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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 16:07:52 +0000 (UTC)

   Why is attractiveness to commercial publishers, or reducing benefits
   to free riders, important for the Emacs manual?

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.

Remember, the entire purpose of a legal license is to provide an
interface between those who know something about the subject and the
vastly larger outside world.

It is not about your relation with me, but your relation with a person
you do not know, who knows nothing of writing software or documentation.

One solution to the interface issue is to follow restricted licenses
in which those who know anything give up their rights.  This is what
conventional `proprietary' copyright is about: the right of the
copyholder to ask police to enforce prohibitions against everyone

Another solution is to enable other organizations to `free ride' on
work paid for by the first without any legal requirement that they
return any improvements or bug fixes they make.  That is the BSD

The FSF has tried to favor a solution in which others' rights to
`swing their fists' stop at your nose -- in more abstract language, to
provide you with `freedom from' those with more power.  This is a
restriction on the rights of those with `freedom to': the restriction
is to give you `freedom from' them.

   If the Emacs manual were picked up by free riders, that would be
   fine with us, wouldn't it?

That depends.  I know that a few years ago I was quite disturbed to
hear that Emacs was being used without any attribution or help in
writing code or documentation by a company selling software to US
police departments.  That was before the GFDL was invented.  I was
sufficiently disturbed to report the issue but, as far as I know,
there was no follow up.

(I still do not know whether the `Spillman system' uses Emacs or not.
If the company did or does, I was thinking that Emacs promoters could
have a lot of fun with the slogan, `even cops use Emacs'.  Perhaps
this is an actual example of free riding or perhaps not.  In any
event, no one at FSF cared strongly enough to raise it above their
other priorities of the time.)

Similarly, I have been told that some of the Microsoft created
operating systems legally use code from BSD for their network
communications.  Since Microsoft has no legal obligation to return
improvements or fixes to the code, much less pay anyone, this, too, is
free riding, albeit legal.

   So what exactly is the GFDL protecting, in the specific case of the
   Emacs manual?  Are we really worried about some portion of the
   manual being used in a screed in support of software patents or

No, it is not about being used in a screed.  (Besides, use of a
portion would legally be `fair use'.  Falsification would be fraud,
like reversing the meaning of a sentence by inserting a `not' that the
perpetrator falsely claims comes from the manual rather than being an
accident which he corrects.)

As for the GFDL:  one purpose is to enable the copyright holder to
take action against those who want you to subsidize them even though
their long term goal is to stop you from writing software and
documentation.  (That is a same goal as the GPL, reached in the same
manner.  Put another way, to stop free riding.  I said this before; it
is a major interface issue.)

Another purpose is to encourage yet different organizations to adopt
licenses for books, music, and videos that will legally enable others
to recover costs of providing the work on paper or other physical

This purpose results from the long run GNU strategy of showing rather
than talking.  The strategy was based on the observation that many
programmers were poor salesmen.  They are often good at talking about
programming with other programmers but poor at promoting non-computer
related subjects to those who know nothing about software, like
changes in business patterns.  To be effective rhetorically, the FSF
had to make its actions be consistent with its statements.  Unlike
many salemen, few of those involved with GNU could successfully
persuade others to `do as I say, not as I do'.

The goal of this purpose is to change a contemporary business pattern
that is often undertaken by those who know nothing about software or
its documentation.  I do not know about O'Reilly currently, but I do
know that many who publish under a `Creative Commons' license pick a
version in which `commercial' reproduction is banned.  That latter
clause says that you are forbidden to redistribute in any manner
except gratis, unless you are the monopolist whose restrictions are
enforced by police.

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

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