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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free, Draft 2

On Wed, Jun 07, 2000 at 11:02:41AM +0200, Peter Makholm wrote:
> John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org> writes:
> > A. That the Debian Social Contract with the Free Software Community be
> > amended as follows:
> I do not like this resolution.

You are entitled to that position, unfortunately your analysis is

> For one thing, making it possible to change the Social contract is
> effectivily making it means void.

This is completely illogical.  Changing a thing is not the same thing as
voiding a thing.  More specifically, and by analogy, modifying the terms of
your apartment lease doesn't mean the lease is void.  The Social Contract
delcares itself to be a contract.  Contracts have terms.  Terms can be
changed.  Should we be careful about changing them?  Absolutely?  Is all
change destructive?  I don't think so, and I challenge you to prove the

> Next time a change will probally
> means more support of non-free things and it will have this as
> precedense that changes of the social contract is legal.

This is speculation; you cite no foundation for this and it is not
apparently to me given the prevailing winds within the project.
It is "possible" that the social contract will be changed to require all
developers to wear GNU T-Shirts.  But how likely is that?

> In this way no-one outside Debian can depend on that the social contract
> will remain as supportive of the free software community as it is now.

I submit that your premise is invalid, therefore your conclusion does not
follow.  Is it possible to change the Social Contract in a way that
explicitly asserts and implements GREATER support for the free software

> That this proposal is in conflict with the present Social Contract
> should be obvious.

In general, when one has a governing document, and one wishes to accomplish
something that is not construed as permitted within the terms of that
document, one either abandons the effort, changes the nature of the
government, or amends the governing document.

John was completely frank about the fact that his proposal was one to amend
the Social Contract, therefore it is difficult to see what purpose your
remark serves.

> The question is the Constitution above the Social
> Contract or is the Social Contract above the Constitution? I'm sure
> this has been discussed but my memory doesn't serve me well and it
> could have been before I became developer.

If you voted for the consitution, or have read it, you should know the
answer to this question:

4. The Developers by way of General Resolution or election

  4.1. Powers
    5. Issue nontechnical policy documents and statements.
       These include documents describing the goals of the project, its
       relationship with other free software entities, and nontechnical
       policies such as the free software licence terms that Debian
       software must meet.
       They may also include position statements about issues of the day.

So, is the Social Contract a "nontechnical policy document" or "statement"
which describes "the goals of the project" or "its relationship with other
free software entities"?

Given the wording of this part of the consitution it appears to me that the
developers are specifically empowered to amend or replace the documents we
currently know as the Social Contract and DFSG.

> We don't support free software by denying that non-free software
> exists.

No one has proposed that we deny that free software exists.

> We're supporting free software by showing that free software
> is better and more usable than non-free software in fair combat.

This is by no means a universal opinion.  This may be the position of
people roughly affiliated with the "Eric Raymond" school of thought on free
software/open source, but Debian developers are by no means required to toe
this line as part and parcel of their status as developers.

Some people just think free software is cool.  Yet others believe that free
software possesses inherent value by virtue of its freeness, and is thus
desirable over non-free software.

> The point is that we should make it easy to use free software not hard to
> use non-free software and by denying the existence of non-free software
> we making it hard for people to start using free software.

No one is saying that we should make non-free software hard to use.  Even
if the GR was passed there is no reason to believe that, after a
transitional period, it would be any harder to retrieve and install the
same non-free software packages that currently exist.  Of course, some
volunteer effort is going to be necessary to realize this state of affairs.
But that is true of almost everything Debian developers do.

> Marrally I don't see any difference between complete packages and
> installers. Can you explain the differeence to me?

I will leave this question to others.

> We have at least 100 people thinking that some non-DFSG software is
> worth supporting. Not that this is argumenting one way or another.

And no one is forbidding them from supporting it.  The same people may
continue to do so if the GR is passed, doing so with non-Debian
infrastructural resources.

G. Branden Robinson            |     A committee is a life form with six or
Debian GNU/Linux               |     more legs and no brain.
branden@ecn.purdue.edu         |     -- Robert Heinlein
roger.ecn.purdue.edu/~branden/ |

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