Permission to use portions of the recent GNU Emacs Manual
Robert J. Chassell
bob at rattlesnake.com
Sat Dec 11 21:03:49 EST 2004
What is the purpose of the GFDL?
The prime purpose of the GFDL is to encourage more publishers to
provide commercial, free documentation.
Publishers have told me that they are afraid that without some kind of
legal obligation to publish a few words on the front and back covers
they will be ripped off by free riders. Were they to invest in
gathering people's attention, others would benefit. So they did not
invest in providing commercial, free documentation.
The strategy may be wrong. Businesses may not compete with one
another. They may not care whether they lose revenue to free riders
and others. But I do not think so. (Indeed, most of the free works I
see nowadays in commercial publications are under more restrictive
`Creative Commons' licenses, so there is an argument that the GFDL is
not restrictive enough.)
>From my knowledge, many businessmen fear that other businessmen will
compete, one way or the other. For example, a long time ago Tim
O'Reilly told me that he believed that powerful people in Macmillan
hoped to destroy his publishing house before it became well
established. Perhaps he was delusional. Or perhaps he was correct.
I think he was more likely correct than wrong. In any event, others
have said the same.
The GFDL is designed to reduce the benefits to free riders. That is
its prime purpose. (It has secondary purposes, too, like enabling
people to write personal introductions that legally will remain
invariant.) As I said, there is short term evidence that the GFDL is
insufficiently restrictive; but I do not see how it could be made more
restrictive and still be free in any meaningful sense.
It is not pleasant to live in a world where good guys are hurt by bad
guys, but that the way the world is.
Robert J. Chassell
bob at rattlesnake.com GnuPG Key ID: 004B4AC8
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