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Re: REVISED PROPOSAL regarding DFSG 3 and 4, licenses, and modifiable text

On Sat, Dec 01, 2001 at 11:14:37PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> writes:
> > If it's not *Software* then either,
> > 
> > 1) We must treat it as such, or;
> > 2) We have no mandate to deal with it at all.
> We don't need a mandate.  The US Congress is (theoretically) limited
> to the enumerated powers given in the US Constitution, but that's a
> unique case.

Debian Will Remain 100% Free Software 

We promise to keep the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution entirely free
software. As there are many definitions of free software, we include the
guidelines we use to determine if software is "free" below. We will
support our users who develop and run non-free software on Debian, but
we will never make the system depend on an item of non-free software.

> The first clause does not mean "everything in Debian is free
> software"--how could it?

Easily.  It says that very thing.

> We all agree that much that is in Debian is not software.

I don't agree with that interpretation.  "Software" can be a very
slippery term.  I recall a friend of mine from Purdue who asserted that
the only real software is processor microcode -- everything else is just
data files.  To get around these ambiguities, I think it's best that
Clause 1 be read literally.  Debian Will Remain 100% Free Software.
That means Debian consists entirely of software which is Free.

> It says, if you want a literal reading, that all the
> software in Debian is free.  It leaves unstated what the policy is for
> things other than software.

It implies through exclusion that things that aren't Free Software are
not part of Debian.  You could interpret this to either or both of:

1) "Software" which is not "Free" is not part of Debian;
2) that which is not "Software" is not part of Debian.

Because it is *useful* to our users (see clause 4 of the Social
Contract) that we provide things as part of Debian that may not meet
some people's definition of software, like manual pages, we treat these
things as software and permit them into Debian if they are Free.

If you'd rather we adopted interpretation 2) and applied whatever your
definition of "software" happens to be, I'd assert that this would be
too much to the detriment of clause 4 of the Social Contract to be

Rather than having a gigantic footnote to the Social Contract that
defines "software" -- a definition with which many people are certain to
disagree -- we can sidestep the issue by treating everything that is
submitted to Debian as Software, and reserving ourselves to making a
determination as to whether or not it is Free.

The Social Contract does not say: Debian Will Remain 100% Free Software
and Some Other Things That Aren't Software But Which Are Also Free But
Meet a Different Definition Of Free Than That Which Applies to Software,
Plus Some Other Stuff That Isn't Free By Any Stretch Of The Imagination
But Which We Thought Would Be Nice To Have.

> Some such things (for example, the official Debian logo) are quite
> tightly restricted, for reasonable reasons.  

As it happens, I have a pretty expansive installation of Debian, and I
can't find the Official Use Debian logo in any of my packages.  So I'm
afraid I can't see how this point is germane to the discussion.  There
are lots of things in the world that are quite tightly restricted.  As
long as they are not part of the Debian distribution, they are
uncontroverisal under the Social Contract and DFSG.

> But it's becoming clear to me that there are only two people who think
> we even need to worry about this at all.

Who's the other one?

> So I propose that the rest of us simply not bother any further.  Or,
> Branden, perhaps you could write a proposal that isn't you
> more-or-less dictating what the world must be!

Hmm, must have managed to touch a nerve to elicit this burst of
irrationality.  I didn't realize you were confusing me with Jonathan
Swift.  If you're serious, please explain to me:

1) How my proposal's scope is the world/universe, as opposed to an
interpretive guideline for the DFSG; and
2) How it is any more dictatorial in form or content that any other
document, policy, rule, or tool that Debian uses to distinguish one
class of things from another.

Maybe the proposal would be less objectionable if it weren't coming from
me?  (And aj accuses me of having a persecution complex.  With such calm
and reasoned feedback, I can't imagine why.  :) )

G. Branden Robinson                |    I have a truly elegant proof of the
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    above, but it is too long to fit
branden@debian.org                 |    into this .signature file.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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