Respect for Upstream Authors and Snippets of Interest
First of all, I would like to publicly thank RMS for engaging in a
sustained and illuminating conversation on this list. He has been
confronted with an outrageously low signal-to-noise ratio. The
thoughtful and well-reasoned messages have been buried in a mass of
counterproductive picayune harping on terminology and word choice,
ad-homenim arguments, insultingly-phrased demands, and even outright
insults. Reading such a mass of text is quite a burden; more so when
it is mostly crap; and particularly burdensome when the crap attacks
the reader personally and unfairly. Despite this, some sensible
dialog and useful exchange of views has occurred.
In a recent message to this list, RMS mentioned that people had stated
that Debian would remove all non-modifiable but removable text from
> According to Don Armstrong, a non-modifiable text cannot under any
> circumstances be considered DFSG-free, so it would have to be removed
> from the manual. Others have (it appears) said the same thing.
> Having seen a lot of rigid dogmatism here recently, I can hardly
> expect Debian not to be rigidly dogmatic on this issue too.
Based on long-standing Debian tradition and practice, this is
decidedly and demonstrably not the case! Don and others were perhaps
writing in haste.
Debian has a longstanding practice of respect for upstream authors.
For instance, if the author of a GPLed program includes a statement in
a README "please if you like this program I'd very much appreciate it
if you sent me $10", we do not remove such a statement. We even
include offers by the author to sell the right to include the code in
a proprietary program. To my knowledge, in all the many thousands of
packages in Debian, such statements have never been removed! Even
though Debian might find such an offer repulsive, we respect our
upstream authors enough to include them.
Another example of this sort of respect is our treatment of code
obtained under a dual license. Debian has, to my knowledge, never
redistributed code that was given to us under a dual license under
just one of those licenses. This is the case even when we consider
the other license quite abhorrent! Nor have we relicensed weakly
licensed code (eg programs from the Free BSDs) under the GPL. Nor
have we released LGPLed code under the GPL. Debian could do these
things, but out of respect for our upstream authors we don't.
As a last example, many source tarballs include "snippets", defined as
*** BY MY DEFINITION:
*** A "snippet" is a file in a source tarball which:
*** - merely accompanies and is not an integral part of the source
*** - is non-functional (not code, not documentation, not needed for build)
*** - is usually of historic, humorous, or prurient interest
*** - is removable
*** - is usually not itself modifiable, eg "may redistribute verbatim"
*** (Good examples of such snippets are historic or humorous emails
*** and usenet posts, political essays, jokes, and the like.)
To my knowledge Debian has not only never removed a snippet from the
source we distribute, but includes such snippets in the binaries,
typically in ...-doc.deb. One example of this is GNU Emacs, which
includes a bunch of such snippets, all of which are included---right
now---in /usr/share/emacs/21.2/etc/. All of them are removable: sex.6
(which is of questionable taste), GNU, CENSORSHIP (which is dated into
such irrelevance that its inclusion is arguably embarrassing),
LINUX-GNU (whose first sentence misleadingly reads "The GNU project
started 12 years ago"), COOKIES (whose relevance, copyright status,
and humor value is unclear), etc. Rob Browning, who packages GNU
Emacs for Debian, could remove all of these snippets, or could go
through and remove only some of them. But he doesn't, and I daresay
I'd be quite shocked if he ever did.
Debian does require the *right* to remove such snippets. And if there
were an unacceptable snippets (racist screeds say, or SCO lawsuit
apologist tracts, or libelous text) we would probably exercise that
right. To my knowledge, this has never occurred.
People who say that such snippets have no place in Debian, and
constitute violations of the DFSG, are attempting to impose a very
"foolish consistency". And Jan Schumacher's statement:
> A /non-modifiable/ text could not be included in Debian, a
> /modifiable/ one would most likely be.
is a load of hooey. Inclusion of snippets is not a violation of the
DFSG. Such an overly-literal interpretation of the rules is precisely
why we call them D-F-S-***GUIDELINES***! Because we use common sense
in their application.