Future licence suggestions (was : License problem in Ubuntu Desktop Guide)

Shaun McCance shaunm at gnome.org
Sat Sep 9 19:35:31 UTC 2006

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

* 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.

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

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.


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