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Re: First call for votes for the GFDL position statement

On Sat, Feb 25, 2006 at 05:21:00PM -0600, Debian Project Secretary wrote:
> - - -=-=-=-=-=- Don't Delete Anything Between These Lines =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> 25a628e9-d88e-40b7-8e1c-888cff421ea5
> [   ] Choice 1: GFDL-licensed works are unsuitable for main in all cases
> [   ] Choice 2: GFDL-licensed works without unmodifiable sections are free
> [   ] Choice 3: GFDL-licensed works are compatible with the DFSG [needs 3:1]
> [   ] Choice 4: Further discussion
> - - -=-=-=-=-=- Don't Delete Anything Between These Lines =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Hi all,

Since the way these choices are proposed to you is misleading, I have
to sent this specifying message to you all.

I am the proposer of Choice 3.  According to the Constitution of Debian
a supermajority of 3:1 is required for decisions that change a
Foundation Document (DFSG in particular).  According to the Project
Secretary my proposal changes DFSG and thats why he added the comment
[needs 3:1].

When you vote, please understand, that the whole point of my proposal
is that GFDL is compatible with the current text of DFSG.  That is -
with proper reading of DFSG, GFDL is compatible with our current

Of course, it is possible to include in the voting procedure a choice
that GFDL is a free license and because of that DFSG have to be
corrected.  However my proposal [1] is not that.  I think the text of
my proposal makes completely clear that its whole point is that GFDL
is compatible with the current text of DFSG.

I hope that with this message I have corrected somewhat the procedural
mistake of the Project Secretary so the voting procedure is not
completely compromised.  My proposal is not what the Project Secretary
proposed to you as third choice.

Since many of you have not followed the discussions in debian-vote I
am taking the opportunity to explain some things.

The Project Secretary is the author of the text that was used as a
basis for the proposal in Choice 1.  Of course as a sympathiser of a
position somewhat opposite to my position it comes natural to him to
try to oppose my proposal[2].  Nevertheless during the discussions in
debian-vote he made some statements that make me think very seriously
whether he is ruling conscientiously his office as Project Secretary
and whether he is taking illegally advantage of his position.  As an
illustration, please read the following quotation:

>        Thankfully, Debian is not a democracy. We may vote on some
>    issues, but that does not mean we are a democratically run
>    organisation. The powers of various offices is spelled out in the
>    constitution.
>        In this specific case, I am not going to let the spectre of
>    democracy spur me into doing something I consider wrong. In a true
>    democracy, I would either do what my constituency required even if
>    I thought it wrong, or resign.  In Debian, I am permitted to do
>    what I think is right, in as unbiased a manner as I can, until I
>    am removed from my post.

Let me explain in short why according to me the reading of DFSG that
makes GFDL a free license is more than a possible reading -- it is the
only reasonable reading.

The third rule of DFSG says: "The license must allow modifications and
derived works".  At first sight it seams that "must allow
modifications" means that the license must allow us to make arbitrary
modifications.  As a matter of fact this interpretation is impossible
because according to it even GPL would be a non-free license (please
refer to my proposal for an explanation).

With the help of Richard Stallman I could propose an interpretation of
DFSG that explains what the words "must allow modifications" should
mean [3].  In debian-vote I asked the supporters of the other choices
to explain what their interpretation of DFSG is.  So far nobody could
tell another reasonable interpretation of DFSG that makes GPL a free
license.  This is why I am still considering my interpretation of DFSG
as the only possible interpretation.

Of course an alternative opinion is also possible - the opinion that
GPL is a non-free license that contradicts the rules of DFSG and the
only reason we accept it as a free license is that DFSG explicitly
lists GPL as a free license.  It is somewhat strange, but there are
Debian developers that hold this position.  One of them is our Project
Secretary.  Please read the following quotation:

>        So, the DFSG are what they say they are -- guidelines. However,
>    some licenses were deemed by the project to be de-facto free, even
>    if they do contravene some of the guidelines, hence explicitly
>    naming the GPL and the bsd licenses. The naming them specifically
>    removes the requirement that they meet all the guidelines.
>        But this does not automatically mean that the dispensation
>    offered to the GPL automatically extends to any other license --
>    we would need to list any licenses like that explicitly, or modify
>    the guidelines to not conflict.

While you are deciding how to vote, please think for a moment what is
your personal interpretation of the words "must allow modifications".
Please make sure that we are not pushing Debian onto the slippery path
that makes Debian divorce the free software community by rejecting
many licenses (besides GFDL) that the free software community has
always and will always accept as free licenses.

Anton Zinoviev

[1] The following is my proposal:

[2] When Adeodato proposed Choice 2 the Project Secretary insisted for
quiet a long time that Choice 2 requires supermajority.  It is not
completely clear what made him yield his position.

[3] http://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2006/02/msg00128.html
Please notice that this interpretation of DFSG is not part of
my proposal in the current voting procedure.

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