Problems with GNU FDL and the GNOME Documentation Project

Yavor Doganov yavor at
Sat Sep 9 20:37:41 UTC 2006

Instead of wasting your time and spoiling your day by having a (from
your point of view, apparently unpleasant) conversation with me, let's
do the right thing: address your real concerns as fearless leader of
the GNOME Documentation Project to the people who can solve them or
can help solving them.

I'm replying only to the first two paragraphs which appear to be
directly related to me, for the other points there are much more
knowledgable people that I hope will respond.

Shaun McCance wrote:
> Let me make a few things perfectly clear:
> * This has nothing to do with Debian.  In fact, I was
>   voicing concerns about the FDL well before people at
>   Debian were.  You have no sense of history in this
>   conversation.

I know this from previous discussions.  I was addressing the content
on the wiki page that Joachim posted.  It starts with Debian, so I
started with Debian in my reply.

> * You stated "some insignificiant part of the Free
>   Software community hates GFDL".  I don't like the
>   GFDL, and neither do many members of my team.  WE
>   ARE NOT INSIGNIFICANT.  Insult my team again and
>   you will be banned from this list.

I never insulted your team nor anyone else.  The GNU FDL is used in
most of the GNU packages and major projects such as GNOME and KDE, and
many others.  This is the reason why I said "insignificiant", I never
meant that the GDP is insignificiant, on the contrary -- if you reread
what I posted, you'll discover that I said that it's very important
and deserves FSF's attention.

> Now on to the actual problems with the GFDL.
> * The GFDL absolutely *does* require the title to be
>   changed for modified works.  The copyright holder,
>   of course, is not subject to this restriction.  But
>   we have a constantly shifting set of contributors.
>   We do not require copyright assignment, and I have
>   no intention of implementing such a requirement.
>   Contrary to the wiki (just because it's on the net
>   doesn't make it true), we have not "resolved" this.
>   Rather, I made the conscious decision to ignore
>   this clause, believing that none of our copyright
>   holder will choose to enforce it.  Sue me.
> * Regarding difficult revision history, you don't see
>   any problems, because "one single set of documentation,
>   if packaged and released together (f.i. gnome-user-docs
>   tarball) requires only one instance of the GFDL to be
>   present and one revision history."
>   This shows that you don't understand what Mallard is.
>   Do not tell me what is best for my project when you
>   clearly don't know what my project entails.  One of
>   the core ideas of Mallard is that a document consists
>   of independent pages, which needn't be all designed
>   together at once, and WHICH NEED NOT BE PACKAGED AND
>   RELEASED TOGETHER.  Pluggable documentation is one
>   of the biggest selling points of Mallard.
> * The GFDL makes a lot of mention of the title page.
>   How can I comply with its restrictions if when my
>   medium has no concept of a title page?
> * The GFDL makes a lot of mention of the publisher.
>   We don't really have one of those.
> * Points K and M automatically make special provisions
>   for sections with certain pre-set names, precluding
>   me from using those names without an explicit grant.
>   Furthermore, they cleverly do this for the English
>   language only.
> * Code samples in a document under the GFDL are not
>   excepted from the GFDL.  This means they can't be
>   used in *any* program, including those licensed
>   under the GPL.  Copyright holders can try to make
>   exceptions, but we're bound to use sloppy language,
>   because we're not lawyers.
> Now, tell me why I should go beg the FSF to make their
> license conform to what I need?  I have absolutely no
> obligation to use licenses produced by the FSF.  None.
> Assume there is a license, call it the MFL, that suits
> my needs perfectly.  Tell me which course of action
> makes more sense: 1) Use the MFL, or 2) Beg the FSF to
> turn the FDL into the MFL.
> Honestly, the FSF knows that a lot of people don't like
> the FDL.  And yet, I've never seen a single statement
> along the lines of "yeah, we'd really like to address
> those problems."  Instead, I see attempts to trivialize
> people's concerns, attempts to tell people what they
> really think (or really should think), and attempts to
> trivialize the people who have concerns (insignificant
> indeed).
> I have a lot of respect for Richard and a lot of respect
> for Eben.  But the FDL does not meet our needs, and we
> have to have a solution that works for us.
> --
> Shaun

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