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Re: the presence of GNU FDL-licensed works in sarge

* Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> [2003-08-26 14:34]:
> There appears to be confusion regarding the intended presence of GNU
> FDL-licensed works in sarge.

> I personally see no ambiguity at all in clause one of Social
> Contract on this point; everything that is part of the "Debian
> GNU/Linux Distribution" must be Free Software.  The only exception
> Can you offer the Project your interpretation of clause one of the
> Social Contract?

I agree that all software distributed with Debian must be Free
Software (as defined by the DFSG).  In a more general sense, I also
agree that Debian as a whole must be a free system.  That is, that
those bits and pieces which are distributed with Debian that are not
software (documentation, data) must be "free".  However, it is my
impression that there's currently no unequivocal consensus what it
means for data or documentation to be "free".  I know that -legal has
a fairly clear position on this, but we have seen that others disagree
with this position.  First, Richard Stallman argued that a different
kind of freedom should apply to documentation than to software.
Second, some maintainers faced with bug reports saying that their use
of the Debian logo is non-free have not bought -legal's argumentation.
Please note that in listing those two cases, I'm not taking taking any
sides.  I'm merely showing that more discussion is needed when it
comes to the question of what freedom means in the context of
documentation and data.

However, I'm pretty sure that you want a more committal statement than
this.  So let me clearly state that, yes, I believe the GNU FDL is
very problematic (I also believe the official logo should be replaced
with the open use logo).  At the same time, I've asked the Release
Manager to postpone this issue until after sarge.  I believe that a
hasty removal of GFDL-licensed documentation at this stage would be
very counterproductive.  While the removal would be a small gain in
the short run, it would be a great loss for the whole community in the
log run because it would give us less incentive to get the GFDL
changed and put us in a worse position to do so.

> If you share my interpretation of it, do you feel it is wise for us
> to knowingly and deliberately violate our Social Contract with the
> Free Software community thus?

I think that we have a great responsibility for the whole Free
Software community.  I believe that we have to abide by the Social
Contract, and I think that in addition we have the responsibility to
create more freedom.  We should talk to license authors and try to get
more licenses in line with the DFSG (see one of my recent -legal
postings).  Removing GFDL documents would bring back our freedom, but
it would not actually create any new freedom since the GFDL documents
would still not be free.  I further believe that a temporary loss of
some freedom (i.e. keeping the GFDL documents) is acceptable in order
to gain much more freedom (making the GFDL truly free) -- not just for
us, but for the whole Free Software community.  Of course this belief
is based on the premise that we would be in a worse position to make
the GFDL free if we removed the GFDL documents now.  While this might
not be the case, I believe that it is so, based on various discussions
I have had.  It's a matter of politics and tactics, and my choice
might be wrong; I don't think it is, though.

I think that since the time when you've made your original posting
there has been tremendous progress in the discussions about changing
the GFDL.  A committee has been created to foster a solid discussion
on this matter.  I was very sad to see the heated discussions on
-legal which didn't do any good at all, and I'm very delighted to
finally see a productive discussion on this topic.  The GFDL committee
had it's first conference call a few days ago and I expect a report to
the published soon.  I think this is the way to go, and I'm glad
Debian fulfils its role as the protector and creator of freedom.

And, by the way, while I think that Debian fulfils this role much
better than many other organizations, we have never been perfect
either.  I'd just like to remind you that we had a fair number of
GPLed packages linked against SSL and we even released with those
packages.  However, I don't want to use this example to justify
further violations; I'm also not happy that some people think the
current GFDL discussion might imply that all issues about non-freeness
can be treated as "sarge-ignore".  This is certainly not the case!

Martin Michlmayr

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