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Re: [Proposal] Updating the Social Contract

On Mon, Jan 12, 2004 at 09:15:01PM -0500, Raul Miller wrote:
> > > |     We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of programs
> > > |     that don't conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines.  We
> > > |     support interoperability standards such as "Linux System Base", and
> > > |     will accept bug reports where our system violates those standards.
> > > =     To make our system more attractive to people with mild dependencies
> > > =     on non-free software, we have created "contrib" and "non-free" areas
> > > =     in our internet archive.  The software in these directories is not
> > > =     needed by most people, and we do not guarantee all software in the
> > > =     non-free area may be distributed in other ways.  Thus, although
> > > =     we're working to reduce people's dependence on non-free software,
> > > =     we support users who are still dependent.  Additionally, we will
> > > |     work to provide free alternatives to non-free software so people who
> > > |     use only free software can work with users of non-free software.
> > > |
> > > 
<small snip>
> > 
> > I'm planning on following Andrew M.A. Cater's suggestion, and will be
> > extracting the content of the lines marked above with = as a part of
> > the rationale for the proposal.  [Those lines won't go into the social
> > contract except for the last two words of the last "=" line.]
> > 
> Hmm..  if I carry out Andrew Cater's suggetion , I would entirely get
> rid of mention of our existing support for non-free.
> I do want to mention non-free, because getting rid of it is Andrew's
> proposal, not mine.
> I definitely need to update my proposal (Linux Standard Base is what LSB
> stands for), but I'm less certain that pulling out the non-free section
> stuff is the right thing to do.
> Andrew Cater -- could you explain a bit more about why you thought
> getting rid of that content was a good idea?  I mean, I understand
> what you're saying in a glib sense, but not when I sit back and
> think about it.

Andrew S. wants to remove clause 5 and to state that Debian will not
release another stable release with the non-free FTP archive, as I 
understand it.  He also has suggestions for editing the DFSG. OK.

I'm looking for a via media here.


1. The language of the Social Contract and the DFSG does not, in and of 
itself, impose an open ended obligation for the Debian Project to 
maintain a non-free archive on its servers.  It also states, clearly
and on its face, that Debian is 100% free software and that contrib and 
non-free are not part of Debian.  

2. The DFSG are Guidelines.  They don't have the force of law.  
Following them, however, has produced unequivocally free software
[and interminable healthy debates on debian-legal :) ].

3. Much of the rest of the world couldn't give a fig for the DFSG -
some other distributions will package anything - but some folk will
listen (as on the KDE QT/GPL issue) and a fully free Debian project may 
act as the free software conscience and prick others into action to change 
licences etc. :)



I am for a 100% free software Debian, but not at all costs: alienating 
users and the wider free software community can't help anyone - being 
known as "Debian the licence fascists who won't include Pine/the NVidia 
drivers" is bad enough, even if the reasons are justifiable :( 

We can hope that, like the State, the need for non-free will one day 
wither away :) but we may need to work pragmatically.  
Some people _need_ non-free packages, others only prefer them: until the 
documentation/GFDL issue gets sorted out one way or the other, much of our 
documentation is axiomatically non-free :( 

Non-free is not, however, permanent and we should consider licence 
clarifications, seeking changes and all the other good stuff to minimise 
its contents.  If we can't distribute (the acroread case) we should 
delete the non-free package, for example, and show our Project as being 
made up of responsible folk who take licences seriously.

As aj has also emphasised, neither proposal sorts out contrib. 
in any way :(

There are pros and cons to any way of looking at Debian

If we say "look at the 3 DVD's worth / 13000 packages / 1100 maintainers 
worth of fully free software, fully covered by the DFSG - that's the 
Debian distribution which is the largest and contains the most packages" 
- that's correct and a credit to us.  [For comparison, 1.3 was two CD's 
of binaries and one of source IIRC :)]  

If we say "you'll have to go to the vendor for every non-free package" - 
some new users will stay, others will give up when their NVIdia doesn't 
work in Debian but does in Fedora.  If we adopt a real-world approach that 
people may use some non-free packages - but that we'll minimise their number 
and continue to spread the reasons why non-free software (not simply 
non-DFSG-free software) is bad for users and the free software movement 
- we may get further in convincing hearts and minds.

I think it is still important to emphasise that Debian is inclusionary, 
not exclusionary and is concerned with real users and the real world.  
We_do_ make it possible for non-DFSG-free software to run readily on the
basis of the Debian system, we don't normally pillory people for using
/maintaining non-free software.  


By deleting the stuff in the middle and keeping the remainder:

There is an emphasis that we (Debian Project) will allow people to 
continue to use non-free software if they wish. [We won't deliberately 
manoeuevre the Debian packaging system to exclude all non-DFSG free / 
handicap the computer / delete their non-free packages with a sneaky 
shell script ... :) ]

There is an emphasis that Debian will be interoperable with the LSB.  
Big for commercial purposes: potentially less important for a sole user 
but, on the other hand, we're playing as part of a wider community.

There is an emphasis that we carry on working to reduce the numbers of 
non-DFSG packages and the amount of non-DFSG-free software.



The drug dependency metaphors and the statement that non-free software 
isn't needed by most people don't add much and may detract from the 
overall effect of clarity.  They also add significant length.


[Unexpected testimonial: some users at work wanted Icon - to work on 
a project started some years ago - and were absolutely amazed when
I told them it was on my Debian system out of the box.  No commercial
distribution would consider Icon worthwhile today, I'd imagine - but
Debian gets the job done straightaway :) ]


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