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Re: Permission to use portions of the recent GNU Emacs Manual

From: Robert J. Chassell
Subject: Re: Permission to use portions of the recent GNU Emacs Manual
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004 20:46:38 +0000 (UTC)

   >    > To enable the FSF to be a `do what we do organization' rather than a
   >    > `don't do what we do, do what we say' organization.
   >    a) what precise purpose does the GFDL achieve for the GNU Emacs manual
   >    that is not achieved by it being under the GPL (your explanation is
   >    mostly about the contrast to Public Domain and/or BSD)?
   > To be a `do what we do, not a do what we say' organization.

   How does this hand-waving address the difference between GPL and GFDL?

The GFDL is designed to enable commercial publishers who print on
paper or other material entity to survive.  The GPL is not.  

The idea is that software development will be paid for by hardware
companies, by trade associations, by governments, by universities, and
by programmers whose material income does come from the project at
hand.  In other words, cost recovery for someone writing code is, or
should be, different than cost recovery for someone getting attention
for and printing a book written by another.

At the moment, proprietary software companies and many documentation
publishers depend on the same method of cost recovery, which is to say
monopoly pricing enforced (ultimately, not most of the time) by
police.  Proprietary restrictions hinder both software creation and
documentation writing.

That is why I have said so often that the purpose of the GFDL is to
provide an alternative to a `Creative Commons license with a
commercial restriction' or similar license.

As for a single license:  I personally would like to see one rather
than two or many, but I am not sure that is possible.  Laws are
written mostly by lawyers.  Businesses that use software are often run
by people who know nothing about software (and the business may have
nothing to do with software except to use it as a tool -- it may train
horses or something like that).  Perhaps one license is possible.
Then again, perhaps not.

Incidentally, a great advantages of both the GPL and the GFDL is that
they can be read, perhaps with difficulty, by non-lawyers, and mean
more or less the same thing to them as to lawyers.  (I am told that
the main legality a non-lawyer like me needs to learn is that
`derivative works' are defined by judges, most of whom know nothing
about software.  The meaning of `derivative work' cannot be specified
in a license.)  Readability means that programmers who do not wish to
learn much law can grok the major interfaces between them and the
wider world.

Imagine if a programmer could not understand these interfaces without
becoming a different person -- imagine if a programmer were in the
same position as a typical politician, the one being unable to
understand the interface, the other being unable to understand the
software.  It is hard enough right now to deal with these issues:
doubtless you have noticed that almost all discussion by programmers
is addressed to programmers' issues rather than to non-programmers'
issues.  Imagine it were worse.

    Robert J. Chassell                         
    address@hidden                         GnuPG Key ID: 004B4AC8
    http://www.rattlesnake.com                  http://www.teak.cc

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