Is Bazaar's document distributed under GPL?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at
Mon Sep 21 08:43:45 BST 2009

Martin Pool writes:
 > Robert Collins writes:

 > > For instance, you cannot copy documentation in from the user manual into
 > > the migration guide without relicencing the migration guide. And ditto
 > > for help topics in the code itself

This is a major problem.  In a language like Python (or Emacs Lisp,
where I have to deal with the God-Forsaken DL on a daily basis when
porting Emacs to XEmacs), it is potentially very costly in terms of
redundant rewriting to comply with the GFDL.

 > > I think its a very good idea to use a single licence across the whole
 > > suite, to avoid such problems.
 > Meaning the code and documentation?  I see your point but that seems
 > to lock us to GPL, since a non-copyleft licence for the code is not on
 > the cards.

AFAICS, the rationale for the GFDL vs. GPL is in three parts:

(1) Anti-DRM provisions, which make it illegal to quote a GFDL text in
    an encrypted form unless you distribute the needed key with it.
    (Note: The GPL v3 anti-DRM provisions don't seem to address the
    same set of issues, so this rationale is still relevant.)

(2) It allows unremovable commercial or political propaganda (but not
    Surgeon General's Warnings!) to be added to the content.  This is
    explicitly intended to pander to commercial interests who might be
    willing to publish the documentation if they can include
    advertising and force their downstream to distribute it.

(3) The terms in which is is written are more apt to documentation.
    In the GPL, for example, it's hard to interpret what "original
    source" and "binary form" mean for documentation (must
    distributions of translations include the whole text of the
    original source?)  The GFDL makes such points explicit.

I don't see any of these as strong enough rationale for using the GFDL
for Python documentation unless you're willing to dual-license the
entire manual and documentation in the code.  This gets especially
messy in the case of executable text, such as doctest.  (I don't know
if Bazaar uses doctest.)

People who feel really strongly about (1) might consider it a deciding
factor (but note that some folks like debian-legal think that it may
make it illegal to save GFDL docs to encrypted disks and the like
because the language is inaccurate), but (2) is a bad thing for
everyone except politicians like RMS and commercial publishers, and
(3) can be addressed pretty well simply by adding clarifying language
that explains what the licensor's intent is where there is ambiguity.
(I.e., I don't know of any language in the GPL that *should not* be
applied to documentation, only language which is *hard to interpret*
in the context of documentation.)  IMO on balance the benefits of GFDL
are small, the problems are larger.

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