[Discussioni][tb a becket.net: What's up with the GFDL?]

Francesco Potorti` pot a softwarelibero.it
Mar 18 Nov 2003 00:26:06 CET


Thomas Bushnell  uno dei principali (che io sappia il principale, ma 
un po' che non seguo la cosa) sviluppatore di Hurd.

------- Start of forwarded message -------
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 11:33:16 -0800
From: tb a becket.net (Thomas Bushnell, BSG)
Subject: What's up with the GFDL?
To: gnu-prog-discuss a gnu.org
X-Spam-Level: 


Richard Stallman is pushing an anti-free license for documentation.
By that, I mean, a license for documentation which, if it were used
for software, would unquestionably be understood as unfree.

There are many negative consequences of this action:

1) The Debian Project, which is committed to free software, cannot
   distribute GFDL'd manuals as part of the Debian system.  This is
   ironic in the extreme, because RMS used to complain that Debian was
   too loose about distributing non-free things.  Now Debian is too
   tight for him.

2) It is not possible to borrow text from a GFDL'd manual and
   incorporate it in any free software program whatsoever.  This is
   not a mere license incompatibility.  It's not just that the GFDL is
   incompatible with this or that free software license: it's that it
   is fundamentally incompatible with *any* free software license
   whatsoever.  So if you write a new program, and you have no
   commitments at all about what license you want to use, saving only
   that it be a free license, you cannot include GFDL'd text.

3) The FSF solicited public comment on the GFDL, but this seems to
   have been a deceptive enterprise.  The goal seems to have been to
   garner public support for it, and that simply failed.  So the FSF
   does not trumpet that little public comment, and has issued no
   explanation of why such a widely unpopular documentation license
   should be used.

4) RMS has now "dismissed" me as Hurd maintainer because I have
   publicly spoken against the GFDL, saying that a GNU maintainer must
   support and speak in favor of GNU policies.  If this is really
   RMS's reason, then it means that he demands the right to control
   the speech of every GNU volunteer when it comes to GNU project
   policies.  He wants not merely to set the direction, but also to
   require that each and every one of us publicly support a GNU policy
   when asked to.

I do not know what the right response is.  I believe perhaps the best
thing to do is to create structures for GNU project volunteers to
express their opinions so that we can even find out what the GNU
project thinks.  Heretofore, RMS has been an able spokesman, but when
he disregards the comments of volunteers (even when explicitly
solicited), works against free software, and attempts to control the
speech of GNU volunteers in talking about such issues, something has
gone very wrong.

I suspect that nothing will happen, and the sad result will be that
while free software will continue to thrive, the GNU project will
die.  I do not know what would prevent that.

Thomas

Technical Addendum
- ------------------

The incompatibilities of the GFDL with free software are not
controversial.  There are two central problems.

First, GFDL'd manuals can contain "invariant sections" which cannot be
changed or removed.  This is a restriction on modification which isn't
permitted for free software licenses.  Moreover, it is not a trivial
restriction or one that imposes minimal costs.  Invariant sections can
be very large, and the pieces of a GFDL'd manual that one wants to
copy might be small.  (For example, a description of how to use a
single function, if copied from the Emacs manual, requires the
inclusion of many kilobytes of extraneous text from invariant
sections.)  Such restrictions are not allowed in free software
licenses. 

Second, there are restrictions on what formats a GFDL'd manual can be
distributed in, which work to prohibit encryption and the like.  No
such restriction exists for free software licenses.  
------- End of forwarded message -------



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