Permission to use portions of the recent GNU Emacs Manual
acm at muc.de
Sat Dec 11 05:27:39 EST 2004
Hi, Richard and Ben,
On Fri, 10 Dec 2004, Richard Stallman wrote:
> The GNU Emacs user's manual has changed its license to the GFDL.
> The XEmacs manual has a different license -- the GPL. Because of
> contributions from various parties, we cannot easily change our
>Too bad. I won't relicense such a large amount of material all
There is irony in that sentence.
>If you show me specific parts you would like to use, I will consider
I'm speaking as somebody who's put a significant amount of time into
amending the Emacs manual (e.g. programs.texi). I did so under the
impression that what I was amending was free, in the same sense that
the Emacs Lisp that I contribute is free.
Some time later, my attention was drawn to the details of the GFDL.
Anybody wishing to use the contents of a GFD is obliged to copy the cover
sheets of the original. This restriction seems analogous to one that,
say, allows functions to be used for decoding a compressed graphic but
not for encoding one.
What is the purpose of the GFDL? I quote from the licence: "The purpose
of this License is to make a manual .... "free" in the sense of
freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and
redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or
noncommercially." Since the XEmacs team's freedom here is ineffective,
the GFDL is, on its own terms, broken.
I do not understand why the GFDL exists at all. It seems to me that the
GPL is as adequate for manuals as it is for code. I also don't
understand why the Emacs Manual's licence had to be changed - a prime
effect of this change was to annul people's freedom to combine old bits
of the manual with new bits.
My feeling is that this is just not the way things should be in the free
software community. Put bluntly, having made contributions to the Emacs
manual, I feel duped. Yes, the GFDL conforms to the terms of the
assignment papers I signed, but I don't think I should have to wave the
small print past a lawyer before signing this sort of thing.
Do I really want to make any more contributions to the Emacs manual?
That's not just a rhetorical question.
Richard, the GFDL is broken. Please get it fixed, in a way which will
restore the XEmacs team's freedom to copy and modify the Emacs manual.
Alan Mackenzie (Munich, Germany)
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