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Re: Non-free section

[ Please don't Cc: me when replying to my message on a mailing list. ]

Marek Michalkiewicz:
> > I'd only like this if the packages were clearly identified as being 
> > non-free in dselect (and other front-ends).  Mixing proprietary packages 
> > in with non-proprietary packages should only be done with some fore-thought
> , 
> > otherwise the user will end up with a proprietary system.  :-(
> What is wrong with this?  Most of the non-free packages have some kind
> of distribution restrictions, but it is not illegal to use them.

It matters a great deal, both philosophically and practically.
On the one hand, the Linux phenomenon is based on (and is
somewhat a result of) the belief that software should be free
(freedom, not price), and not making a clear distinction between
free and non-free software makes it difficult for people to
use only free software.  Even if they don't necessarily mind
installing non-free software, they should be aware of it when
they do.

(If you wish to discuss whether software should be free or not,
please do it elsewhere, not on debian-devel.)

On the other hand, non-free software is more difficult to
support.  We might not have the source code, or we might not
be allowed to fix or enhance the program even if we do. Not
making this clear to users is bad, bordering on dishonest.
When we put something in the main distribution, we assume more
responsibility for support than otherwise.

That the main Debian distribution is and should always be free,
and that non-free parts should be clearly separated, is quite
axiomatic to the project. Changing this would change the whole
character of Debian.

> Besides, the definition of non-free (or proprietary) is a matter of
> policy, the country you are in (US software patents), etc.

Of course it is. If you move to a country that doesn't have any
laws about intellectual property, everything is free. Debian,
however, needs to deal with laws in civilized countries (and
the US :), and also attempts to honor the wishes of the authors,
even when those wishes are not legally binding.

>  - relaxing the policy a little (for example, not making otherwise
>    free packages non-free just because they depend on a non-free
>    package, example: auto-pgp, mailcrypt, premail depend on pgp),

No, that should not be done. The main Debian distribution should be
idempotent -- everything in it should work without having to install
other stuff.

>  - moving the distribution out of the US - I am still hoping that it
>    will happen someday, maybe even before the LZW patent expires :),

That doesn't matter to the non-free issue.

>  - asking the upstream maintainers for permission (it already worked
>    for a few packages, which are no longer in non-free),

Many authors do not wish to release their software as freeware.
That is OK. Debian can't then properly support it, and we make
it clear to everyone by putting it into non-free.

>  - checking the packages more carefully (giftrans is free - it doesn't
>    do any LZW compression, just changes a few values in the GIF header
>    and copies all the compressed data unchanged).

Right. Also, using lesstif instead of Motif to compile, as soon as
lesstif works well enough.

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Please don't Cc: me when replying to my message on a mailing list.

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