A sensible plan for non-free
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The Social Contract demands that we support users of non-free software. Debian
has always been grounded in realism and we have always understood that some
organizations may need to use systems on Debian that are not going to be
At the same time it has been clearly identified that non-free files are not
part of Debian. The people that created them refused to license them to the
community and the community has no obligation to do the work of spreading
their non-free software. We have always provided developers and distributors
who had an interest in non-free a way of getting to it but we have always
excluded it from distribution.
Since the time of the Social Contract's inception the growth of broadband and
the Internet has been astonishing. Today we see that the Debian servers are a
major form of distribution for non-free software. Clearly, that is not
Therefore, I propose the following:
Non-free and contrib should stay exactly where they are. They should be in the
current bug system and in every way, from a development point of view, they
should be dealt with in the way that we currently deal with them.
The change I suggest is that the non-free and contrib sections be protected by
certificate authentication. Certificates will be distributed to 3rd parties
who sign up as an official 3rd party distributor of the non-free and contrib
sections. All developers will also be issued a certificate for development
purposes. Beyond these groups no end user will be able to download non-free
or contrib software from a Debian controlled server.
All 3rd party distributors will execute an agreement with Debian indemnifying
Debian against damages that result from their distribution of software
retrieved from Debian servers. It will be up to these organizations to
establish a valid business model for their distributions and to take
responsibility for any legal mishaps that occur because of their actions.
This plan is precisely in line with current 3rd party CD distribution
policies. It simply reorganizes network distribution to follow a structure
similar to the well established physical distribution. Most importantly it
ends Debian's distribution of non-free without adversely impacting current
In the sense that these packages will no longer be available by direct
download I suggest that they be considered to "no longer be in the archive"
and in compliance with Proposal-0008. I also suggest that the legal agreement
drafted for network distribution deal with physical distribution and require
existing 3rd party physical distributors to execute the agreement.
I would like to hear opinions on whether this plan requires a further General
Resolution or whether it could be adopted as a methodology of fulfilling
Proposal-0008 and put into action by the DPL if the DPL is so inclined.
Ean Schuessler, President
Software in the Public Interest, Inc.
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