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Debian's job is not to help people at the World's Fair

On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 08:54:40PM +0000, Jurij Smakov wrote:

> > This is precisely my problem, it comes across as a statement from
> > Debian, when in fact it is the voice of a few people (who seem to
> > have little idea about HR and running a business). This is why
> > I replied on -jobs, because Debian does *not* have any policy
> > preventing or allowing job offers with age restrictions.

> You are correct, we don't have such a policy in place. However, one of
> our foundation documents (which I'm reasonably proud of) claims that 
> we will not accept any software with license which discriminates 
> "against any person or group of persons" into the distribution. Yes, 
> it's a stretch, because we can be fairly sure that people (as opposed 
> to firmware :-) are not software, and they don't have a license. I, 
> however, have a difficulty understanding the mindset of people who 
> can, at the same time, stand behind these principles, and be 
> comfortable with what looks to me as a clear-cut example of unfair 
> age discrimination (thanks to Ben for suggesting the correct wording).

I don't condone age discrimination in hiring practices, but I also object to
all instances of the fallacy "the DFSG says we don't accept software
licenses that discriminate, therefore it's also wrong to discriminate
against $foo".

First, the only requirement for Debian developers is that you agree to
uphold the principles of the DFSG/SC *in your work in Debian*.  There is no
requirement that you internalize these principles as your personal
philosophy, even in terms of the "right" way to develop a free OS.  I don't
doubt that among our thousand-plus developers, we would find at least some
who wouldn't mind it if Debian included software whose license discriminated
against particular persons or groups... as long as the persons or groups
discriminated against are ones that *they* don't like.

Second, even if you accept that the DFSG is the right way to go about
licensing an OS, you may believe this for entirely pragmatic reasons: e.g.,
you believe being inclusive and neutral wrt your userbase increases the
market for the OS and the pool of developers and therefore makes Debian
better, even if it means you have to tolerate people using your software
whom you would prefer to ostracize from the planet (or, even if it means you
can't accept software into Debian with such intolerant licensing); or you
believe that not allowing discriminatory licenses saves us from a certain
class of needless flamewars.

Finally, what the DFSG says is that the license must not discriminate
against *any* person or group of persons - the scope of this is much greater
than "must not discriminate against any groups which are protected classes
under US law", or the like; it says /no/ discrimination is allowed, and
that's simply not analogous to how any person conducts themselves in their
life at large.  Debian itself discriminates against people who won't agree
to the SC by denying them DD status; I discrminate against Republicans and
others who betray the founding principles of the United States for personal
profit; we all discriminate against companies that give bad service by
trying to avoid giving them our repeat business; and so on.  Analogies
between the DFSG's "no discrimination" clause and discrimination in our
personal or professional lives fall down, because we're just not talking
about the same kind of discrimination.

So let's please discuss (or not) age discrimination in its own right, and
not turn this into "our priorities are old users and free software for

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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