FDL requirements for original author

Ben Finney bignose+hates-spam at benfinney.id.au
Sat Feb 9 13:00:14 UTC 2008

Yavor Doganov <yavor at gnu.org> writes:

> Software is useless without a computer to compile (and/or interpret)
> and execute it

Yes, that's true even for software that is not executed.

> while a you can read a printed manual in the park without any
> machine at all.

The example of printing cryptographic programs in order that they
could be exported from the USA has already been raised. Another
example of the folly of trying to apply different rules to a bitstream
depending on its interpretation in a particular situation.

> Not all written bits of digitally representable information are
> useful for the society to be modified, so I find it hard to believe
> that a math book with an invariant section "Dedicated to John Doe,
> my first student at the Foo University" renders the work non-free.

This is easy to present a counter-example: I might like to excerpt a
useful passage from such a work and include it in mine. My work is
*not* dedicated to John Doe, and I have never had students at Foo

Having that dedication as an unmodifiable, unremovable section
attached to the passage means I must *lie* if I want to include that
passage in my work. That is a non-free restriction.

Other counter-examples are possible, but it would overburden this
thread to enumerate them all. Hopefully, now that it's demonstrated,
you no longer find it hard to believe that such a restriction is

> It would be substantially easier if judgement about freeness of a
> work is a boolean value, e.g. "This byte is modifiable, it is free"
> or "This byte is not modifiable, it is non free".

Fortunately, there is no copyright jurisdiction (to my knowledge) that
allows copyright on individual bytes, so this isn't an issue.

> But human brains are not mechanical parsers, and issues like these
> deserve serious thought; not always the easiest implementation/route
> is the right one.

Here we agree.

> The GNU FDL, although not ideal in some circumstances, is the most
> suitable license for such type of works.

I disagree. The FDL was specifically designed for manuals accompanying
programs. I argue instead that, because of the incompatibility between
the FDL and works commonly applied to programs, a better choice
instead is to apply the *same* license to both the program and the
manual that accompanies it.

> The new versions coming out soon will be even better.

I hope you're right.

 \         “True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to |
  `\      others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you |
_o__)                                               want.” —Larry Wall |
Ben Finney

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