GFDL (was: EU Copyright..)

Alex Hudson home at
Mon May 6 15:26:50 UTC 2002

On Mon, 2002-05-06 at 15:53, MJ Ray wrote:
> > Debian doesn't classify the license as a non-free documentation license,
> > all documentation licensed under the FDL are in main and there are no
> > plans to move it to non-free. There is no reason the FSFE should ask GNU
> > to reconsider.
> Debian only calls it free if none of the restrictive sections are used. 
> That is my understanding, at least, eg from Branden Robinson's message:

I was of the understanding that this was just another 'bug' in the
guidelines, which were written with software in mind rather than
software + documentation + (etc.). I don't believe Debian, as an
organisation, actually has policy about this at the moment - 

> Feel free to point out any flaws in my logic.  I'm sure you will.  The
> belief that the type of authored work is irrelevant is not one.

I think what you're missing is that invariance in technical works (those
areas the GFDL protects) are actually more related to licensing than the
work itself. 

With the GPL, you have several invariant sections in the software. You
have the copyright notice (although, this invariance is caused by the
law, not the GPL). You have the licence, which in this case is
semi-invarient. However, everything else constitutes the 'technical'
work and as such is variant (what is not code is surely documentation,
after all :).

With the GFDL, invariant sections - while wider - are meant to cover the
same thing. Written work is legally quite different from software, so
you need to say how the work can be used. You need to say who can
publish it. We're talking about licensing, copyright, redistribution;
not the technical content of the work.

If a document has large areas the contribute to the technical work but
are marked invariant under the GFDL (which is what is at issue here?),
then it's simple - the GFDL has been incorrectly applied. That's like me
licensing a program as GPL but not giving people the source. 


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