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Re: Amendment to GR on GFDL, and the changes to the Social Contract

On Thu, Jan 19, 2006 at 09:11:11PM -0500, Christopher Martin wrote:

> The important question here is one of legitimacy. Who exactly has the 
> authority to determine these matters of interpretation? Specifically, who 
> decides what is in accordance with the DFSG? The developers do, through 
> GRs, if I understand correctly. Certainly nothing in my reading of the 
> Constitution suggests that the Secretary has this power.
> The Secretary seems to be adopting the view that anyone who disagrees with 
> his interpretation of the GFDL is not holding a legitimate opinion. Given 
> the length of the GFDL debates, the acrimony, and the number of developers 
> who remain on both sides, this seems far, far too strong a stance for a 
> Project officer to adopt (even if Manoj holds that view personally). Hence 
> my complaint.

I agree completely.

The GR as amended might appear to contradict the Social Contract, or the
DFSG, but it certainly *does not* modify them, and hence cannot be said to
require a supermajority.

In fact, Adeodato's amendment is clear in its explanation that "we
believe that the GFDL does meet the spirit of the DFSG (so long as you
have no invariant sections)". If, therefore, that particular amended
version of the GR were to pass, it would be clear that a majority of
developers *did not* believe that it required or constituted a
modification to either the Social Contract or the DFSG.

Even if for some reason that I am unable to fathom you do fervently
believe that I am wrong in the above paragraph, then there is *still
nothing* to say that we can't happily pass GRs that contradict each
other. It would be foolish, sure, and perhaps reflect poorly on our
ability to work through these things, but democracies pass laws like
that the whole time and the courts seem to manage to resolve the

Note that the alternative to this process is for someone (usually a
General, it seems) to stand up and tell the parliament not to be so
damn silly, and to follow his interpretation of the constitution, or
else. This usually ends badly for all concerned.

So, I'm strongly opposed to Manoj attempting to require a
supermajority requirement when it is not clearly and unambiguously
required. I believe that were the outcome of the vote to be a simple
majority for the amendment, that the consequences for the project
could be pretty dire.

Now, the amendment (Adeodato's) itself. I've just noticed that it's a
complete waste of space as presented at
http://www.debian.org/vote/2006/vote_001 -- the second paragraph of
point 2) of the first (un-headed) section reads as follows:

 Formally, the Debian Project will include in the main section of its
 distribution works licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License
 that include no Invariant Sections, no Cover Texts, no
 Acknowledgements, and no Dedications, unless permission to remove
 them is granted.

Can you read that carefully and tell me (with a straight face) that it
says what its author intended it to say? I don't think you can -- and
that single error (if it is indeed presented as proposed) in what is a
critical part of the document renders that entire amendment

What it says, for those who can't (or can't be bothered) to read it is
essentially this:

 We will include GFDL'd works that have no bad bits unless we have
 permission to remove them.

Or rewritten slightly more clearly (by "bad bits" I obviously mean
invariant sections, cover texts etc.):

 We will not include GFDL'd works that have no bad bits if we have
 permission to remove them.

What is that "them" -- it can't be the "bad bits" because we're
talking about works that don't have any. So it must be the works
themselves. This implies that what this paragraph actually says is
that we won't include any GFDL'd works that have no bad bits. Maybe
we'll include ones that do?...

Yuck. Voting for that would make us look even sillier than voting for
something that really did contradict the Social Contract or DFSG.



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