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Re: Why the GR is not necessary

> Date:    Fri, 09 Jun 2000 16:01:24 -0000
> To:      Jim Lynch <jim@laney.edu>
> cc:      Craig Sanders <cas@taz.net.au>, debian-devel@lists.debian.org
> From:    Dale Scheetz <dwarf@polaris.net>
> Subject: Re: Why the GR is not necessary 
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> On Fri, 9 Jun 2000, Jim Lynch wrote:
> > Hi,
> > 
> > Please don't take this as a compromise, because I'm not compromising. 
> > 
> > I'm suggesting we do this in -addition- to the GR.
> > 
> > (remember my position: I do not agree to any reference to non-free in
> > the social contract. none at all.)
> Every member of Debian is required to agree with both The Social Contract
> and the DFSG.

And yet I do not.
> You would not be accepted if you went through the new-maintainer process
> with that attitude.

If you want me out because I do not support non-free software, start 
mounting the effort: I won't leave cleanly, quietly or willingly.
> Look, there are a lot of things about the way Debian works that I don't
> like, but I'm willing to admit that it works well enough that my efforts
> aren't squandered and I can feel like a contributer to the cause.

Agreed, on all but this point. I still intend to contribute. I do not
intend to support non-free software if I were the last debian developer
on earth.

> The Social Contract is just that: an agreement between the members of
> Debian and our potential user base, detailing what we will provide. It is
> a contract that I and most of the Developers agreed to by vote, making us
> the Signators of the document along with BP. I consider this contract
> binding, and every user that downloads Debian packages is "signing" on to
> the contract.

NO. The social contract is between debian and the free-software community.

And I suspect the other party agrees with me.

> A contract has two parties, each party must agree before the contract
> may be changed.

Before you comment further, let's ask members of the free-software community,
the other party to the social contract.

> This resolution seeks to make changes in that agreement
> (changes I do not agree with because they exclude, rather than include)

Again, NO. They do not exclude, the effect is to move, should non-free
supporters wish to house it.

> without any recognition that there is another interested party. 

This is tedious... but: the other interested party is the free software

> From what
> I have seen of "user" comments most are opposed. Just how many will go to
> another distro isn't clear, and certainly doesn't concern many developers.
> (although there is sure a lot of crowing whenever Debian wins a poll or
> award, so we obviously care at some level)

I'd like to see debian getting an award from someone like the FSF.

> I submit that The Social Contract can not be changed in this fashion.

You could be right, we'd have to ask the other party to it, and that is



> While the Constitution provides means for creating new documentation about
> Debian goals, it does not provide any means to change principles that were
> agreed to before the Constitution even existed, and speaks not at all the
> issue of contract re-negotiations.

That probably needs to change. It's an oversight.

> I can appreciate that there are those of you who would wish for a more
> rigid rule about the evil non-free, but I suggest that as long as Debian
> remains Debian you will have to put up with that perceived inconvenience.

Ahh, is that you crowing now? :)

> I will always vote a resounding NO when asked to make Debian more closed.
> This proposal is squarely aimed at removing what I consider to be an
> important principle of the Debian distribution. 

I disagree, I find non-free software useful but not important.

I further find whatever importance remains declining as free alternatives

> Inclusion of software with
> "minor" distribution restrictions provides functionality that would
> otherwise be missing. Warning the user that they should check the license
> of non-free packages to see if the restrictions apply to their use is also
> reasonable behavior.

If I were to compromise, I might suggest that the social contract should
do more to encourage education about free software and therefore use
thereof. It's possible I might accept a policy that says an item of non-free
software can and will be dropped when a suitable free alternative is found
or created.

> The idea that this software is somehow morally reprehensible is pure FUD
> and I for one am tired of hearing this dull tune.

If there were no RMS, there would be no debian, I think we both know that.

Microsoft, xerox or apple could just take what existed and run with it
as though theirs and sue disagreers to a pulp.

I agree that the software itself is not morally reprehensible, but the
aforementioned actions are.

> The idea that The Social Contract and the DFSG are somehow unfinished
> and still need tweaking is also FUD.

The future of debian is in the hands of the children. You do realize that,
do you not? They must be allowed to deal with it as they will, and purity
of freedom doesn't seem to be a bad legacy to hand over to them.

> Any current members who disagree with the DFSG or The Social Contract as
> loudly as I have heard some declare, would be summarily rejected from the
> current new maintainer process. I suggest that if you really feel that
> Debian, through its Social Contract and DFSG, is morally wrong, you should
> re-evaluate your expectations as a Debian developer and possibly find some
> other place to contribute to the free software community.

Again... take your best shot :) see above.

> This is not the first time a group have attacked this clause. I regret
> that it will probably not be the last. But what is most hippocritical is
> that we require that new maintainers agree with both The Social Contract
> and the DFSG at the same time some of us are struggling mightily to change
> that very contract! 

I do agree with the DFSG and at this point most of the social contract.

However, and as stated, I reject the other part. I will not be held
accountable for non-free software.

One reason for that is I can see instances where someone might think
he/she can force me to maintain an item of non-free software due to
the social contract. I'll probably respond by saying "you port it and
then you maintain it (I will not sponsor it), or you contact the authors 
and have them free it. Then if I have time, I'll look into it. I've read
the GPL and I think I understand it; other licenses looked upon with 
relative prejudice."

> So let's stop trying to describe this clause in the
> contract as "morally bankrupt" and try to appreciate just what the clause
> is for and why it _should_ be there. I suspect that is too much to ask.

I suspect you're right. I also suspect most of us agree more than disagree.

Straw poll: how many of the non-free supporters have read the GPL? How
many understand how software patents restrict what you can write about?

I think those who have not read this or do not understand that should
research both subjects, maybe before commenting further.


Jim Lynch       Finger for pgp key
as Laney College CIS admin:  jim@laney.edu   http://www.laney.edu/~jim/
as Debian developer:         jwl@debian.org  http://www.debian.org/~jwl/

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