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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] The FSF Allows No Derivatives,

From: J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] The FSF Allows No Derivatives,
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:40:13 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/31.6.0

Ali Abdul Ghani wrote:

I'm guessing you pointed us to this article because you wished to discuss the article. Here are my views on this article.

The article makes a number of claims without any sources; there are no links to other pages as one would expect to find (save one to a 278 page PDF of "Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman"). FSF and GNU Project webpages are easy to link to and quote, their pages are static HTML and easily readable with text, some offer links to sections within the same page (like which is a list of words to avoid). There's no excuse for not providing source material pointers in the form of inline links.

Quoting the article:

The FSF's idea is that if people are allowed to modify works of
opinion, they are going to distort it and misrepresent the original
author(s). The FSF claims that this is the only possible reason one
could have for modifying a work of opinion, which is nonsense.

Where has the FSF claimed this? I'd like to read the evidence for this claim for myself. Has the author tried to offer translations of articles and been rejected? Some FSF and GNU Project pages offer translations and that means someone had to write them. It's not clear that this article is complaining about a real issue. It's also worth noting that the article doesn't respond to the alleged FSF claim at all, besides calling it "nonsense".

Instead the article inadvertently goes on to show how the alleged FSF opinion is quite sensible:

It's even entirely plausible that the work can be improved in some
way; perhaps there's an embarrassing typo that the original author
isn't fixing for some reason, or perhaps rewording a paragraph makes
the point the work is trying to make stronger.

Improving a work is in the eye of the beholder; in other words, improvements are subjective. The articles in question aren't functional works -- one doesn't use them to get a job done. So it's not clear that one needs them to be modifiable. This is a point the article would do well to expound upon but doesn't.

The irony of these points (and the reason I consider the article 'inadvertently' making the FSF's alleged point for them) is that I'm not sure the author is conveying the FSF's views accurately (too few sources cited). So if I'm not sure this article is getting the FSF's views correctly, maybe the FSF is on to something in allegedly fearing misrepresentation.

Here's another point the author makes without evidence:

Perhaps the negative effect is large, and perhaps the negative effect
is small, but even if just one person is prevented from doing a
useful translation or adaptation by a no-derivatives license, that is
one too many.

The author should define terms that are quantifiable and then do the legwork to look things up. Neither are done here. If the "negative effect is small" the entire point of the article is lost on me as one adversely affected translator strikes me as insignificant. If the "negative effect" is large, exactly how many is a "large" number of translators or translations and why were each stopped from publishing their translations? Were these authors not capable of writing their own essays or giving their own talks citing FSF/GNU Project works as needed per fair use?

Another undefended claim -- "The FSF doesn't need to insist on free culture; in fact, it shouldn't." -- where exactly does the FSF "insist on free culture" and what exactly does this author mean by "free culture"? I'd like to read this source for myself and understand what you mean when you say things.

By this point in the article I'm ready to give up reading because the article reads like the author is arguing against their own views instead of referenced quotes of what the FSF says.

Another point in the article that makes no sense to me:

No-derivatives licenses do absolutely nothing to stop

This is true but allowing derivatives would also do absolutely nothing to stop misrepresentation of the author. So why bring this up?

The author doesn't discuss how one can quote from the article in order to "spread the message of the FSF" without license (just like I'm doing to this article without regard for its license). I've found that it's easy to cite passages (entire paragraphs, even) from GNU Project and FSF essays, blog posts, and mailing list articles while combining them with points I put into my own words. Spreading the FSF's message is assisted in this way because I'm using their material as a source for backing up my points. This implicitly tells my readers I know what I'm talking about and lets them see where I get the backing for my case.

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