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Re: A sensible plan for non-free

Attached comes my reply to Ean Schuessler <ean@spi-inc.org>, sent by
mistake to debian-devel.

--- Begin Message ---
Ean Schuessler <ean@spi-inc.org> wrote:

> The Social Contract demands that we support users of non-free software.

The Social Contract starts with "Debian Will Remain 100% Free
Software". Basically, any further claim that Debian must contain/support
non-free software is just contradictory with this very first statement.

If the Social Contract is inevitably contradictory, it has no place in
an argument.

The "Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software" could be seen as
contradictory. Someone may claim that "Our Users" wants proprietary
software and so Debian should provide it -- that way, in fact Debian
could completely stop being free software, because I'm sure we could
find user with that desire. But even in this part, it is written "we
will provide an integrated system [...] 100% free software", that
disallow any thought of bringing non-free software under the pretext
of following this part f the contract.

The "Programs That Don't Meet Our Free-Software Standard" parts just
look like an awkward addon to the Social Contract, just a notice of
the failure of the DFSG to describe Debian activities. If the DFSG
does not fit for what Debian want to support/contain, the DFSG must be
changed. But writing DFSG as rules for Debian, on one hand, and saying
it does not totally fit for Debian, on the other hand, just don't make

All this talk is just about saying: "We will provide only THAT
STUFF. We are serious, we will provide only THAT STUFF. But we will
also provide THAT OTHER STUFF because we really need to do it, you
know". It is not a sane modus vivendi. If you think you really need to
provide THAT OTHER STUFF, admit it and stop claiming that you are
providing only THAT STUFF. You can say that providing only THAT STUFF 
is a goal.

This problem is endless because the Social Contract is partly
broken. The GFDL story shows it easily.

This problem is a real pain in the ass, because if you criticize parts
of the Social Contract, you are suspected to be an evil intruder,
someone that have nothing to do with Debian, even if you totally agree
with most of it. 

> 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 Free.

Reality is what people build, it is not a given fact.

I have to refrain myself to use the rude word bullshit to describe
this "realism" argument. This reality you describe would be the
failure of the Debian goal, unable to "support the needs of our users"
in a Free Software spirit, unable to be "The Universal Operating

> At the same time it has been clearly identified that non-free files
>are not part of Debian.

This is a claim. But Debian is a distro, and the main point of a
distro is distributing software and supporting distributed software:
Debian distribute non-free and support non-free...

> 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 
> acceptable.
> 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.

Interesting. So Debian would no longer be a major distributor of
proprietary software but a proprietary software development area.

> 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.

Sure, it is better than a statu quo, but it raises other issues.

Mathieu Roy

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