FDL again, was: My concerns about GPLv3 process

Alex Hudson home at alexhudson.com
Wed Feb 8 23:34:31 UTC 2006

On Wed, 2006-02-08 at 20:20 +0100, Eneko Lacunza wrote:
> > And I'm speaking about Free Documentation. 
> > Nobody is saying that the GFDL is a free software license.
> > Since we are speaking about two different things, we obviously cannot
> > agree on anything. :-)
> Why is different the "free" as in freedom concept for documentation from
> the concept of "free" as in freedom for "software"?

I think the GFDL was designed with some pretty narrow use cases in mind
- there is definitely a lot of documentation it's not suitable for. But,
that's not to say we should treat documentation the same as we treat
software all the time (though often we probably could/should).

If you look how documentation is treated as software, it only really
makes some sense in the digital world - e.g., GPL'ing docs. I would
struggle to define a paperback book as any of source code, object code
or executable - and in that sense, printing a GPL'd book is problematic.

It also doesn't address specific non-electronic-format rights you might
like - for example, the GFDL makes explicit the ability to lend. The GPL
doesn't give you that right. If you can't lend a GPL'd paperback, is it
still "free"? If you didn't create it electronically, is it "free"?
(probably not; it forces others to re-type the whole thing into
electronic format in order to fulfil the source availability clauses).

Also, even in the electronic world, documents and software are treated
differently, as a matter of law if nothing else. So, for example, in
this country I have in inalienable right to be identified as the author
of any given document I may have created - with software, that's not the
case. On at least a practical level, we need to take those differences
into account.

> There is people that thinks software is the conjuction of programs and
> their documentation (and other thing, like images, etc.). For example,
> Debian project seems to think this way.

Well, Debian have a specific problem domain: e.g., they're putting stuff
onto CD, and want to be able to distribute it. And that's fair enough,
and there's a lot of mileage in treating electronic documents the same
as software. Having consistent licensing terms across everything they
distribute makes pretty obvious sense.



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