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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 15:24:13 +0200 (CEST)

> The GPL is in no way specific to "software but not documentation". It
> is even explicit in the license:
>     This License applies to any program or other work which contains a
>     notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed
>     under the terms of this General Public License. The ``Program'',
>     below, refers to any such program or work, and a ``work based on the
>     Program'' means either the Program or any derivative work under
>     copyright law: that is to say, a work containing the Program or a
>     portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or
>     translated into another language. (Hereinafter, translation is
>     included without limitation in the term ``modification''.) Each
>     licensee is addressed as ``you''.
> Notice the repetitive mention of "any program or other work" and the
> fact that a translation to "another language" is explicitely considered
> a derivative work. Translation to "another language" may be understood
> as translation to another "computer language" or "natural language".

You are a bit right, but not quite. The matter of documentation is never
addressed explicitly. Translations might as well apply to the user interface.
The notion of derivative work is very vague.

> Moreover, any documentation can be considered a program runnable by an
> appropriate machine and producing an output. In the case of pure text,
> the machine is trivial and the output may be the program itself.  In the
> case of TeXmacs or LaTeX, the document format can contain programming
> constructs and can be considered a program whose output is a typeset
> text.

The fact that you may take documentation as input of a program does
not turn the documentation into a program. I very well understand that,
theoretically speaking, everything can be considered to be a program,
but, once again, in the overwhelming majority of cases there is a clear
separation between programs and documentation. Do you really think that
the FSF would have felt the need for the GNU FDL if this were not so?

> > 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?).
> This issue does not arises with the GPL. The only requirements are free
> access to source code (whose precise term I am not going through).

Absolutely and this is why I raised the issue, since it went unnoticed
in the summary of the discussion on Debian that Ralf noticed to us.

> IANAL but I believe that most stringent possible interpretation of
> "preferred form of the work for making modifications to it" may include
> the documentation itself in the format used by the author for editing it
> and the tools used for making this modification. In the case of TeXmacs,
> that would include the editor itself and any user extensions: plugins,
> style files, scheme file or other data which can be placed in the
> ~/.TeXmacs directory to alter the behaviour of the editor).

This *should* indeed be the interpretation, but it is not clear whether,
legally speaking, this is indeed the case for the GNU FDL. Indeed,
the license carefully does *not* state that a document which can be
edited by free software should be considered to be transparent.
This is actually one of the major points which bothers me.
I think that we are better of with the GPL in this respect.

> All of this is addressed by the GPL already.

I know, but we still have the problem that the GPL is mainly about
programs and not about documentation. Of course, we can speculate,
and reason by anology, but it would be better if the FSF would come up
with a suitably improved version of the GNU FDL.

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