form' or context-free diff form rather than in the usual patch form, that *would* be definitely non-derivative; but that is even more inconvenient.

or by submitting a change to the authors.

"Any possible need to modify a program can be handled by submitting a
change to its authors."

yes, that's certainly non-free.

it can still be *useful*, and (as has been noted before) makes no practical
difference to any real person, outside of contrived examples.

So you're saying that it makes no practical difference to programs whether
modified versions can be freely redistributed.

no, i did not say it makes no difference to the program.
i said it makes no practical difference to the average user.
OK, I'll accept that statement. What you said before was "any real person", which I disagree strongly with. "the average user" I agree totally with.

I guess we were both using a little too much hyperbole.  Sorry about mine.

in short it was a comment on the fact that most users really do not care
whether they are allowed to distribute modified versions or not, because they
have no intention of ever redistributing it.

the ability to view and modify the source code, or just use the program, for
their own needs is enough for most people.   it's definitely non-free, but it's

and, before you try putting words in my mouth, i specifically did not say that
that means that non-free software is as good as free software, or that there is
no point to free software.  what it means is that non-free software can still
be useful to people, even if the license sucks.
Great. I agree with this. It's not what I read in your previous messages. I read extreme claims about it making "no practical difference" to "any real person" whether software was free or not, and I responded to that.

I think you're totally wrong, and I'd daresay nearly everyone in the free

how can a statement of observable and verifiable fact (i.e. that "non-free
software can be useful") be totally wrong?
It's not what I was objecting to. You said that the presence or absence of the right to free redistribution of modified versions "makes no practical difference to any real person, outside of contrived examples."
*That's* what I was saying was totally wrong.

I agree that non-free software can be useful.

movement agrees with me. I guess you're *consistent*. But what does your strange view on this have to do with Debian, which states in the Debian Free Software Guidelines that the entire project as a whole disagrees with you?

the DFSG makes no comment on fact.  it is a document about the ethics of
software licensing, it defines what we consider to be free software.
It indicates that DFSG-free software is believed to have actual benefits over non-DFSG free software. I believe that that implies that the right to free redistribution of modified versions makes a "practical difference" to *some* "real person".

since i was a part of writing the DFSG and you were not, i think i have a
little better understanding of what it is about than you.
Not necessarily, of course. But it seems that you just didn't say exactly what you really meant before, and we actually agree. :-)

So this paragraph is complete nonsense, and I won't try to argue with it
any further, because so many people have already explained why it's
totally false.

you won't argue with it because you haven't actually thought about it.
you're just reacting to the evil 'non-free' term.

No. Perhaps you haven't thought about the implications of what you said.

wrong.  i'm just more interested in practical reality than ideology.  ideology
that is not grounded in reality is dangerous and must be opposed wherever it
rears its ugly head.

You have now said that whether software allows free redistribution of
modified copies "(as has been noted before) makes no practical difference to
any real person, outside of contrived examples." Of

yes, makes no *practical* difference to the user, because most users have
absolutely no intention of ever redistributing modified versions.  when you can
explain how limiting the right to do something that they have no intention of
ever doing can make a *PRACTICAL* difference to someone, then you may have a
You said "to any real person", not "to the average person". Limiting the right to do something that I have an intention of doing makes a practical difference to me.

point.  that limitation may make a theoretical or even ethical difference but
it does not make a practical difference.

course, you offered no evidence for this sweeping and false statement.  It
makes a practical difference to me.  I am a real person.  Therefore, you are
wrong.  Q.E.D.

yes, anyone can make up a contrived example.
You're saying that I am a contrived example? I'm certainly not contrived. Perhaps you don't know what "contrived" means? I am, as a matter of fact, a natural example, no artificial construction necessary. ;-)

there are, on the other hand, many thousands of debian users who are happily
using (some of) the software in non-free.  the license may suck, but the
And I'm even one of them! I'm trying not to argue against your more reasonable statements, but rather against your hyperbolic and bizarre claim that it didn't make a practical difference to *anyone*.

But I guess you didn't really believe that claim, so I guess this argument is over, with a happy ending. :-)

software is still useful to them - in some cases, it is even essential (e.g.
non-free adsl or modem drivers).

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