Re: Proposed: Debian's Five Freedoms for Free Works
Branden Robinson <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> I personally have advocated a fifth freedom:
> 5) The freedom to retain privacy in one's person, effects, and data,
> including, but not limited to, all Works in one's possession and one's
> own changes to Works written by others.
> I need to work on the wording of this fifth freedom a bit to make it
> clear that it is fair for a person to whom Free Software is distributed to
> demand access to the source code, including the source code to any
> changes or improvements made by the person from whom one is receiving
> the software. The point is that my usage of your Free Software does not
> entitle you to access to or any rights in my improvements to your
> software unless I distribute the Software back to you specifically.
I added a phrase to the end that I think addresses these concerns:
5) The freedom to retain privacy in one's person, effects, and data,
including, but not limited to, all Works in one's possession and
one's own changes to Works written by others, except as these
changes or Works are willfully shared.
To those who would argue that this is redundant because it is implicit
that the right to privacy can be waived: It is necessary to clarify,
as Branden Robinson suggested above, that the right to privacy may be
de facto abridged by engaging in distribution. Otherwise licenses like
the GPL, which can compel distribution of source to *everyone* who
requests it if you commerically distribute a binary-only copy to
*anyone*, would come into conflict with the definition. But, as
Branden also said, its important not to open the barn door to required
universal distribution under normal circumstances.
To those who would argue that the wording isn't blunt enough: In
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the applicable definition of
the conjuction "as" is: "in accordance with what or the way in which."
Thus, the end of the fifth freedom could be paraphrased "except in
accordance with the way in which these changes and Works are willfully
shared." In the same dictionary, "willful" means this: "done
deliberately: intentional." Note that by willfully distributing a
GPL-licensed program one agrees to the compelled-distribution clause
because it is, to use my proposed wording, in accordance with the way
in which these changes and works are willfully shared. Similarly, one
agrees to whatever requirements to offer source code an acceptable
To those who would argue the addition is tacky or obtrusive: I don't
think it's either of those things, and it's certainly more attractive
than potential alternatives that speak of "waiving [the] freedom" or
"complying with requirements" or "refusing to distribute." Moreover it
has the three qualities that are important in a document like a
defintion of free software: it is short, it is directly comprehended,
and it is firm in meaning.
As others have pointed out, making a Debian list of free software
freedoms, with one freedom more than GNU's list, would be a bit
confusing and a bit untidy, but hardly enough so to rule out the idea.
I think that the most compelling reason to add privacy to the list is
to clarify that Debian holds the right to make private modifications
or anonymous public modifications to software in as high a regard as
the other freedoms; I consider as simply a handy fringe benefit that
the statement would also condemn so-called spyware. As others have
pointed out, spyware can be viewed as simply flawed -- and the other
freedoms facilitate fixing the flaws. And privacy as a human right is,
I think, too political and nonspecific to the project for an official
stance to be warranted.
To Branden: Do you have plans to try to add such a document to the Web
site's statements of policy? What procedural hurdles stand in the way
of doing so? (I'm new to Debian, so please forgive my lack
sophistication about the project's inner workings.)
Gregory K. Johnson