Adam Bolte <>

> 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.

Where those “types” are determined by the copyright holder's notion of
the proper purpose of the work, I fundamentally disagree. It is not just
for the copyright holder to decide what freedoms the recipient deserves
based on such a criterion as “the limited set of purposes I determine
ahead of time are valid for this work”.

The recipient is the only person whose opinion matters on what purpose a
work has. The purpose to which recipients will be put is not solely in
the hands of the copyright holder, and so the copyright holder wields
their exclusive power unjustly if they declare that some purposes are
invalid and not deserving of the freedoms granted for other purposes.

> There is a trade-off here, but ultimately, I expect more good than
> harm from the FDL.

That represents a considerable weakening from “the FDL is a free
license”: they are significantly different positions. I be convinced
that it does more good than harm, while maintaining that it makes a work

> 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.

Defining the term “software” differently doesn't change the argument.
The question is: are copyright holders ethically justified in granting
different freedoms based on what they feel are valid or invalid purposes
of a work?

My definition of “software” merely makes my statements simpler: all
software freedoms are deserved by all recipients of all software works,
regardless of what the copyright holder thinks.

Your definition requires me merely to expand that to substitute a longer
phrase for “software”. It also requires dissolving illusory distinctions
between “types” of works based on general, but greatly overlapping,
categories of “purpose”. That's a phantom, and attempting to divide
freedoms based on that criterion is going to be both futile and unjust.

Differing over the definition of “software” doesn't change the issue.

> 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.

The Free Culture definition <URL:>
is a good common ground, I think.

> 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.

You're aware that PDF data is an executable program in (a limited subset
of) the PostScript programming language? Every PDF document is rendered
by *running the program* in an interpreter. Every PDF is both a document
and a program.

> I suppose that next you're going to say that this e-mail is an
> executable program as well?

No, because it is not normally executed in order to render it. A PDF
*must* be executed to render it. Every PDF is both a program and a

PDFs are far from alone in being software that is used commonly as a
program and as something else. Programs written in literate programming
languages; manuals generated mechanically from code introspection; the
list goes on. These are not uncommon cases.

So trying to divide the software world into *exclusive* categories, of
programs versus other things, is doomed to fail. It is for that reason
(and others) a poor criterion on which to choose to limit the
recipient's freedoms.

> > 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.

You can dismiss aesthetics, and I might even agree (or not). That misses
the point: that the work *also* has a functional purpose, which means it
is unjust to decide the recipient doesn't deserve the freedoms for
functional works.

> > 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.

Not “completely non-free”. But it violates the fundamental software
freedoms, and hence enough to reject FDL-licensed works from the free

 \                  “The shortest distance between two points is under |
  `\                                      construction.” —Noelie Alito |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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