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From: Mark Mitchell <mark <at> codesourcery.com>
Subject: GFDL/GPL Issue
Newsgroups: gmane.comp.gcc.devel
Date: Tuesday 1st June 2010 23:31:56 UTC (over 7 years ago)
As I mentioned last week, I've been talking to the SC and RMS about the
issue of automatically generating GFDL'd documentation from GPL'd code.

I will state explicitly up front a few topics I am not raising, because
I do not think they are either necessary, or likely to be productive:

* Whether or not the GFDL is a "free" license, or whether it's a good
license, or anything else about its merits or lack thereof

* Whether we can take things out of the current GFDL manuals and put
them into GPL'd code

The first is immaterial from the limited perspective of trying to figure
out how to make it possible for us to make better (in terms of content)
manuals more easily.  The second issue *is* relevant, in that we might
want to bring some of what's currently in manuals into the code, but I
think it's less important than the question of whether we can
auto-generate manuals from code on a going-forwards basis.  And, it's
simpler to work on one thing at a time.

At this point, RMS has said, answered this question from me:

"Can we take comments (not code) from FSF-owned GPL'd code and process
them in some way that results in them being included in a GFDL'd manual?"

by saying, in part:

"If Texinfo text is included the .h files specifically to be copied into
a manual, it is ok to for you copy that text into a manual and release
the manual under the GFDL."

In context, "you" means "the GCC maintainers" and the permission would
be limited only to changes contributed to the FSF.  This is specifically
not permission for random people to do even this outside the context of
the FSF repository.  RMS acknowledges that this is a problem, but he
says (and I agree) that we would need a GPL license exception to make
this a fully general permission, and he says that will take a long time.

This limited permission might be enough to solve some problems.  For
example, we could write TeXinfo in special comments for hooks, and have
some script that pulled out the comments and generated a TeXinfo
document listing all the hooks.  But, it doesn't help with things more
like Javadoc or Doxygen or Synopsis.  (Disclosure: Stefan Seefeld, one
of my fellow Sourcerers is the lead author of Synopsis.)  These tools
can parse the code, creating cross-references of various kinds, while
also extracting documentation intended for users of the API.

So, my question is this: is the permission above sufficient for what
people want to do at this point?  Or do we need more?  And if we need
more (as I suspect), can we be specific about what toolflow we want to
follow and what content will be generated?  It would help if I could
show RMS inputs and outputs, not just with some random example, but with
GCC itself.  Is someone willing to apply enough effort to produce at
least some fragments of documentation using some method, and document
that method for me, so that I can provide it to RMS.

(An obvious strategy generate these manuals under the GPL, rather than
the GFDL, thereby dodging the issue.  But, RMS does not want GCC having
GPL'd manuals.  Maybe if we show him what we want to do, he will
conclude that GPL'd manuals are an acceptable outcome, and easier than
trying to do license exceptions.)


Mark Mitchell
[email protected]
(650) 331-3385 x713
CD: 4ms