[OT] Re: [gnome-db] Gnome-DB documents, GNU FDL and Debian.

On Tue, 2004-12-07 at 13:26 +0100, Rodrigo Moya wrote:
> > 
> > I'm no legal expert (or subscriber to debian-legal), but does the GPL
> > work well with documentation? Doesn't contain many references to code,
> > library and linking terms?
> > 
> since it is used (LGPL) in other GNOME documents, as it was mentioned, I guess it
> does work for documentation. I'm not a legal expert neither, so not
> sure.

Since this is trailing off-topic of gnome-db, I added the [OT] and will
add the caveat that this will propably be my last post on this subject
to the gnome-db mailing list (or to pkg-gnome-maintainers, for that

Looking through the Debian Position Statement I can understand some of
the issues (which I'm sure have been hashed out in more detail at
debian-legal, but I have neither the time nor will to scan those
archives), but I can also understand the motivations of clauses of the
GNU FDL that the Debian legal folks seem to take issue with...

For instance, some of the invariant sections defined in the GFDL are
there to protect the original authors from having their work modified in
such a way as to remove credit from those authors, as well as co-opt
things such as dedications, which you typically don't see in program
source code (not directly anyway), but often do find in manuals and
other documentation and presumably the original authors should be able
to require those to be maintained.

On a cursory reading, the (L)GPL, as well as the DFSG seem very
particular to programs, not documentation. For instance, DFSG #4 (cited
as being violated by the unmodifiable clauses in the GFDL) refers to
"programs". In most cases (perhaps excluding Perl poetry and PostScript
hacks), I think it would be quite a stretch to consider documentation a
"program", and DFSG #4's only allowed workaround for unmodifiable
sections is to allow distribution as a patch. IMO that's not really
practical for documentation, even if it's in plain-text. 

With programs, the relationship between the source code and the binary
code is very different between the relationship between a "Transparent"
copy and an "Opaque" copy as defined by the GFDL. In the former case,
the possible uses for the source code and those of the binary is almost
always different: the source code is used to build the binary and the
binary is used to solve some other problem. Therefore, you don't tend to
care if someone maintains and displays, for example, different help text
or source code comments. On the other hand, the use of the transparent
copy of documentation is very closely related to that of the opaque
copy- the transparent copy contains the content along with possible
formatting instructions, and the opaque copy is a presentation of
exactly that content. In that case, restricting modification of certain
portions of the original content seems to be a little more reasonable.

I do not understand why debian is intent on holding documentation
licenses to the same standards as software. There may be problems with
the GFDL regardless, but as long as the the DFSG (versus, for instance,
a Debian Free Documentation Guidelines) is used to judge them, I don't
see much of a solution. 

Anyway, that's more than my $0.02 worth. Hope I haven't taken too much
of the list's valuable time.

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