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

Carlo Baffe Carlo.Baffe a ctp.com
Mer 19 Nov 2003 16:55:03 CET

stallman  impazzito?

>>> pot a softwarelibero.it Tuesday 18 November 2003 >>>
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 

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.


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

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. 
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