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[bug-gnulib] Re: references to POSIX

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: [bug-gnulib] Re: references to POSIX
Date: Mon, 30 May 2005 17:28:12 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.1006 (Gnus v5.10.6) Emacs/21.4 (gnu/linux)

Bruno Haible <address@hidden> writes:

>> I'm reluctant to put URLs like that in the code or documentation,
>> since they mutate too rapidly with time.  For example, they changed
>> last year.
> Huh? The URL for stdint.h that we put into stdint_.h in June 2002 still works
> fine now. What has changed?

I'm afraid it's a long story, and it's a bit more complicated than I
let on....

To start with, the URL in stdint_.h is out of date; it should be
The old URL still works because it's redirected to the new one, but it
should really get updated in stdint_.h (which would be a maintenance
hassle if this sort of thing becomes common), and as far as I know
there's no official policy by the Open Group to support redirects like
that -- they just happen to work sometimes.

Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that the Open Group's
copyright policy officially is still that one is supposed to register
before reading Open Group specification online; see
<http://www.unix.org/version3/online.html>.  In other words, when
gnulib's source code contains URLs to some page within the
specification, we are suggesting to readers to bypass registration and
thus disregard the Open Group's request.  I suspect the reason for
those long numbers like 009695399 in their URLs is because they want
to encourage people to follow their official policy.

Now it's one thing to disregard their request in email, which is meant
to be ephemeral and to some extent might be argued is meant to be
between people who've all registered.  It's another thing to disregard
their request in source code, which is intended to be permanent.  For
obvious reasons the GNU project has been very careful to respect the
copyright law, no matter how silly the rules are, and I'm afraid that
absolute links bypassing a registration may be a bit over the edge.

One way to fix this would be to get a statement from the Open Group
saying that it's OK for us to link to individual pages of their spec.
Even better would be a "permanent" link to the latest version of the
spec, whatever that happens to be.  I suspect that these two issues
are related.

However, this brings up a more important issue: the GNU coding
standards say, "A GNU package should not refer the user to any
non-free documentation for free software."  Unless I'm missing
something, the Open Group's work is not "free documentation" in the
GNU sense.  Please see <http://www.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/terms.htm>
for the gory details.  If my understanding is correct, gnulib
shouldn't have URLs to the Open Group's web site, at least for the
purpose of documenting free software.

Getting this fixed would require a revision of the GNU coding
standards, a change of the Open Group's terms for reproducing their
documentation, or both.

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