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Re: Debian UK

* Matthew Garrett (mgarrett@chiark.greenend.org.uk) wrote:
> Stephen Frost <sfrost@snowman.net> wrote:
> > #2 and #5 work fine together also but shouldn't be done under
> > something claiming close ties to Debian.  
> Right, and there's some amount of contention on this point, which I
> think is the main issue that we should be considering. I think part of
> the problem is that "commercial" has connotations of "Red Hat like
> organisation", which gives an immediate "no" reaction.

For this part it's a misunderstanding of what "commercial" means.  I
tried to work past this in the thread on d-d where I brought up the
possibility of Debian being a commercial organization and it was made
quite clear to me (by Manoj, if memory serves, sorry if I'm wrong) that
there was no such misunderstanding about the term.  It was understood
that commercial != for-profit and that it was being commercial at all
which was the problem.

> It's somewhat worth pointing out that Mark has something of a reputation

Not relevant and so not worth commenting on.  Honestly, I wish these
constant attempts to assign blame for this situation would just stop.  
I'm not trying to blame anyone.

> > Personally, I think Debian/SPI should be
> > selling things but I respect that the apparent majority disagrees with
> > me on that.  Certainly if Debian/SPI isn't going to do it then
> > Debian/SPI in other countries shouldn't either.  That's what
> > Debian-UK comes across to me as- the UK branch of Debian.  It seems
> > you'd like for it to be percieved that way as well.  It's not if it's
> > selling things.
> Simply using the argument "Debian's legal entity doesn't sell things,
> therefore no closely associated entity should sell things either" isn't
> very convincing - it's more worthwhile to look at /why/ SPI doesn't
> engage in any commercial activities. The usual arguments seem to be:

It's worthwhile to attempt to convince Debian at large to become a
commercial entity.  This didn't seem terribly likely to happen when I
brought it up last but perhaps it's time for another go at it.

I do still feel that whichever way Debian decides should be understood,
accepted, and followed for Debian branches in other countries.  I also
feel that a name like 'Debian UK' should be reserved, by trademark law
if necessary, for such Debian branches who then have to report directly
to the DPL, etc.  I also feel that things like booths which are
sponsored by others for Debian should follow the decision.

To some extent I don't think SPI really enters into this too much.  If
Debian wanted to go commercial but SPI didn't then Debian could find
another organization similar to SPI but was commercial.  If it's not
legally possible to have a commercial non-profit (I don't believe that's
the case...) then that might be a problem.  In the end I think that if
Debian decided to go commercial that SPI would follow.

> a) It impairs donations (we've seen no sign at all of this happening in
> the UK)

I've certainly heard concerns that the policy of some universities where
we have hosting/mirrors is that such donations must be to a
non-commercial entity.  It's possible other donations of hardware and
hosting from businesses would also have this issue.

I don't believe the imperical evidence you've seen outlines very well
the implications of Debian officially deciding to be a commercial
entity.  It seems very likely to me that most places which donate 
hosting and hardware view Debian as a non-commercial entity (based on 
what we claim on our website and what the DDs they communicate with 
quite possibly believe).  In order to judge the impact of changing to a
commercial organization I believe we'd need to contact these donars and
get their reaction to this change.  It's possible they wouldn't care but
I don't believe we can draw that conclusion from what Debian-UK has seen
at expos.

> b) It impairs competition (the leading Linux CD manufacturers in the UK
> supply us with the CDs that get sold, and certainly don't seem to be
> complaining)

Certainly it's likely to impair competition.  We are benefitted by being
able to claim that it's Debian selling the products, and also that all
proceeds will go back to Debian.  It's certainly possible that CD
manufacturers don't care but I don't believe that's an indication that
it doesn't impair competition.

Now, personally, I don't particularly mind if it impairs competition...
I believe that in the end if we're able to sustain Debian,
infrastructure at least, from the donations and commercial sales that
it'd be a good thing for Debian.  I certainly feel we should continue to
be a non-profit though and continue to work in the public interest.

> c) It's Just Wrong (which is a bit difficult to argue against)

These are good arguments for why Debian should be commercial.  That
doesn't mean that Debian has decided to be commercial and while we
continue to advertise that we're non-commercial entities which are
closely tied to Debian and use the Debian mark should also be

> But, as is so often the case, it's hard to know why the current
> situation has arisen. I guess the real question that we should be
> dealing with is:

I don't think it's hard to know why the current situation has arisen...
Some folks believe, as I do, that it'd be alright for Debian to be a
commercial entity, and they then decided to just do it.  It's
unfortunate they didn't first get Debian/SPI to agree with them.  If
they had then we wouldn't be having this discussion.

> Is it inappropriate for an organisation that is closely linked to Debian
> and which uses the Debian name to engage in any form of commercial
> activity? Does the answer to this depend on whether it's for profit or
> not?

I believe the answer to the first is directly dependent on what Debian
itself chooses to do.  Perhaps that's wrong, in which case I'd like to
be the first to ask for the 'Debian-US' submark.  Of course, then I'd
also want to be able to show up at the Debian booths at the expos in the
US and sell things.  If the requirment is that I be non-profit, that's
fine, and I can donate back to Debian whatever profits I make.  It seems
awfully silly that we'd go through all the effort of setting up such an
organization when we already have SPI though...



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