Debian and the GFDL problem

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Debian and the GFDL problem

Jordi Mallach
Hello list,

As many might be aware, the Debian project has been concerned about the
non-freeness of the GNU Free Documentation Licence for a few years
already, and although conversations with the Free Software Foundation
have been ongoing for at least four years, we don't know if our
legal advise to the FSF will end up in a new GFDL version being
published that addresses the problems in time for the new Debian
release.

Due to some changes[0] to the wording of the Social Contract[1] made by
the Debian project, it was decided that the principles of freeness
described by the DFSG would need to apply to all works included in the
Debian archive, not only software. This, of course, includes
documentation licensed under the GFDL.

This week, Debian Developer Anthony Towns sent an email proposing Debian
to release a statement[2] that would make the Project's position with
respect to the GFDL official and mandatory. This is expected to be voted
upon in two weeks, and it's highly probable it will pass with a broad
majority.

For detailed information on why Debian thinks the GFDL is not
acceptable, see Manoj Srivastava's “Position Statement” document[3] on the
subject.

Now, sorry for this long introduction, but I didn't expect desktop-devel
readers to know what's going on in the debian-vote battlefield. :)

When this vote concludes, Debian maintainers will be forced to get rid
of non-free documentation, including GFDL docs, from the .debs and
.tar.gz's. Today, the team of developers in charge of packaging GNOME in
Debian (known as Debian GNOME team), started to realise that if we don't
start doing something about it now, we might be delaying the etch
release, given the amount of work that removing the works covered by the
FDL in GNOME modules is.

We basically have two practical options, because we better not wait for
the FSF to make the required changes to the GFDL:

1) Edit GNOME tarballs for every version of every module including a
   gnome-doc manual and repackage them without them.

   This would be a great amount of work, and would leave Debian without a
   single user manual for our users to read up in Yelp. I guess we could
   get rid of Yelp too. :)

2) Convince manual authors to a) relicence their works under the GPL, or
   b) double-license them under both the GFDL and GPL.

I personally vouch for 2b) as it gives more choice to people, and doesn't
change the current licensing situation too radically. Also, for reasons
explained in the previously mentioned documents, having different
licences for a program and its documentation is a bad idea, and dual
licensing takes care of that too.

The members of the Debian GNOME team are interested in what the GNOME
project thinks about this problem. If you think relicensing the manuals
is a good idea, we'd have to start a hunt of every copyright holder to
get permission to relicence the manuals. We need to get started sooner
than later, if we want to be ready by 2.16 (which is our optimistic
target for GNOME version to distribute with Debian etch).

This problem is not GNOME specific. A long list of GNU packages and KDE
modules are on the same boat, according to members of the Debian KDE
team, who are going to approach the KDE project with this same concern,
in an attempt to fix the problem on their end.

Thanks,
Jordi (for the GNOME team)

[0] http://www.debian.org/vote/2004/vote_003
[1] http://www.debian.org/social_contract
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2005/12/msg00115.html
[3] http://people.debian.org/~srivasta/Position_Statement.xhtml

--
Jordi Mallach Pérez  --  Debian developer     http://www.debian.org/
[hidden email]     [hidden email]     http://www.sindominio.net/
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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Federico Mena Quintero
On Wed, 2006-01-04 at 19:41 +0100, Jordi Mallach wrote:

> As many might be aware, the Debian project has been concerned about the
> non-freeness of the GNU Free Documentation Licence for a few years
> already, and although conversations with the Free Software Foundation
> have been ongoing for at least four years, we don't know if our
> legal advise to the FSF will end up in a new GFDL version being
> published that addresses the problems in time for the new Debian
> release.

It is up to Debian to follow up with the FSF on creating a new version
of the GFDL which addresses Debian's concerns.

It is also up to Debian to contact and negotiate with every individual
author of documentation which happens to have a problematic license.

  Federico

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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Elijah Newren
In reply to this post by Jordi Mallach
On 1/4/06, Jordi Mallach <[hidden email]> wrote:

> The members of the Debian GNOME team are interested in what the GNOME
> project thinks about this problem. If you think relicensing the manuals
> is a good idea, we'd have to start a hunt of every copyright holder to
> get permission to relicence the manuals. We need to get started sooner
> than later, if we want to be ready by 2.16 (which is our optimistic
> target for GNOME version to distribute with Debian etch).

