[tex-live] License auditing: Consequences

David Kastrup dak at gnu.org
Wed Sep 6 21:57:28 CEST 2006

"Martin Schröder" <martin at oneiros.de> writes:

> 2006/9/6, David Kastrup <dak at gnu.org>:
>> Since Debian does not view documentation separately from software, it
>> is not surprising that they don't consider GFDL free.
> The pdfTeX manual is currently licensed under the GFDL (it seemed a
> good idea then). What are the preferred alternatives? Not GPL or BSD,
> please.

For a basically standalone manual, I still consider this a good choice
and better than most alternatives.  GFDL is more problematic for
something like Emacs, where manual sections are used for interactive
help and frequent code examples and DOC strings are exchanged between
the code and the manual.

This kind of cross-license-threshold maintenance is strictly speaking
only possible for the copyright holder of both the code and the

When a manual is not as tightly integrated with code as that, the GFDL
is not much of a problem.  Debian has recently voted "GFDL with no
front and back cover text and no invariant sections" as "free", so
that is not a problem.

It is inconvenient that this still considers the usual guidelines for
a GNU project documentation, something like one line of front cover
text and two lines of back cover text, unfree (instead of left to the
opinion of the package maintainer).  But that's Debian.

The GPL contains a clause that interactive programs need to announce
some stuff (unless the original didn't either), and I'd consider that
to be in the same ballpark.  Whatever.

I don't think there are many licensed intended predominantly for
documentation.  The advantage GFDL has over the GPL is that it is
feasible to distribute printed copies of the material.  GPLed
documentation does not allow circulation of printed copies without the
corresponding source code, or a written offer to it.

If the documentation is basically not of much interest in printed
form, that might be another option.

Of course, "free for all purposes" is also possible if one does not
mind somebody else putting this into software or hardcover in a form
which is not permitted to be further copied or redistributed.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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