On 21/07/13 13:22, Ben Finney wrote:
> Adam Bolte <abo...@systemsaviour.com> writes:
>> Given that the Debian project rejects the GNU Free Documentation
>> License from main - a stance which I strongly disagree with
> I'm surprised by that. Both because that gets the facts wrong, and
> because you support the non-free FDL.

What facts are those? I'm simply implying that analogies can be drawn?

> The FDL is not a free license: it contains restrictions on modification
> and redistribution that violate the four freedoms.

"The four freedoms" relate to software. The 'D' in FDL is
"Documentation". If I had not spelt this out already in my previous
post, I would have thought you were confused with something else. There
is no "need to have freedom to study how the documentation works" for a
plain text file, for example.

I have no problems with reading books where copyright prevents me from
redistributed modified copies, etc - which is the case with the vast
majority of books that can be purchased from stores and online.

Documentation for a free software program is clearly a bit different -
software often requires good documentation to be useful. If you modify a
program that changes user behaviour (for example), it makes sense that
you will also want to change the end user documentation. This freedom is
clearly provided for within the FDL. There are optional non-variant
secondary sections, but it is explicitly stated in the licence that a
non-variant section must not cover the content matter.

(Also note that it is the Debian Free Software Guidelines that are
generally used as the reason to reject it from the Debian distribution -
even though documentation is not software!)

Having free software has logical reasoning behind it. I don't see any
logic to demanding the removal of non-variant sections when these don't
pose any practical problems or challenges to utilising software
associated with it. There is no hindrance in anything I could imagine
wanting to use documentation for if licensed under FDL - where there
might be for other licenses.

> So any software work
> (using the full meaning of “software”, i.e. any digitally-encoded
> information) licensed under the FDL is not a free work. The name “Free
> Documentation License” is thereby a misnomer.

Your definition of software is wrong, and so explains the reasoning of
your objections. From Wikipedia, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software):

"Computer software, or just software, is any set of machine-readable
instructions (most often in the form of a computer program) that directs
a computer's processor to perform specific operations."

I wouldn't define music or video as software either, for the same
reasons - even though these are commonly distributed on CD or DVD.

> The FSF's official position is that the four freedoms only apply to
> programs, despite the fact that this is dictating how a work will be
> used by the recipient and choosing what freedoms they deserve.

Assuming by "work" you mean "software", you will have to give me an
example of an actual problem (or inconvenience, even) that has been
caused by documentation using invariant sections as defined in the FDL
as a demonstration of why this is a problem.

I don't care for the whole "I want all rights to do anything I want to
anything and everything on my hard drive just for the sake of it"
attitude some people have - I need to see logical arguments behind the
motivation. Free software has a clear argument - I think back to the
printer problem RMS had at MIT, and consider all the things that could
stand in the way of RMS writing a driver to operate the device the way
that he wanted. Secondary non-variant sections of software documentation
just doesn't make the list.

Perhaps now you also understand more clearly the analogy I was making to
trademarks. Trademarks are being considered by the Debian project, even
though by your own reasoning (that Wikipedia and I disagree with) they
must be considered as software to be included in the Debian
distribution. If they are software, then it has to adhere to the DFSG,
yes? Clearly trademarks do not - they fail "no discrimination against
fields of endeavor, like commercial use" for example - but yet the DFSG
is happy to turn a blind eye to that. It is a clear contradiction.

> But the way a software work is used doesn't change what freedoms the
> recipient deserves. A PDF is a program *and* a document; a font is a
> program *and* a data file; many programs contain documentation, and vice
> versa. Moreover, there's no justification for the copyright holder to
> dictate how any recipient will interpret the data stream, in order to
> deny some freedoms on that basis.

Firstly, I disagree with your assessments here. Modern PDFs can include
JavaScript, although it's probably a stretch to call a PDF a software
program in general. Fonts are definitely not a software program,
although some software and document files such as PDFs may optionally
include them.

Secondly, different fonts generally provide an aesthetic (rather than
functional) purpose, and do not limit the ability to read text. I can
not see how not having a specific font hinders my ability to use a free
software computer program. One can use Liberation fonts instead of
Microsoft's Core Fonts without any practical impact, for example.

Thirdly, the FDL covers documentation, as in the text - not the way the
file is presented (except going so far as to ensure the text will be
distributed in a readable "transparent" format). I consider this
restriction to be a good thing (see below).

> The Debian project had a long debate on this in the first half of the
> previous decade. The resolution of the project in 2006-03
> <URL:http://www.debian.org/News/2006/20060316> is that works are free
> under the FDL *only* if the license grant doesn't exercise the
> restrictions on modification. So there are many FDL-licensed works in
> Debian.

Yes, because the Debian project started to apply the DFSG to
*everything* in the distribution around that time - not just software.

> I happen to disagree with the Debian project on this; I think there are
> other clauses (e.g. the restriction on distributing a work without a
> copy of the license, the restrictions nominally to prevent DRM-enabled
> distribution) that make any FDL-licensed work non-free.

Quite surprised to hear it. The GPL3 appears to require the same thing
(the license must be included), and I would have expected you to
consider GPL'ed software as free software.

Equally surprised about your objection to the DRM clause. I would have
hoped that it was redundant due to the FDL's definition of
"Transparent", but I like it - for the same kinds of reasons I like the
GPL3 more than the GPL2 (which prevents tivoization - yes, more
restrictions!). It ensures that you are not free to restrict somebody's

This is akin to certain laws that ensure morality is enforced. In an
ideal world they should not be necessary and certainly they all restrict
our freedom, but clearly there are many laws which are important to have
- and more will likely be added over time as new kinds of immoral
behaviour is identified.

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