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Re: GFDL and documentation freedom

On May 16, 2007, Rahul Sundaram <sundaram fedoraproject org> wrote:

> Documentation with invariant sections deprive us of the freedom to
> remove content that isn't applicable,

Since it's most often non-technical, I'm not sure it can be said to be
not applicable.

> Consider the case of software with comments that can't be
> removed.

You don't even have to make it theoretical.  Pretty much every file I
look at starts with:

/* Something about this particular file
   Copyright (C) YYYY, YYYY, YYYY... Free Software Foundation, Inc.

This file is part of GCC.

GCC is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
the Free Software Foundation; either version 2, or (at your option)
any later version.

GCC is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
along with GCC; see the file COPYING.  If not, write to
the Free Software Foundation, 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor,
Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA.  */

> Sure it doesn't affect functionality but it can be outdated,
> misleading etc.

This doesn't seem to be a problem for the same kinds of uses intended
for Invariant Sections in the GFDL.

> Now consider that such comments are what form documentation.

Making the documentation portion invariant would be a very stupid
thing to do.

> Bad invariant sections can definitely be harmful.

No dispute about that.

So, instead of ruling out documents with invariant sections just
because some invariant sections could be harmful, how about ruling out
documents with invariant sections that *are* harmful?

As in, instead of banning software because some software can be
harmful (e.g., non-Free Software), how about banning only software
that is actually harmful?

E.g., if you ever find a piece of actual documentation in an invariant
section, you have grounds to push the entire piece of documentation
out.  But as long as the documentation serves its purpose as such, and
any invariant sections present are serving their intended purpose,
leave it alone, otherwise you'll be throwing the baby out along with
the bath water, and for what purpose?

It's not like properly-used invariant sections can possibly harm the
freedom to use, study, modify or share the documentation proper.  It
most often isn't even a small obstacle to any of these freedoms.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
FSF Latin America Board Member         http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}

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