I personally think it's a good idea as I agree that the GFDL sucks,
but I have virtually 0 influence in this area.  The person you'd need
to talk to is Shaun; as GDPFL and the one working hardest on this
currently he naturally has the most say.  He'd also be the one who'd
have the best idea of who to contact and how much work you'll be in
for.  I'm guessing that if you could get him and Sun to agree to dual
license then you'd have the majority of the documentation covered but
that's just a random guess on my part; he'd be able to tell you
better.

Cheers,
Elijah
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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Josselin Mouette
In reply to this post by Federico Mena Quintero
Le mercredi 04 janvier 2006 à 22:01 -0600, Federico Mena Quintero a
écrit :
> It is up to Debian to follow up with the FSF on creating a new version
> of the GFDL which addresses Debian's concerns.

Indeed, and it now seems it won't happen, as the FSF hasn't moved
despite long-standing discussion efforts from Debian developers.

Furthermore, most people on debian-legal don't believe it is necessary
to create just another license. The best license for a program's
documentation is the same license as the program itself. It allows to
copy-paste things back and forth from examples to code, and to integrate
the program with the documentation without being concerned with legal
issues.

> It is also up to Debian to contact and negotiate with every individual
> author of documentation which happens to have a problematic license.

Of course, but having first the agreement of the core GNOME developers
will make this work much easier to integrate.

Regards,
--
 .''`.           Josselin Mouette        /\./\
: :' :           [hidden email]
`. `'                        [hidden email]
   `-  Debian GNU/Linux -- The power of freedom

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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Vincent Untz
Le jeudi 05 janvier 2006 à 07:55 +0100, Josselin Mouette a écrit :
> Le mercredi 04 janvier 2006 à 22:01 -0600, Federico Mena Quintero a
> écrit :
> > It is also up to Debian to contact and negotiate with every individual
> > author of documentation which happens to have a problematic license.
>
> Of course, but having first the agreement of the core GNOME developers
> will make this work much easier to integrate.

Well, you really just need the agreement of the people who wrote (and
are still writing) the docs :-)

I'm biased since I'm okay with the change, but I don't see why the "core
GNOME developers" would oppose such a change.

Vincent

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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Jordi Mallach
On Thu, Jan 05, 2006 at 08:46:48AM +0100, Vincent Untz wrote:
> > Of course, but having first the agreement of the core GNOME developers
> > will make this work much easier to integrate.
> Well, you really just need the agreement of the people who wrote (and
> are still writing) the docs :-)

Well, the people who are still writing the docs might not continue doing
so next year. Also, all the documentation, skeletons and examples on how
to create GNOME manuals just use fdl.xml as their "licensing".

What Joss and I are looking after is that GNOME adopts fdl+gpl licensing
as the "standard" licence scheme for docs. Dealing with already written
docs we need to do already, but we want to improve future works from the
foundation.

> I'm biased since I'm okay with the change, but I don't see why the "core
> GNOME developers" would oppose such a change.

Good. :)

Jordi
--
Jordi Mallach Pérez  --  Debian developer     http://www.debian.org/
[hidden email]     [hidden email]     http://www.sindominio.net/
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Re: Debian and the GFDL problem

Vincent Untz
On Thu, January 5, 2006 11:08, Jordi Mallach wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 05, 2006 at 08:46:48AM +0100, Vincent Untz wrote:
>> > Of course, but having first the agreement of the core GNOME developers
>> > will make this work much easier to integrate.
>> Well, you really just need the agreement of the people who wrote (and
>> are still writing) the docs :-)
>
> Well, the people who are still writing the docs might not continue doing
> so next year. Also, all the documentation, skeletons and examples on how
> to create GNOME manuals just use fdl.xml as their "licensing".

My point is: this stuff (documentation, skeletons and examples) is
maintained by the documentation team :-) So it's really up to them.

Vincent

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