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Re: Removal of non-free

On Thu, May 22, 2003 at 01:30:52PM -0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> Bernhard R. Link <blink@informatik.uni-freiburg.de> wrote:
> > I fear there will always be non-free things or things becomming non-free
> > in some way.
> This does not seem to be a reason for keeping the non-free section.

If Debian is going to declare documentation which is freely distributable,
translateable, and can by freely referred to in other works or used as a
basis for derived works, but is non-Free simply because it doesn't allow
for distributing changes to the document itself because they authors
believe that would be harmful (read: RFCs, for at least one example), then
I find at least one clear case of something that is only the barest hair
away from Free, which most of the rest of the world considers Free enough,
but which Debian doesn't - *this* is something that belongs in non-free as
a useful service.

In a very real sense, one of the reasons Debian can do things like take
the stance on the GFDL that it appears to be doing, without losing a
huge number of users over it, is because non-free allows them to still
get at the documentation if they care.

Users who believe in the Debian political goals can avoid it; well and
good, someone writes Free documentation to replace it, all's happy - in
a while.

Users who would rather just have Debian's quality, without the fallout of
details about licenses and whether they're free or Free, can use it and
beware of reusing anything from non-free.

This works well, but if we take away non-free, we're put in a situation
of "well, we don't agree with the FSF, they aren't changing, and nobody
has time to rewrite the Emacs manual, so I guess we'll just drop it
completely". Above and beyond any DFSG questions about serving "Our users",
this would almost certainly cost us more than users - it would also cost
us credibility, by appearing to put political motives (promoting Free
Software) firmly ahead of caring about our users.

Isn't that more or less exactly what some folks have been accusing the FSF
of recently?

Things shouldn't stay in non-free, no. And, personally, there's some freely
distributable stuff that I don't think ever needs to BE in non-free;
especially anything with an even halfway suitable Free replacement.
It might even be worth it to review the contents periodically (rather
than just letting them atrophy) and ask "Is making this exception still
warranted?" - but just dropping it, as noble a goal as it might be, would,
I think, cost Debian more ground than it would gain.
Joel Baker <fenton@debian.org>

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