Non-free documentation in the Erlang distribution

David Hopwood <>
Mon Jun 5 16:26:04 CEST 2006


Roger Price wrote:
> [...] but the IETF have a "free" copyright policy, and RFC 3015 
> http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3015.txt contains the statement:
> 
> Cuervo, et al.              Standards Track                   [Page 178]
> RFC 3015              Megaco Protocol Version 1.0          November 2000
> 
> Full Copyright Statement
> 
>    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000).  All Rights Reserved.
> 
>    This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
>    others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
>    or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
>    and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
>    kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
>    included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
>    document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
>    the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
>    Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
>    developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
>    copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
>    followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than
>    English.
> 
>    The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
>    revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.
> 
> It seems to me that if a packager takes file rfc3015.txt from the IETF, 
> its "free", and may be redistributed.

The clause that the bug reporters are complaining about is the "However,
this document itself may not be modified in any way ... except ..." part.
See <http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=199810>.

As pointed out by a respondant to that bug, the GPL "LICENSE" file has
such a clause:

 Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
     59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307  USA
 Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
 of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

and so we arrive at the absurd result that all GPL-licensed packages are
"non-free", if the policy is to be interpreted so strictly.

It is clearly the DFSG policy that is broken, or at least poorly expressed.

-- 
David Hopwood <>





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