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Re: [Discussioni] OSD && DFSG convergence

On Tue, 2003-01-28 at 00:49, Russell Nelson wrote:
> Mark Rafn writes:
>  > I _DO_ object to changing it's use to be a binding definition
>  > rather than a set of guidelines.
> This seems to be a sticking point with a lot of people.

Perhaps that sticking point comes from the Social Contract:

1.  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.

We consider the force of the DFSG to arise from this clause of the
Social Contract; indeed, we don't even distribute the DFSG except as an
appendix to the SC.  If you will, the SC is the document that binds us
to the DFSG.  And, as you can see, the SC describes the DFSG as
"guidelines we use to determine if software is 'free'".  Debian is still
responsible for making the determination.

By contrast, your site contains the following:

8.  Once we are assured that the license conforms to the Open Source
Definition and has received thorough discussion on license-discuss or by
other reviewers, and there are no remaining issues that we judge
significant, we will notify you that the license has been approved, copy
it to our website, and add it to the list below.

By your own admission, your document is a "definition".  I don't think
it's a stretch to consider it an authoritative definition, as grants of
rights to your trademarks are conditioned exclusively to conformance in
licensing to the OSD.

It's probably true that a court could be asked to arbitrate conformance
to the DFSG or the OSD equally.  In your case, however, proving
compliance with the OSD in court would cause an automatic trademark
license grant, as well as reason for believing that your refusal to
grant such a license was capricious and actionable.  By contrast,
proving compliance with the DFSG only proves that Debian *may* include a
given piece of software, not that Debian *must*.

>   Essentially,
> everyone seems to be defending their right to arbitrarily exclude
> software from Debian.  But that is a right you don't have.  

I beg to differ.

We have already refused to distribute quite a bit of software as a part
of Debian, despite the fact that the applicable licenses are DFSG-free. 
The 'contrib' and 'experimental' archives are full of such software.

> If you
> think that you have arbitrarily excluded software, think back on why
> you have been successful in doing so.  Undoubtedly you pointed to the
> DFSG or to case law, or else you made a new precedent.  But when you
> make a new precedent, you have to say exactly why, and justify it.
> Well... what is wrong with amending the DFSG so it incorporates the
> case law?  Because it's hard?  Shit, coding is *hard* and we do it
> anyway.  Because you think people will reject the change?  But the
> change has already taken effect operationally.  It seems to me rather
> that the membership would *want* to change the DFSG, if only so as to
> keep the subset of Debian which is debian-legal in check.

There are certainly good reasons to amend the DFSG, and I agree with you
that we should work out our differences on the procedural matters.

I don't believe that "case law" should be eliminated in favor of some
kind of authoritative document, however, just as I don't believe it
necessary to amend the US Constitution for every change in the law,
either through case law or by act of Congress.  Amending the DFSG should
be a rare and noteworthy event, done only after careful consideration of
the implications and the alternatives.

If we amend the DFSG to contain the entirety of case law, wouldn't the
DFSG itself become arbitrary and contradictory, just as case law is
now?  It seems to me that the rigidity of the DFSG (which it would still
retain to a lesser extent than it does now) would then become a
drawback, rather than a strength, as it would take an act of Congress
(figuratively) to get anything done.
Jeff Licquia <licquia@debian.org>

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