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Re: [Texmacs-dev] GNU FSL and Debian FDL conflict

From: Joris van der Hoeven
Subject: Re: [Texmacs-dev] GNU FSL and Debian FDL conflict
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 00:16:05 +0200 (CEST)

> It seems that such a committee is being formed:
> http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2003/debian-legal-200309/msg01309.html
> Let's hope they will reach an agrreement.

Yes, let's hope so. If not, what license does the Debian project suggest?
The GPL license is a bit problematic in my opinion, because its about
software and not about documentation. Even though some people argue that
the borderline can be vague, it seems to me that it is quite clear in
the overwhelming majority of cases. Many clauses in the GPL, like the
ability to run a program, obviously don't apply for documentation.

There is a second point I would like to notice to both the Debian and
GNU people because they seem to have an unquestioned consensus about it,
whereas I am very allergic to this whole point: the definition of
a transparant data format:

            Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies include
            plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX
            input format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD,
            and standard-conforming simple HTML, PostScript or PDF
            designed for human modification.  Examples of transparent
            image formats include PNG, XCF and JPG.  Opaque formats
            include proprietary formats that can be read and edited only
            by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the
            DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and
            the machine-generated HTML, PostScript or PDF produced by
            some word processors for output purposes only.

or, as stated differentently by a Debian developer:

         2. The freedom to study how the text is written, and adapt
            it to your needs.  Access to the text in the preferred
            form for modification is a precondition for this. This
            includes the ability to modify the work to fit in low
            memory situations, refernce cards, PDA's, embedded
            devices, etc.

It seems that we do not have *at all* an agreement about the preferred
data format. To put it bluntly, I consider ASCII without markup or LaTeX
as very bad, because they lack structure and thereby essential and useful
information. In fact, the TeXmacs documentation might violate this
transparency condition, since we do not provide any DTD (whatever
this is for "non-standard" software! we have DRD's; what in the case of
LaTeX by the way?).

I think that access to the text in the preferred form should be specified
more precisely as the preferred form of the author(s): the author should
never be obliged to transform writings in the preferred form of readers,
yet he should not forbid anyone else to do so. Also, ideally speaking,
the existence of a free tool for presenting the document should be
a sufficient condition for a document format to be transparant.
One might also consider the obligation that copies of the documentation
in its original format (the source code, so to say) should remain
available when redistributing.

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