GFDL (was: EU Copyright..)

MJ Ray markj at
Mon May 6 17:22:45 UTC 2002

Alex Hudson <home at> wrote:
> 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.

I think "while wider" is the key phrase.  For GPL'd software, you have the
bare legal minimum invariance to achieve the intended effect, but the GFDL
goes far beyond that.  Why?  To copyright law, isn't software just another
written work?  We still need to say how software can be used and who can
republish it.

The GFDL extends the invariance to include any advertisements (be they
political, commercial or other) supplied with the documentation and each new
author or publisher may add their own.  It doesn't require much imagination
to see that this isn't really a good idea and has little to do with
preserving freedom.  Aren't these restrictions on our freedom to modify just
a sop to current commercial publishers?  If we can't work with the present
system on our terms, let's change the system, not our terms.

> 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.=20

The GFDL also drops the requirement to make the source material available in
some cases, doesn't it?  I still don't see why GFDL warrants a "Free" in its
name, nor why this licence is preferred to GPL'ing manuals, possibly with an
alternative licence for some parts which we don't want to be updated.

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