Linux Today: Linux News On Internet Time.

Info-GNU: Richard Stallman: New Documentation License--Comments Requested

Sep 14, 1999, 16:55 (20 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Richard Stallman)

Richard Stallman writes:

I am working on a new license to use for GNU documentation. Here is a draft of it. Please don't use it yet; I have not finished checking it. But please do give me constructive comments for improving the details of it. I can make use of them to improve version 1.0.

GNU Free Documentation License Version 0.9


The GNU Free Documentation License is a form of copyleft designed for books, such as reference manuals and tutorials. We designed it in order to use it for documentation about free software, but it can be used regardless of the subject matter. It can also apply to textual works that are not released in book form. It gives users the right to copy, redistribute and modify the work, just as users have the right to copy, redistribute and modify free software.


This License applies to any manual or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the terms of this License. The "Manual", below, refers to any such manual or work. Any member of the public is a licensee, and is addressed as "you".

A "Modified Version" of the Manual means any work containing the Manual or a portion of it, either copied verbatim or with modifications and/or translated into another language.

The "Invariant Sections" are certain appendices or front-matter sections of the Manual, which deal exclusively with nontechnical matters (such as the political views, histories or legal positions of the authors), and whose titles are listed as Invariant Sections in the notice saying that the Manual is released under this license.

The "Front-Cover Texts" are certain short passages of text are listed as Front-Cover Texts or Back-Cover Texts in the notice saying that the Manual is released under this license.

A "Transparent" copy of the Manual means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public, in which the text may be viewed straightforwardly with ordinary text editors, and which is suitable for input to text formatters or for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input to text formatters. Examples of suitable formats for transparent copies include Texinfo input format, LaTeX input format, SGML, and standard-conforming HTML. A copy that is not "Transparent" is called "Opaque".

The "Title Page" means, for a printed book, the title page; for works in other formats where there is no title page as such, it means the text near the most prominent mention of the work's title, preceding the beginning of the body of the text.


You may copy and distribute the Manual, in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this license is reproduced in all copies, and you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this license. You may accept compensation in exchange for copies, but you may not technically obstruct the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute.

You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.

It is requested, but not required, that you give the authors of the Manual thirty days (or more) advance notice of your plans to redistribute any large number of copies, to give them a chance to provide you with an updated version of the Manual.


If you publish or distribute printed copies of the Manual numbering more than 100, and the Manual's license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: Front-Cover Texts on the front cover, and Back-Cover Texts on the back cover. If the required texts for either cover are too voluminous to fit legibly, put the first ones listed (as many as fit reasonably) on the actual cover, and continue the rest onto adjacent pages.

If you publish or distribute Opaque copies of the Manual numbering more than 100, you must state in or with each copy a publicly accessible computer network location containing a Transparent copy of the Manual, no more and no less, which the general network-using public has access to download at no charge. You must take reasonably prudent steps, when you begin distribution of Opaque copies in quantity, to ensure that this Transparent copy will remain thus accessible at the stated location until at least six months after you last distribute an Opaque copy.


You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Manual under the conditions of section 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified Version under precisely this license, with the Modified Version filling the role of the Manual, thus licensing use of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:

A. Mention the Manual's title on the Title Page. B. Add something to the title, or a subtitle, stating that the version has been modified, and distinguishing it from the Manual you started with. C. Mention on the Title Page at least one name of a person or entity responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified Version and/or publication of the Modified version, and describe that entity's relationship to the Modified Version. D. Retain on the Title Page or its continuation the authors' and publishers' names listed on the Manual's Title Page. E. Preserve all the copyright notices of the Manual. F. Add an appropriate copyright notice for your own work. G. Include after them a notice stating giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the terms of this license, in the form shown in the Addendum below. H. Preserve in that notice the full list of Invariant Sections, and the full list of required Cover Texts, given in Manual's notice. I. Include an unaltered copy of this license. J. Preserve the network location, if any, given in the Manual for public access to a Transparent copy of the Manual, and likewise those network locations given in the Manual for any earlier versions it was based on. K. If the Manual has an Acknowledgements and/or Dedications section, preserve therein all the substance of each of the contributor acknowledgements and/or dedications stated therein. L. Preserve all the Invariant Sections of the Manual, unaltered in text and in their titles.

If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections (or appendices) which deal exclusively with nontechnical matters, and contain no material copied from the Manual, you may at your option add the section titles of any or all of these sections to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified Version.

You may add up to five words of Front-Cover Text and up to 25 words of Back-Cover Text to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version.

The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Manual do not by this license give permission to use their names for publicity or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version.


You may combine the Manual with other manuals released under this license, under the terms of section 3 above as for modified versions, provided that you include all of the Invariant Sections of all of the original manuals, unmodified, in the combination, and list them all as Invariant Sections in your combined work.

The combined work need only contain one copy of this license, and multiple identical Invariant Sections may be replaced with a single copy. If there are multiple Invariant Sections with the same name but different contents, make the title of each such section unique by adding at the end, in parentheses, the name of the original author or publisher of that section if known, otherwise the name of an author or publisher of the manual that section came from; and make the same adjustment in the list of Invariant Sections in the license of the combined work.


A compilation of the Manual or its derivatives with other separate and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, does not as a whole count as a Modified Version of the Manual, provided no compilation copyright is claimed for the compilation. In such a case, this license does not apply to the other self-contained works thus compiled with the Manual, if they are not derivative works of the Manual.


Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you can distribute translations of the manual under the terms of section 4. This implies that translation of the Invariant Sections requires special permission from their copyright holders. You may include a translation of this license provided that you also include this license in the original English version. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the English version of this license, the English version will prevail.


You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Manual except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Manual is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.

9. ADDENDUM: How to use this license for your manuals

To use this license in a manual you have written, put the following notice on the page after the title page:

Copyright (c) YEAR YOUR NAME. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this manual under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.0 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation, with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and Back-Cover Texts being LIST. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License"

If you have no Invariant Sections, write "with no Invariant Sections" instead. If you have no Front-Cover Texts, write "no Front-Cover Texts" instead of "Front-Cover Texts being LIST". Likewise for Back-Cover Texts.