Adam Bolte <>

> On 21/07/13 13:22, Ben Finney wrote:
> > Adam Bolte <> 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?

The Debian project does not “reject the FDL from Debian”. Some works use
the FDL with a license grant that forbids modification to some parts of
the work, and it is those works only which are rejected from Debian.

Examples of software works under the FDL in Debian (because the Debian
project considers them meeting the DFSG) include: the ‘coreutils’
documentation, the ‘aspell’ documentation, the ‘gnash’ documentation, etc.

I don't consider those works free (the FDL always has restrictions that
I consider violate the four freedoms). But it's factually incorrect to
say that the Debian project rejects the FDL from Debian; the General
Resolution 2006_01 does virtually the opposite.

> > 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.

(I assume you mean “programs” here; all digital information is software,
and programs are a non-exclusive subset of that, determined by how a
stream of bits happens to be interpreted.)

Yes, the FSF has later made it clear they intend only programs to have
those four freedoms. But I've argued that they have poor justification
for doing so, and are in effect trying to determine who gets what
freedoms by how the *copyright holder* dictates a work is to be used.

That's quite contrary to software freedom.

> 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.

Good for you. I object to claims that such works are free. They are not.

> (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 [programs]!)

Wrong. The Debian Free Software Guidelines apply to *all* works in
Debian (since all digital information is software). The same freedoms
are to be guaranteed to every recipient of all the works, without regard
for how those works happen to be interpreted at any point in time.

> Having free [programs] 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

You're a language prescriptivist, then? I'm using a common definition; I
acknowledge that the FSF's definition is also common, but it's far from

My definition, as well as being common, has the advantage that it is not
dependent on how the work happens to be used at any point in time.

> > 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"

By “work” I mean a creative work: a manifestation of creative effort in
some fixed form <URL:>.

> 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.


Start with the above, which has succinct explanations of the problems
with the invariant sections, the DRM clause, the GPL-incompatibility,
and the burdens when printing.

> 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"

I demand the four software freedoms for all published works of software
(i.e. all published creative expression encoded digitally). It's why I'm
in this group.

> 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.

Hopefully you can see the problems described and reconsider.

> 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.

The DFSG apply to all works in Debian, so I don't see how your analogy

> > 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.

A PDF *is* executable code, an executable program for rendering a
document. The entire thing is a program, and a document, simultaneously.

In this, a PDF is unlike a Markdown document, which is not a program.

> Fonts are definitely not a software program

This is not true at least in the USA for scalable computer fonts like
TrueType fonts. They are executable, they are programs instructing the
computer how to scale the type, as well as being a data file.


> Secondly, different fonts generally provide an aesthetic (rather than
> functional) purpose

Why the insistence on hard, exclusive distinctions, where these are not
real? Fonts serve both aesthetic *and* functional purposes.

The purpose of a bitstream is in part up to the recipient, and the
recipient can (and commonly does) apply multiple purposes

> 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 requirement to include the FDL in printed forms of the work is a
practical restriction on the freedom to produce, say, one-page brochures
from a FDL-licensed work.

> > 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:> 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.

Not around that time. The authors of the DFSG have made clear that it
was always intended to apply to all works in Debian, because they're all
software <URL:>.

> > 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.

The GPL doesn't need to be printed along with the program when I print
the program; I only need to make the terms clear to the recipient. So
I'm free to print any part of a GPL-licensed work, and inform the
recipient of the license terms in an out-of-band communication. This is
a freedom I don't have with an FDL-licensed work.

> 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 freedom.

See the Wikipedia page on the FDL and criticisms of the DRM clause. It's
not the intent (using the tools we have to prevent DRM is good!), it's
the implementation which catches too much in its net.

> This is akin to certain laws that ensure morality is enforced.

I'm learning a lot about morality and psychology, recently. We could
have a long and hopefully interesting discussion on the pros and cons of
legislating morality!

 \       “… whoever claims any right that he is unwilling to accord to |
  `\             his fellow-men is dishonest and infamous.” —Robert G. |
_o__)           Ingersoll, _The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child_, 1877 |
Ben Finney

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