FDL again, was: My concerns about GPLv3 process

Alfred M. Szmidt ams at gnu.org
Fri Feb 3 19:03:23 UTC 2006

   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.

I see no problems mixing free documentaion with free software in the
same program.  I don't understand how you can see such issues.

   > >  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

Many things irritate GNU developers, this is probobly one of the least
that annoys anyone.  The whole thing resolves around a group of people
wanting to claim that `everything is software', and another group that
claims `not everything is software'.  Different rights apply to
different things.  

I would apperciate it if all this claims that things where done to
reduce some kind of dissent against the GFDL, or the really silly
claims Werner did, they don't serve any purpose other than mud
tossing, and ignore the important points of the discussion.

   If you type a program on a typewriter, what is the source code?

How do you execute the program?  That is the fundamental difference
between manuals and software, manuals aren't executed (lets ignore
Postscript and the like), programs are.  

   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.

The GPL applies to software, having invariant sections in software
would make software non-free.  Invariant sections in documentation
makes perfect sense.

If you feel that having a small blurb is so wasteful, what will you do
with copyright notices?  They must be on top of each file, and you
must include the license in the distribution.  And if you don't
collect assignment papers, the list of copyright holders can grow

Atleast with a GFDL manual, you can actually remove the invariant
sections, if you are the copyright holder.  You can't ever remove the
copyright notices unless you get agreement from the person(s) who hold
the copyright.

   > 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.

How does it harm anything that is free software? It is a free
_documentation_ license, it has no relation to software.  And what is
it with all these claims that the GFDL hurts the GNU system, and that
it was the reason for the supposed demise of GNUpress? Can't we just
stick to facts instead?  Please?

I agree that there are problems with the GFDL, but they don't come in
the form of invariant sections.  They come in the form of people
having to much room to do things, which will lead to mistakes (some
people have put entire documents under a invariant section, even if
this isn't allowed by the GFDL).  The GFDL is simply to complex, I
still don't grok large parts of it, and I have read it, and reread it
several times.

For something that is licensed under the GPL it is quite easy to
define what the licenses goal is in a sentence, but for the GFDL this
is impossible, since it depends on who applied what clause when.


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