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Re: Some ideas with Emacs

From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Re: Some ideas with Emacs
Date: Mon, 02 Dec 2019 23:58:41 -0500

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  > A _manual_ should be e.g. comprehensive (i.e., cover the whole of its
  > subject).  A _book_ on a subject does not have to be so.

I see the distinction you are making, but it doesn't affect our stance.

Our principles of free documentation apply to any works that we would
distribute or recommend to help people learn to use the software.
Whether it is a manual meant to be complete, or a book that treats any
choice of topics, if it doesn't carry a free license we ought not to
refer users to it in any way.  What we ought to do is use or write
some free documentation to explain the same methods and techniques.

  > Could you define "political points which are outside the practical topic
  > of the manual"?

There is a precise criterion in the GFDL itself.

  >   The FSF does refer to e.g. MS
  > Windows (in the Emacs manual, of all places).  How is a CC-NC/CC-ND book
  > (not "manual"!!!) worse than that?

The Emacs manual does not recommend using Windows.  It refers to
running Emacs on Windows to encourage Windows users to run Emacs.  We
consider it ok to mention the existence of Windows because we expect
users already know about it.  It is unlikely anyone will learn about
the existence of Windows from the Emacs Manual and start using Windows
as a result.

See the section References in the GNU Coding Standards for the way
we judge such questions.

We have the motto that a nonfree program is worse than no program at
all.  What does this mean?

It is clear that a nonfree program might be of some practical use,
whereas a nonexistent program is of zero practical use.  The point of
this motto is precisely that we don't judge solely by practical use.
Our goal is to win freedom, so we prize freedom over practical use.
The nonfree program is not a contribution to the free world -- rather,
it is a trap that we should help people climb out of.

The same applied to documentation (manuals or not).  Documentation simply
means a work that teaches you how to use something.  I think the book
you have in mind would be documentation.

Would you please make your book free, so that it contributes?

  > As an even more theoretical exercise, assume I wanted to write a book...
  > called "Memoirs of an Emacs user", which would be an artistic
  > representation of my process of Emacs and Org-mode gradually embracing
  > my life;-) - possibly including practical tips on Emacs usage?  Would
  > you mind talking about it here?

A book like this would not be documentation -- at least, mostly not.
It would be a sort of memoir.  I think CC-NC-ND is an acceptable
license for a memoir, precisely because it is NOT documentation -- it
does not have the purpose of teaching people practical skills or
guiding them in doing a task.

See https://gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-vs-community.html for more

Dr Richard Stallman
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://gnu.org, https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)

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