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Re: DFSG and fonts [was: Bug#91856: Hello]

On Tue, Apr 03, 2001 at 05:53:52PM +0200, Juliusz Chroboczek wrote:
> As you can imagine, the inclusion of the Lucidux fonts into the
> XFree86 source tree didn't go without a fair amount of hesitation.

It's not my intent to imply that XFree86's decision was either incorrect,
or flawed in process.


> We finally came to the conclusion that there is only one issue that
> was not negociable for Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes -- the issue of
> artistic integrity of the fonts.  We did, of course, try to argue that
> people typically do not make gratuitious modifications to Free
> software, and that the Free software community has, with a few
> exceptions, been pretty good at filtering out broken versions of
> software.  Chuck was not willing to risk it.

There are lots of ways to preserve artistic integrity.  It's perfectly
compatible with the DFSG to, for instance, require that modified versions
change the name of the relevant (font|executable|data file), to include a
disclaimer in the copyright info about the software's modified status, etc.

Forbidding modification entirely (or forbidding redistribution of modified
versions), however, is pretty clearly against the spirit and letter of the

> We concluded that the main reason why we insist on the right to modify
> software is the need to maintain it.  After carefully checking the
> technical, as opposed to artistic, quality of the Lucidux fonts (it is
> excellent, thanks to Y&Y), we agreed that there is no reason
> whatsoever why we should need to modify them in the foreseeable
> future, and decided to include these fonts in our tree.

I'm not trying to claim that the fonts aren't lovely and useful.  That
isn't the issue.  The philosophical tenets at issue are whether freedom to
modify what is installed one's computer is valuable in and of itself, and
whether being able to share my modification with my friends, family,
co-workers, etc. is a value.

Underlying the DFSG is the notion that these are important values.  Debian
does not insist that everyone else in the world share them, or prioritize
them as highly as we do.  They are, however, very high priorities for our

> I believe that Chuck's attitude in the matter is typical of that of
> most font designers.  Thus, I am firmly convinced that as Free
> Software becomes better known in the font design community, we will
> receive donations of more high-quality fonts, and that these are
> likely to come under terms similar to those of the B&H Lucidux
> licence.  Thus, I would be very keen on seeing a carefully-written
> exception for fonts included in the DFSG.

It would be irresponsible of me to reject such a thing before I see its
exact wording, but given your description of what you'd like to see, I
don't think I'd be able to stand in support of it as a Debian developer.

> As you can see, the arguments above are of a purely pragmatic and
> technical nature (as typical of XFree86).  I am not sufficiently
> familiar with the Debian project to understand whether you wish to be
> guided by considerations of this sort, or whether ideological
> considerations are more important.

Perhaps I've gotten into too many arguments on issues like this before, but
this sounds like a false alternative.

One look at the Debian Policy Manual will tell you that we are extremely
cognizant of pragmatic and technical matters; we are constantly working to
ensure that Debian packages are highly cooperative with each other and
well-integrated, and we have made many efforts over the years to construct
infrastructure that permits them to be so.

The very fact that Debian has a couple of ideological documents does not,
in my opinion, serve to render everyone in the Project an ideologue.  (That
said, we certainly have our share of ideologues, but so does XFree86; they
exist in every group of significant size.)

> We've been doing so for almost two years now, and thankfully both of
> us have managed to keep it on polite terms.  It goes without saying
> that I defer to your opinion in all matters related to Debian
> packaging of X, even where I disagree with your opinions.

Modifying the DFSG is a very difficult process, requiring a substantial
supermajority.  It hasn't ever yet been done.  Furthermore, unfortunately,
some people in the Project argue vigorously that the Constitution
unambigiously permits it, some argue that the Constitution unambigiously
forbids, it, and some argue that the Constitution is ambiguous on this

Nevertheless, I don't want to attempt to restrain you from persuading the
Debian Project to adopt your point of view on this issue.  I don't at
present recall if you are a Debian Developer; if not, you cannot submit a
General Resolution, which is how we handle proposals of this sort.

However, I suggest you formulate the wording you would like to see, join
the debian-project mailing list, see if you can recruit some backing for
your position, and (if you are not a Debian Developer) locate someone who
is willing to submit it as a General Resolution, at which time it can be
handled on the debian-vote list.

G. Branden Robinson             |
Debian GNU/Linux                |     The software said it required Windows
branden@debian.org              |     3.1 or better, so I installed Linux.
http://www.debian.org/~branden/ |

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