[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: license requirements for a book to be in free section

On Tue, Jan 29, 2002 at 10:15:34AM +0100, Henning Makholm wrote:
> Scripsit Marcus Brinkmann <Marcus.Brinkmann@ruhr-uni-bochum.de>
> > On Mon, Jan 28, 2002 at 06:36:37PM -0600, J.B. Nicholson-Owens wrote:
> > > At the Q&A following his lecture in Chicago on Halloween, 2001, RMS
> > > mentioned a problem he had just found out about at the time--Debian's
> > > different (I believe RMS used the term "weaker" which may be more
> > > appropriate) standard of free software compelled the FSF to make their own
> > > version of -something-.
> > Yes, it is a serious problem for the FSF.
> It would be interesting to know what the exact problem in case is. It
> is well known the RMS does not sympathize with the existence of the
> non-free and contrib parts of the archive - but this has been well
> known indeed for several years now, and cannot be the thing that,
> supposedly, just suddenly turned up during last fall.
> Is there anything new I have missed here?

The short story (which got longer than expected, sorry ;) goes somewhat
like this:  Debian has the DFSG and the interpretation of it, which is
not 100% identical to the FSF position on fres software, although the
differences are small in effect.  We have worked on some of the
differences in the past.  For example, we thought that some LDP
documents are troublesome.  Incidentially, the licenses of all LDP
documents have been sorted out recently (Colin Watson was active at that),
so this item seems to be resolved.  Vim was another example, RMS
reconsidered his position on that (and maybe vim gets a different license as
well).  The last example I know of is Artistic only license perl modules,
which are in main (the artistic license is listed as a free license).  This
issue will hopefully eventually go away with the revised artistic license.

But the lesson to be learned here is that such differences might happen any
time.  This is not a fault by itself.  Debian is entitled to its own
definition of free software, no question about that.  I can think of two
strategies to get both, Debians own stance and a FSF compliant distribution:
1. The internal solution, this would mean to somehow build up a pure FSF
free distribution inside main.  In the most general sense, all changes in
Debian that can support such a pure FSF distribution would fall into this
2. The external solution, this would mean that the FSF builds a distribution
on top of Debian, which would really be mostly identical, with just a few
changes.  For example, some packages might be removed from main for license
reasons.  Some default configuration files might be changed to elide
references to non-free.

I have spent a bit of time (not enough) on the external solution, as I hoped
that this would be the way of least resistance and maximum independence.
It turns out that building such a distribution is not easy.  For example, I
had the idea of a repository in the FSF network which contains the
necessary changes to the Debian repository, and otherwise just references to
the Debian mirrors.  But removing packages reliably seems to be impossible
this way.  If somebody has ideas about this, let me know.

So maybe the best way is a mixture of both: Having some support in Debian
that can be used by the external solution to do its job.  I have not thought
it through yet, not even as far as coming up with some ideas.  Mail me
privately if you are interested in working on this.

The serious problem for the FSF is very easy to understand:  It is not
acceptable for the FSF that Debian decides what goes into the GNU system and
what not.  (Look at it the other way round: I don't think Debian would let
the FSF dictate what is to be considered free for Debian either.)  But my
hope is that we will find easy technical solutions to allow Debian remain
Debian, and yet the FSF to use Debian to provide the GNU distribution.

For example, just to remind everyone, RMS is not asking that Debian removes
non-free and contrib.  However, he requires that someone installing the
GNU system will not have the option to add those to the apt config offered
to him.  So apt would be a good candidate to be replaced with a version of
apt that contains a different sources.list configuration file, as one
example (external solution).  Alternatively, Debian could have a hidden flag
that could be triggered by the FSF that does the same thing without
overriding apt or other packages (internal solution).


`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' Debian http://www.debian.org brinkmd@debian.org
Marcus Brinkmann              GNU    http://www.gnu.org    marcus@gnu.org

Reply to: