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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Boris Veytsman <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 16 Jul 2002 19:52:09 -0400
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (83 lines)

I apologize for butting in in the ongoing discussion. Moreover, I am
neither a lawyer nor a LaTeX3 team member (a couple of my programs are
in the distribution,  both under GPL and LPPL). Nevertheless I hope
that my thoughts might be of use.

I am a Debian and LaTeX user, so the present misunderstanding between
Debian and LaTeX3 concerns me a lot.

I think Debian team overlooks a couple of points.

1. Debian already uses software other than LaTeX under the "no changes
   unless the files are renamed" clause. This is Don Knuth's TeX and
   MF suite *and* the relevant fonts. Let me remind you that the
   licensing of TeX is rather peculiar:

   A. The program itself is in the public domain -- you can do
   whatever you want with the code or its parts

   B. The *name* TeX is reserved for Knuth's program. If you program
   is called TeX, it must satisfy triptest. You can NOT correct bugs
   in this program, you cannot do Debian QA for it -- you either take
   it as is or rename it.

   The same is going for Knuth's Computer Modern fonts. You can do
   whatever you want with the lettershapes -- as long as you do not
   call your product CM.

   If Debian wants to declare (and presumably delete from the main
   distribution) the software under this license, it would be
   hypocrisy to keep TeX and fonts. I wonder whether people realize
   that this means a complete disaster for the GNU info system? GNU
   info is prepared with a program called texinfo, which is basically
   a special TeX format.

2. Debian people seem not to realize that LaTeX (and TeX) is BOTH a
   program and a language -- and a language requires
   standardization. The nightmare of incompatible HTML dialects proves
   this point well. Yes, standards limit freedom in some way. However,
   do you really want your grocer to have a freedom to call 800g a

   As a LaTeX user I have two requirements:

   A. Standardization. I want a LaTeX document to be compiled and
   printed exactly in the same way at my desk, at my publisher's desk,
   at my student's computers etc UNLESS I or students or publishers
   want otherwise.

   B. Flexibility. I want a possibility to completely change
   appearance of any document I received -- IF I WANT IT.

   The present state of LaTeX satisfies these requirements. Due to
   LPPL I am assured that my documents will look exactly the same if
   their source code is unchanged. Due to the fact that LaTeX is a
   macro language, I can redefine ANY command in any document.

   Suppose a user is near blind and wants all documents to be printed
   in a big fontsize. He can create a program (in latexese called
   style) bigsize.sty and add to all his documents a line
   \usepackage{bigsize}. By doing this he makes a decision about
   document formatting. He is free to do this under LPPL. On the other
   hand, the authors of the documents know that the formatting of
   their works is exactly same UNLESS a user made an explicit decision
   to change.

To summarize: I think LPPL strikes a necessary balance between
standardization and flexibility. This balance was tested by 20+ years
of TeX, which is licensed under exactly same conditions.

Good luck


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