Invariant sections of Free Documentation (was: Free Music License?)

Jeroen Dekkers jeroen at
Fri Aug 19 10:38:53 UTC 2005

At Thu, 18 Aug 2005 16:38:51 +0200,
Bernhard Reiter wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 17, 2005 at 03:56:53PM +0200, Alfred M. Szmidt wrote
> as answer to Jeroen Dekkers:
> >    If they are not part of the main document, I should be able to
> >    simply remove them. But that's not the case, the invariant sections
> >    are a very strong part of the document. 
> > There is also a perfectly valid reason in having invariant sections in
> > a document, I might have written a document about how you twiddle
> > frobs in a black box, and wish to give a note to everyone that my
> > (non-existent) wife baked me cookies when I wrote the book and how
> > much it helped me, and include a recipe for these cookies.  I also
> > don't want to have someone modify the recipe to produce something
> > horrible so that everyone will think that my wife can't cook.
> > 
> > I also might want to make this note to my wife non-removable, since
> > the book would not have been possible without her support.
> One detail is often forgotten, but might is interesting in the debate:
> The GNU FDL only allows sections to be invariant only for "secondary sections".
> So let the book's main topic be about "twiddle frobs in a black box"
> and let it be an unrelated section about Alfred's wife and her cookies.
> It needs to be unrelated, otherwise it would not be a secondary section.
> Also it probably needs to be short compared to the rest of the book
> otherwise the main topic would be the wife and the cookies.

What if I want to distribute only one chapter of the book? If there
are 3 invariant sections, then it might well be that the invariant
sections are three quarters of the whole. Is it still considered
secondary? Or may not just distribute one chapter only?
> Now maximising freedom would mean: Many users get a good book about 
> the frobs in the black box. They might not care about the secondary section, 
> but it also does not hurt. The question is more: Are the frobs described well?

I can tell the same about software: Many users get windows with their
PC. Since they aren't programmers, it doesn't hurt that they can't
modify it. The question is: Does windows do what they want?

> If I want to update the book and reprint, I can change all I like about the
> frobs, the box and the twiddling. I will only do that if the first book
> suited me and I found the quality to be okay. Otherwise I would just
> write a new book with the knowledge I have learned from the old one.

Yes, and you add your own invariant section. And the persons which
gets your new book also changes stuff and add their own little
invariant section. Then somebody translates your book in another
language, and adds their own invariant section in their language to
the invariant section in your language (because they may not translate
invariant section). And then we're about 20 years later, but we have
still have the first invariant section which has actually no relevance
anymore and even isn't in the same language the main book is.

> There is another small legal advantage of the GNU FDL:
> The opportunity to have invariant section helps a lot when you are
> in court explaning how the main part of your document was meant.
> Otherwise an author could not grant unlimited use for all purposes,
> he or she would just claim: This was not the indented use according
> to my personal rights!

Huh? I don't follow this. A section not having anything to do with the
main part describes how the main part was meant?!?

Jeroen Dekkers

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