On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 10:41:18AM +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> Adam Bolte <abo...@systemsaviour.com> writes:
> > On 21/07/13 13:22, Ben Finney wrote:
> > 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.

I'm aware that there are exceptions. I should have clarified "rejects
the FDL from main when invariant sections are used" to avoid confusion.

> > > 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.)

Nope. Once again, we have a fundamental difference of opinion of what
constitutes "software". I'm ignoring the sections of your e-mail that
stem from this difference of opinion, since I can see no progress
coming from it.

> 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 can understand the point of view that different types of works need
to be protected from different kinds of attacks, and thus require
different licenses, and hence different freedoms. Your concern that,
say, by attaching the FDL to documentation with invariant sections
might make those works inconvenient to be used in certain situations -
such as printed news articles - is valid. I do not consider the
restrictions to be non-free - only that there could be inconveniences
when used in unexpected ways.

There are reasons why FDL is not general-purpose, and these stem from
offering the maximum amount of protection for freedom for the kinds of
works it was designed for. There is a trade-off here, but ultimately,
I expect more good than harm from the FDL.

> > 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.

I never made such a claim, so please don't put words in my mouth. I
was clearly (so I thought) indicating that my concerns with software
being free do not necessarily extend to other works.

> > > 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
> universal.

When a term as important as 'software' is not clearly agreed upon, I
feel that it is cause for concern. If having an authoritative
definition is required to rectify the situation, so be it.

I was honestly not aware of your "common definition" until this thread
was brought up. I've also asked a few people around my office, and
have yet to ask somebody who responds that the term 'software'
includes documentation (even in digital form), audio CDs, DVDs, etc -
only strong objections to this viewpoint.

As Andrew pointed out, some dictionary sites suggest that the
definition of software could encapsulate everything beyond computer
instructions. Perhaps the most authoritative answer would be a legal
definition? Have a look:


Alternatively, you could consider that the FSF would be an authority
on the subject, since they coined the name "free software" to begin
with? According to gnu.org, software manuals are not considered
software and are treated differently. This is obvious anyway, given
that the existence of the FDL. They also mention the term "free
cultural works" which seems to more accurately describe some of what
you are referring to.


> 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.

Your definition also has the disadvantages of being seemingly uncommon
comparatively, and could be considered dangerous to important issues
since it bundles together very different things.

> > 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.

It sounds to me like you should start a Free Culture group, if your
demands exceed what is meant by the most commonly accepted definition
of software.

> > 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.

I see there is a hindrance in certain possible edge-cases, but I
remain unconvinced that the disadvantages of the FDL outweigh its

> > 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
> holds.

Then they should without question be denied a place in the Debian

> > > 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.

Once again, your definition conflicts with what the legal Free
Dictionary appears to be (linked above). A PDF is generally a product
of a computer program - not a computer program itself. I suppose that
next you're going to say that this e-mail is an executable program as

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

How so? Because (as I said) it can contain executable code like
JavaScript? Ignoring the JS issue, it can also contain fonts and
compression too, but it still boils down to being a document file
format and 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.
> <URL:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Systems,_Inc._v._Southern_Software,_Inc.>

Yep. Andrew pointed that out that in some cases there is more to them
than I had expected.

> > 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.

Aesthetics aren't an essential freedom. They're a nice-to-have
freedom, but an entirely different kettle of fish.

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

Another fundamental issue is that I believe the restrictions in the
FDL are possible inconveniences in certain edge-cases, that do more
good than harm. You believe they render FDL-licensed works completely
non-free. It's a difference in opinion that explains the differences
in our reactions, so will (as before) only bother addressing the root
of the problem

> > > 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.

When you redistribute the program as printed source code (ie, text),
you don't need to include the GPL license? Are you sure about that?

Happy to be proven wrong. Not that it will necessarily change my
opinion, mind you.

> > 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.

RMS said he would talk to a lawyer to see if it needed to be
changed. It did not get changed, so presumably it is fine as is. I'm
not a lawyer, so will leave that with the lawyers.

> > 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!

Haha. Sounds fun! :)


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