FDL again, was: My concerns about GPLv3 process

MJ Ray mjr at phonecoop.coop
Fri Feb 3 01:58:01 UTC 2006

"Alfred M\. Szmidt" <ams at gnu.org>

> >  [...] If I staple a program to a
> >  dead squirrel and the copyright licence says every copy must be
> >  linked to a dead squirrel, is it free software?
> No, since you cannot modify it to your hearts content because it is a
> functional work.  But I was speaking about documentation, not
> software, different rights apply.  If we do s/software/documentation/
> then it would be free documentation.

Here's the rub: I'm not that bothered about what you call "free
documentation" but I'm convinced that free software needs free
software manuals, ones that are under the same terms and can be
maintained alongside the software. It's awkward enough following
the mix of licences already out there without having manual
licences that are incompatible with the licences of the programs
that they document, making problems for basing one on the other.

> >  It was claimed that there would be a great explosion of manuals for
> >  free software under the FDL because of its adware nature.
> Making claims about the future is always silly, and should be taken
> with a grain of salt.  

I agree, but it was done to reduce dissent against the FDL,
painting a new future with better manuals for free software.
Instead, this advertware licence seemed to irritate some GNU
developers who were amongst the best at documenting their
software, by sending a message "the terms used for your
programs under are too free for your manuals: we want to attach
permanent adverts to them."

> >  > >  I can't grab a single short text from the very good glibc
> >  > >  manual and use it with other projects - unless I add a bunch
> >  > >  of useless attachments.
> >  > Yes you can, that is protected under fair use.
> >  Only for limited purposes, which vary from country to country.  In
> >  general, it's not legal to do so.
> In general it is, see article 10 of the Berne convention.  But it does
> leave qwuite alot up to each indiviual country to state what fair use
> is in detail.  In either case, fair use applies to most/all European
> countries and the USA.

Have you read how limited they are? 10(1) only allows you to
quote (not include a short text as the basis of your work),
10(2) lets you use works for teaching.  And for 10(1), national
legislation need not permit much. Look at the English law:

In general, you cannot grab a single short text unless you
comply with its copyright licence. Fair use is a pretty
foreign ideal not useful for much here.

> >  > I disagree.  There are many problems with applying the GPL to
> >  > documentation.  The GPL was designed for software in mind, other
> >  > uses tend to cripple the actual goal (the distinction between
> >  > `binary' and `source' comes to mind).
> >
> >  The binary/source thing seems better than the opaque/transparent
> >  problem of the FDL. 
> I type the manual on a typewriter, what is the source code for that?

If you type a program on a typewriter, what is the source code?
If you correct it by scribbling on printed pages and retyping,
maybe the printed pages are the source code at that point. I
don't think many FDL'd manuals are made entirely on typewriters.

> >  What problems with GPL for manuals? The only one that sticks for
> >  some uses is public performance.
> A manual licensed under the GPL is free to be modified in any way or
> form, not just technical content, but also non-technical content.  You
> don't need the right to modify my dedication to the fairies and
> dragons.  You do need the right to modify the technical content
> though.

You don't need the right to force everyone to use extra media
reprint the ode to your goldfish forever. It's unethical to
waste paper, CDs and so on like that. Removable invariants
would give a way to create free software from FDL'd works.

I think the GPL not allowing such invariants to start with
is a feature, not a bug.

>    > [...] a _reference_ manual should be part of the code, this is
>    > something I could agree to. [...]
>    So GPL for reference manuals would be fine by you?
> I didn't say that, I said that the reference manual and the code
> should be in the same code base.  Nothing about licensing terms. You
> can mix GFDL and GPL in the same code base (and if you do not collect
> copyright assignments, then you can only blame yourself).  Nothing
> prohibits this.

It's not prohibited, but while FDL isn't a free software licence,
that would mean the code base isn't free software. Another example
how FDL harms the ideal of a free software operating system, GNU.

Hope that helps,
MJ Ray - personal email, see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html
Work: http://www.ttllp.co.uk/  irc.oftc.net/slef  Jabber/SIP ask

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