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General Resolution: Removing non-free

Good evening,

This is a formal call for sponsers for the below proposed Debian
General Resolution in accordance with section 4.2 of the Debian

Debian General Resolution


A. That the Debian Social Contract with the Free Software Community be
amended as follows:

  1. That mentions of non-free be stricken from Section 5, and text be
  inserted, the remainder to read: "We acknowledge that some of our
  users require the use of programs that don't conform to the Debian
  Free Software Guidelines.  Our contrib area may help with this

  2. That Section 1 be amended such that the final sentence reads: "We
  will support our users who develop and run non-free software on
  Debian, but we will neither make the system depend upon nor distribute
  an item of non-free software.  Debian may continue to distribute
  non-free software previously distributed via its FTP site prior to the
  woody distribution."

B. That the non-free section be removed from woody on all Debian
archives, and that all packages so placed there in accordance with the
definition in Policy section 2.1.4 be removed from the Distribution.
The introduction into Debian of any package meeting the non-free
definition in Policy section 2.1.4, or failing the Debian Free
Software Guidelines, shall be permanently banned.

C. That the maintainer of the Debian Policy Manual, or an appointee of
the Debian Project Leader, be directed to update that manual
respective of the changes to the Project and general Project policy
detailed in sections A and B above.

D. That the maintainers of the Debian Archive and website, or an
appointee of the Debian Project Leader, be directed to implement the
changes to the Debian Archive and website to reflect the changes to
Debian enacted by the foregoing clauses in this Resolution.

--------  end of Resolution --------


Any one of the following should at least justify the examination of
the issue.

1. Non-free software is no longer an essential or standard part of a
typical installation.

Whereas at one time, most everyone used non-free software such as
Netscape for web browsing, acroread for PDF reading, or xv for graphic
viewing, there are quality free replacements for all of these
programs.  Therefore, the rationale of "we need non-free for usable
standard system" no longer applies.

There has been some discussion about whether mozilla is ready for
prime time right now.  The point can be argued.  However, let me put
forth the following observations: 1) it will almost certainly be ready
by the time woody is released (in about 2 years, of the potato time is
any guide); and 2) using one program to justify the continued support
of all current non-free programs is a weak argument at best.

2. Supporting non-free software gives nothing back to the Free
Software community.

The contract is supposed to be one between us and the Free Software
community.  Supporting a non-free section in no way supports Free
Software or its community.

3. Supporting non-free software gives nothing to Debian.

At one time, one may have argued that we needed to support a non-free
section in order to have a complete and coherent system.  As discussed
in #1, this requirement does not today exist.

4. This clause was never debated when the Social Contract was created.

At least I cannot find evidence of much discussion on it in the
sketchy archives of e-mail at that time that exist today.  It appears
that Bruce put it in out of his own occord and nobody cared to discuss
the point.  Probably because at the time, it was just assumed that
this clause was necessary because of the state of affairs back then.
Today, with the benefit of the "20/20 hindsight", we can look back and
say that promising to support non-free indefinately was short-sighted
and probably ill-advised -- although we could not see it at the time.
I maintain that neither Project inertia, nor previous
short-sightedness, nor tradition, nor complacency are valid reasons
for continuing this obsolete policy.

5. The existance of the non-free section is being used as a cop-out by
those that seek to peddle non-free wares.

That the continued existance of this section lends credibitility and a
distribution channel to those that would seek to undermine our Free
Software distribution, or to act as leeches upon it, is a shortcoming
in our current policy.

6. Most importantly: it's the right thing to do, morally.

'Nuff said.

John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org>                       www.complete.org
Sr. Software Developer, Progeny Linux Systems, Inc.    www.progenylinux.com
#include <std_disclaimer.h>                     <jgoerzen@progenylinux.com>

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