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Re: General Resolution: Removing non-free

[sent to -project instead of -devel]

On Sat, Jun 10, 2000 at 03:15:50PM +0200, Marek Habersack wrote:
> ** On Jun 10, Jeff Licquia scribbled:

> > *I* am not ready to make any guarantees.  Most of that isn't software
> > I use.

> That you don't use those packages doesn't make them unnecessary.

It makes it unnecessary for me.

> From
> non-free I use only Netscape, but it still doesn't make the software
> unnecessary, does it?

How necessary is it if you don't use it?

> Saying "I don't use it, so I don't give a damn" isn't
> a way of thinking a person responsible, even partly, for such important
> thing as an Operating System of any kind should present.

However, that is precisely how Debian is run - for both free and
non-free software.

Availability of software in either place is dependent on a maintainer
who cares about it enough to package and maintain it.  When a package
is orphaned, no one runs around and threatens anyone else or crows
about their moral duties; either it gets adopted and stays, or it
atrophies until it gets too many bugs and is removed.

> In the long run
> what a developer uses or doesn't use has no importance whatsover to the user
> of the operating system in question - distributions and operating systems
> exist becouse of, and for their users. One might call a developer a "public
> servant" in that respect - it's the audience, it's the users who demand
> software, who have needs. The developer's responsibility lies in provinding
> the users with what they need.

This is getting awfully close again to that non-sequitur that Debian
is "morally obligated" to provide non-free software, or that any one
developer is so obligated.

It's true that, once a developer commits to maintaining a package,
that they had better darn well maintain it.  But if no one will
maintain, say, Netscape, the cries of the user community are
irrelevant; it will not be maintained, and no one can force it to be

> Therefore I'll just repeat what I said before
> - until we can replace all the non-free software with equally good and
> functional, free counterparts, until that time we have *no* moral right of
> taking it away from the users (and this includes full support for the
> software in relation to the operating system we represent).

We are not debating taking a single piece of software away from our
users; rather, we are debating whether to stop giving it out.  Users
who have already received a working copy will not be affected.

If you buy a meal for a bum, are you now obligated to feed him for the
rest of his life?

> Perfect. I just hope that politics won't be put before the needs of the
> Debian users. See point 4 of the Social Contract. Users are mentioned there
> BEFORE software... That wording means something as well, in my book at
> least...

"Politics" is already put before the needs of the users.  We don't
distribute non-free as a part of main, and we don't hold up releasing
Debian because of non-free RC bugs.  What technical reason is there?
Does it help our users to cut, say, Netscape for RC bugs (should this
happen), when we could likely hold up the release to allow Netscape to
fix them?

There are greater moral imperatives than the wants of our userbase.

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