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Re: Draft new DFSG

Ian Jackson <ian@chiark.greenend.org.uk> writes:

> Jim Pick writes ("Re: Draft new DFSG"):
> > Oh no!  Now we are going to have two "standards" for free licenses.
> I have two answers to this:
> Firstly, I think it's important that we, Debian, control our own free
> software guidelines.  I don't think that Bruce and ESR doing things
> which are a bad thing should force us to go along with them.

It's important that we aren't held hostage by an outside party.  On
the other hand, I'm not certain that we really need to maintain an
"iron-fist of control" over the definition that we subscribe to.

I'd be very happy if there was a free software community "standard"
based on the DFSG that was controlled by a standardization process.
This could be a relatively static document that only very occasionally
was amended with input from many groups when practical situations
arise.  Think of the US Constitution or Bill of Rights.  That sort of

Of course, we should retain "executive control" to add additional
restrictions on top of that for our own use.

There's a lot of value to building a consensus that extends far beyond
Debian itself.  Remember, we are only a niche Linux distribution in
terms of market share.  The DFSG has taken on added significance
because Open Source, Red Hat, and many others are using it as a
benchmark.  We lose that as soon as we start tinkering with it.

Of course, this has to be handled delicately.  It's 100% political.
The process should come first.  The current set of self-appointed free
software advocacy gurus don't "cut it" when it comes to the business
of politics.  They are all (yourself included) too principled to guide
the process without trying to bend it.

They're all hackers.  Many hackers have a lot of credibility, but very
few have the political savvy.  Real politicians are extremely
wishy-washy - that's how you build consensus.  Unfortunately, you
can't be wishy-washy when writing code - there are too many decisions
to make.  That's why real hackers are singularily unqualified to guide
the political process.

Imagine RMS running for U.S. President.  :-)

Are you a hacker or a politician?

I think you are a hacker (a compliment, in my eyes) - which explains
why you aren't seeking a consensus beyond Debian itself.  That would
limit your ability to make decisions, which is what hackers do.

> Secondly, I see no problem with there being two standards of freedom.
> It's practically inevitable, in fact, given that Debian are very free
> software oriented and political, and that Open Source is very
> commercially driven and marketing-oriented.

The problem I see is that the "Open Source Definition" and the DFSG
guidelines will be too close together.  The two organizations may have
different views of the world -- but the DFSG was drafted based on
practical considerations.  In practice, the set of guidelines that
each organization needs is almost identical.

Competition with other licensing regimes hasn't been an issue for the
DFSG as of yet, as it doesn't compete with the BSD, GNU copyleft, or
shareware notions of freeness.  It has had it's own ecological niche.

I haven't heard any noises from Bruce or ESR that they are planning to
make significant changes that will distance the OSD from the DFSG.
This means any minute differences between the OSD and DFSG are going
to be debated to death.

In the end, only one set of guidelines will hold sway with the greater
community.  The OSD vs. DFSG debate could last for years, and become
extremely heated.  Look at the heat the KDE/Qt debate has created -
and it's only been a little over a year.

Bruce and ESR are going to try very hard to push the OSD.  They don't
have the street cred that Debian does - but "Open Source" is in
fashion, and they also have the additional advantage that they are
reaching out to a much larger community, and could put in a more
inclusive and open process if pushed.

I do hope that Debian/SPI can eventually patch things up with
Bruce/ESR/OSI.  The current incestuous, distrustful situation that
appears to be driving things is very embarassing to be associated


 - Jim


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