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Re: Validity of DFSG #10

Stefano Zacchiroli writes ("Re: Validity of DFSG #10"):
> This has been discussed in various occasions. A recent one within the
> project is the question time of my talk at DebConf12 [1], thanks to
> input by Steve Langasek. But our flaws on this matter are being
> discussed also outside the project border; see for instance the
> interesting talk "The Tragedy of the Commons Gatekeepers" by Richard
> Fontana at LinuxCon North America last year [2,3].
> [1]: http://penta.debconf.org/dc12_schedule/events/881.en.html
> [2]: http://faif.us/cast/2012/oct/10/0x33/
> [3]: http://linuxcon2012-fontana.rhcloud.com/

I found a report of Richard Fontana's talk here:

Richard (or perhaps Michael Kerrisk[1]) does us a disservice there.

> I agree with Richard that, modulo some notable exception like FTP
> masters' "ruling" about the Ubuntu Font License [4], we are not doing a
> good job at documenting and explaining our choices. The best
> approximations we have are either non-authoritative, or not maintained,
> or both. The net result is that by searching the web license names and
> Debian one will likely end up on debian-legal discussions, that are not
> the official project stance on license free-ness.

This is unfortunate.  But it's not true to say that the FTP masters
have the final say.  The Developers have the final say by General
Resolution and have exercised that power on multiple occasions
including most of the most controversial licensing decisions.

That's an open, transparent democratic and community-based process
which OSI and the FSF would IMO do much better to emulate.

Debian is the only widely-referenced licence Free Software review body
whose ultimate decisionmakers are anything other than a
self-perpetuating oligarchy.

And I disagree with another of Richard Fontana's worries.  He thinks
that having licence review bodies which people defer to is a bad
thing.  Back in the real world, no-one has enough time and energy to
make every decision themselves.  Instead in our lives - in decisions
big and small, in our economic social and political choices - we all
follow the decisions of people and institutions we respect.

This is a normal and essential part of human existence.  It doesn't
take away our freedom to judge and review our effective delegation to

In Debian we are lucky in having the size, the focus and the standing
to be able to make these decisions collectively for ourselves.  We
should be proud that there are others who choose to respect our
decisions.  And that doesn't detract from our individual ability to
disagree about the details of those collectively decision.


[1] I'm going to take Michael's report of the talk as accurate.  In
this kind of discourse, I think if people want us to not to
misrepresent their views they need to write them down and publish
them.  And no, a slide deck doesn't count and nor does a recording of
a talk.

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