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

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Permission to use portions of the recent GNU Emacs Manual
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 23:23:22 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1006 (Gnus v5.10.6) XEmacs/21.5 (chayote, linux)

>>>>> "Robert" == Robert J Chassell <address@hidden> writes:

    Robert>       To focus on Emacs when we are talking about licenses
    Robert> suggests to me that you are more concerned with the
    Robert> development of that product than with changing the
    Robert> political and business patterns of societies.

Not exactly.  Emacs is only part of my life, free software advocacy is
only part of my life.  In fact, living in a rather unfree (though very
comfortable) society, software freedom is only a small part of the
libertarian advocacy I should engage in.

I prefer the simplicity of advocating the _quality_ of free software
by producing it and giving it away, and of advocating the _extension_
of software freedom by _talking_ about it and engaging in other
political behavior, separately from development.  To me, the Emacs or
XEmacs license is an instrument to enable sharing, no more, no less.
It's not part of advocacy for me; I'm equally happy with whatever free
upstream license, permissive or copyleft.  It distresses me that
licensing issues (and related legal flummery), however necessary, get
in the way of sharing.

You can mix advocacy with development if you like; I'm happy that you
are free to do so.  Nor do I speak for Andy, or need to.  I don't know
what he thinks he's doing, and it doesn't matter to me as long as we
can share the code.  Different people doing things different ways:
that's freedom.  That's good.

    Robert> An organization has at least three options, none vague:

I am sorry, but although some of what you write about the business and
socioeconomic environment in this passage is accurate, much is quite
inadequate.  Especially beware of false trichotomies, the CC-with-
commercial-restriction does not fit any of the options as written.

    Robert> The goal of the GNU project is to change the wider
    Robert> society's default ground rules and default assumptions.

Which is why using the label "free" for a license that permits self-
serving restrictions was a strategic mistake IMHO.  I really don't see
a correspondingly large gain to offset the very real reputational
damage, eg among Debian community members.

It doesn't make any difference for XEmacs; the existing doc license
will forever be incompatible with any strong copyleft but itself.  But
personally I wish the FSF would amend the GFDL to remove the additional
encumbering restrictions, or simply rename it the GNU Documentation

    "The GDL is a not-too-unfree documentation license that reserves
    certain non-economic rights to authors, while perpetually
    protecting the freedoms it does provide for users.  We use it
    ourselves to ensure that our advocacy of freedom always
    accompanies our documentation, while users will always be able to
    adapt the documentation to the needs of their derivatives of our
    free software."

Still unfree, but very hard to get upset about when you put it that
way.  :-)

   "Do I contradict myself?  Very well then; I contradict myself.
  I am large, I contain multitudes." -- W. Whitman, Song of Myself


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