[Foundation-l] An argument for strong copyleft

Robert Rohde rarohde at gmail.com
Tue Apr 8 02:38:54 UTC 2008

On Mon, Apr 7, 2008 at 7:02 PM, Andrew Whitworth <wknight8111 at gmail.com>

> On Mon, Apr 7, 2008 at 9:40 PM, Robert Rohde <rarohde at gmail.com> wrote:
> >  Point 3 should read: "GFDL document + 'separate and independent
> documents or
> >  works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium' " =
> Non-GFDL
> >  document (aggregate).
> >
> >  Those other two clauses are significant.  Aggregates, as I understand
> them,
> >  are resticted to combinations of documents that are functionally
> independent
> >  and connected merely by proximity in a distribution medium, etc.
> That may be, although I have doubts that "volume" implies
> "functionally independent" here. However, it's a word that's
> ill-defined here and so I have no evidence to cite one way or the
> other.
> >  4) GFDL document augmented by non-GFDL text or images = GFDL document
> >  (derivative).
> >
> >  They way I understand it is basically: If you can remove either work
> without
> >  materially affecting the reader's understanding of the remaining work
> then
> >  it can be an aggregate.  If, on the other hand, the understanding and
> >  appreciation of one work depends on the presense of the other, then the
> >  collective work fails the "separate and independent" test must be
> treated as
> >  a derivative and not as an aggregate.
> No, this cannot possibly be true. For example, let's say you have a
> document, A, that is GFDL. I have a picture, B, over which I maintain
> a non-free copyright. You cannot make document C = A + B, and say that
> C is GFDL, because that violates my copyright on B. You either need to
> invoke fair use, or else C must be an aggregate that does not affect
> the licenses on either A or B. Comparing sizes, just because A > B
> doesn't mean that the copyright for A is more important then the
> copyright on B, or that A's copyright license "wins" because it's more
> substantial.
> Including my image B in a large composite work C that is mostly
> comprised of GFDL text A does not make C a GFDL document. From the
> GFDL itself: "A 'Modified Version' of the Document means any work
> containing the Document or a portion of it". If C = A + B, and C is
> GFDL, then B is a portion of C, and therefore B is GFDL too. However,
> this is impossible, because I hold exclusive non-free copyright over B
> and never released it under the GFDL. C, therefore, cannot be a GFDL
> document because all it's parts are not GFDL documents (unless, again,
> we invoke fair use).

Perhaps I was unclear above.  My implication is that combining GFDL works +
non-GFDL works in a composite inter-dependent document requires being able
to also license the non-GFDL works under the GFDL.  Anything less is a
violation of the GFDL license on the original work.

You seem to follow this implication exactly, except that you reject it.  My
understanding of the GFDL is that it would be a violation of the license to
create composite work C while including unfree image B.  Without obtaining a
free license on image B (or perhaps invoking fair use), the GFDL (as I
understand it) prevents you from tainting free work A by combining it with
unfree image B.  In other words, creating the composite work C would be a
violation of the license you were granted to use A.  So in this case, the
license restrictions on A do "win" since they limit the ways that A may be
combined with other works.

Of course, in general, this may mean you are forbidden from creating C since
it may be impossible to obtain that free license on B.

Is that really so strange?  The GFDL's commitment to free content includes
wanting to ensure that free documents aren't "improved" via the
incorporation of unfree information that might in turn make all future
versions unfree.  All versions of GFDL documents must be built out of free

-Robert Rohde

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