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Re: Why are these packages in Debian?

(I'm still speaking from my own viewpoint here.  You will find that
Debian is a beast that speaks with many voices :-)

On Mon, Apr 07, 2003 at 09:21:09PM +0200, Nikos wrote:
> You are right, the Bible, or the collected works of Shakespeare, are 
> important pieces for culture. But they have nothing to do in an operating 
> system! 

Debian uses an expanded definition of "operating system".  Lawyers may
argue about whether a web browser is part of an operating system; our
answer is "of course it is".  In fact, we include a dozen web browsers
just to be sure.  We include games, toys, miscellaneous utilities,
programming facilities, document preparation tools -- all things that
may or may not be part of an operating system, depending on who you ask.

We also include a lot of reference works: word lists, dictionaries,
international standards, even a list of airports.  I think the Bible
belongs in that category, simply because it is often quoted (even by
people who have never read it).  The works of Shakespeare enjoy a
similar status in the English-speaking world.  Note that valuing
these as reference works is different from appreciating them as
pieces of culture.

We also include many things of decorative nature, such as artwork
for customizing the user interface.  Even these are part of Debian,
and therefore part of the operating system.  (Debian is defined
as a free operating system.)

This inclusiveness is not written down anywhere, as far as I know.
It just grew out of our mission to promote the use of free software.
Anything that's free can be made more popular by packaging it for
Debian, and in turn, the availability of many packages makes Debian
more useful.  (Sidenote: this is no longer true if packages actually
duplicate each other, because that just adds confusion.)

> Why to privilege one religion or political opinion? How to 
> distinguish "useful" (as David Nusinow said) or useless texts? It's simply 
> impossible.

Developers can decide for themselves what they consider useful, and
they can attempt vigorously to convince one another of the uselessness
of a package.  If no developer considers something useful, then it
doesn't go in.  (Size constraints sometimes keep a package out, too.)

Note that there's one limit to what texts we can include that you
may have missed: only freely licensed texts can be part of Debian.
This rules out the majority of political and religious documents
(including, for example, modern translations of the Bible).

> So you will have to collect lots and lots of books to avoid 
> "Discrimination Against Persons or Groups" (as written in the Debian Free 
> Software Guidelines), and that's not the duty of an operating sytem.

The DFSG is not meant to apply at this level.  The DFSG lists freedoms
that we want our users to have.  We don't necessarily want to use these
freedoms ourselves.  For example, we have the freedom to fork the
development of our packages, but we try to avoid doing that.

Richard Braakman

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