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Re: Decision GFDL

On Wed, 2003-08-27 at 06:48, Wouter Vanden Hove wrote:
> Hi, 
> Where can I find the actual Debian-decision on the GNU Free
> Documentation License?

Wouter, it is my understanding that Debian interprets the Social
Contract and the Free Software Guidelines based upon consensus that
develops upon debian-legal. This process should not be confused with
100% agreement. Over time a position may become clear as it has in
relation to the GNU FDL.

You should not expect an "actual Debian-decision" unless the consensus
interpretation is challenged by proposing, seconding and voting upon a
General Resolution to change the Social Contract/Free Software

Right now there are implementation issues related to removing GFDL
software from Debian and a claim that some members of the Free Software
Foundation has asked for more time to make the GFDL a free software
licence. Richard Stallman has recently stated on this list that one of
the major issues--invariance--is not negotiable. It is possible (but 
unlikely) that Stallman's dictates could be challenged within the Free
Software Foundation.

I also see a wider context to this issue. The Debian project is now a
very influential organisation and recent events indicate that Richard
Stallman would like to undermine its influence. Even though Richard
Stallman is in the process of becoming a Debian developer he recently
denigrated Debian:

RMS: When I recommend a GNU/Linux distribution, I choose based on
ethical considerations. Today I would recommend GNU/LinEx, the
distribution prepared by the government of Extremadura, because that's
the only installable distribution that consists entirely of free
software. If I knew of more than one such distribution, I would choose
between them based on practical considerations. 

TRB: What about Debian GNU/Linux, which by default does not install any
non-free software?

RMS: Non-free programs are not officially considered "part of Debian",
but Debian does distribute them. The Debian web site describes non-free
programs, and their ftp server distributes them. That's why we don't
have links to their site on www.gnu.org.

[For a while this was patently false:
It is truly extraordinary but the link to Debian GNU/Linux has been
removed! "Updated:  $Date: 2003/08/18 21:42:23 $ $Author: rms $". The
same version is now in Google's cache. Still around 100 links to go (but
I'm pretty sure there were a lot more when I last checked):

GNU/LinEx is better because it does not distribute or recommend those

TRB: How about distributions, such as Mandrake or Red Hat, that keep
non-free software out of their downloadable versions all together?

RMS: I would not rely on that, because I know they have not been very
careful in checking whether packages really are free. 

TRB: Does your desktop run GNU/Linux, and if so, do you run "GNU/LinEx"
or some other distribution?

RMS: I travel most of the time, so I don't have a desktop machine, only
a laptop. It runs Debian GNU/Linux, which was the best distribution in
terms of respecting freedom as of the time we set up the machine. (The
availability of GNU/LinEx is a recent development.) 

TRB: Has the Free Software Foundation ever considered publishing a
complete GNU/Linux distribution?

RMS: We sponsored the development of Debian GNU/Linux back in 1994. 

TRB: Especially with the selection of truly free distributions being
somewhat lacking, why did the Foundation get out of the distribution
development "business"?

RMS: My thinking was that if we made our own modified version of Debian
it would not get much usage, and that developing an entirely new
distribution would be a lot of work and only worth doing with the Hurd. 



Please note that Debian's decision making about the GNU FDL is
definitely not based upon petty personality issues. The consensus
process literally took years. It is a quality, reasoned consensus that
respects Debian's social contract and the DFSG, and overturning it would
require an amendment to Debian's founding principles.


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