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Re: Credits

Dear Professor Stallman,

I wrote:
>     I read Herr Reiser's article (at newsforge) and have followed the recent
>     discussions about GFDL and GPLv3 with interest. I think that GNU (with
>     the GFDL) and Herr Reiser are headed (IMHO) in the wrong direction.

You wrote in reply:
> What is the direction you think we are headed in?
> Before we have a discussion, let's see if we are discussing a real
> issue.  It could be a mistake.

Here is the direction I think you are headed in:

I believe that GNU with the GFDL is headed for confrontation with the
Debian Community (which forms a big part of the Free software community)
over the issue of "invariant sections".

In more detail.

I believe that the Debian community does share your concerns regarding
proper attributions. That community also (by its actions in many cases)
affirms that the authors wishes regarding the distribution of their
works need to be obeyed *even when* these are not explicitly stated as
part of the *legal* requirement of the accompanying license, but are
implied in accompanying documentation.

I also believe that the Debian community is a reasonably accurate
reflection of the Free software community as a whole; the latter too
respects and responds to author's rights *and* sentiments. There will
be aberrations, but the community does try to correct them when they
come to light.

Thus, I believe that you are headed in the wrong direction by insisting
on "invariant sections" as being a *legally* required component of free

I would suggest that we make this a social obligation. Indeed to
be vigilant, responsive and even critical (if need be) in matters
mis-attribution or mis-direction is an important component of Free
software activity. As you did in the past with Apple (over its suit
regarding the GUI) and more recently (with "Linux" user groups which
don't attribute GNU appropriately), we can attempt to correct, criticise
and finally refuse to co-operate with those who do not act as responsible
members of the Free software community.

I see no reason to make this aspect of our activity a legal obligation.
On the other hand, I do see some harm:

1. The similarlity with the "BSD advertising clause" has already been
   pointed out by many. This perceived inconsistency will do the Free
   Software movement harm.

2. The idea behind the GPL was to enable the software community to free
   itself from legal shackles in order to create freely and co-operatively.
   The "invariant sections" component of the GFDL and the rumoured inclusion
   in the future of an "attribution" clause to the GPL would give priority
   to the legal aspects over the social aspects of the obligations 
   associated with creativity.

As a footnote: In the past, anyone wanting to work on extending some code
could feel assured on legal issues with a "Not-to-worry, its under the GPL."

Given the current brouhaha, I feel that the GFDL with its "invariant sections"
will not inspire the same confidence. Which is sad from the point of view of
(1) and (2) above.

Thanks and regards,

Kapil Paranjape.