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Bug#340705: Bug#340707: rar support violates DFSG #4

On Sat, Nov 26, 2005 at 11:11:32AM +0100, Robert Millan wrote:
> On Fri, Nov 25, 2005 at 07:44:08PM -0800, Steve Langasek wrote:
> > > OTOH, if you think my interpretation of DFSG is inadequate, I
> > > could try to expose it better, and we could also move this to
> > > -legal (perhaps I should have started there in first place).
> > 
> > Yes, I still disagree with this reasoning.  People of conscience
> > may disagree on whether *preventing* the creation of files that
> > can't be read with free software is serving the goals of the DFSG.
> > In the absence of agreement on this point, I don't think it's
> > right to treat this as a release-critical bug unless the
> > *maintainer* agrees with you.
> That suggests if the maintainer disagrees in, say, DFSG #1 ("Debian
> will remain 100% free"), then we don't have to treat as
> release-critical an inclussion of non-free in main.

I'm the maintainer of xmms-modplug, the target of one of these bug
reports.  In fact, I *do* disagree with your reasoning throughout, all
the way up to your conclusions about non-free in main.  Using Suggests
as opposed to Recommends shows that the package will function just
fine without the non-free component, which is the reason why packages
in main are allowed to Suggests a non-free package, but not Recommends
one.   (And now my internal grammar monitor is screaming, but fixing
this paragraph would make it cumbersome.)

In my particular case, however, it's mostly moot, as xmms-modplug
doesn't create rar files.  I attempted at one point to use the free
unrar instead of rar to get it to work, and discovered to my dismay
that the free unrar isn't command-line compatible with rar, and
doesn't open modern rar files.  I decided at the time that the free
unrar was basically not ready for use, and abandoned any further
attempts to use it.  This situation does not appear to have changed,
and I am closing the bug.  At such time that the free unrar actually
does serve as a drop-in replacement for reading rar files, feel free
to file a new bug report, but as it stands, I am refusing to cripple
the package's ability to deal with a non-free format just because it's
non-free.  I suspect that this reasoning will extend to every other
package that uses rar just for reading.

> I think I'll try to expose better my point, and also move it to -legal.
> DFSG #4 states:
>   "We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free software
>   community.  We will place their interests first in our
>   priorities."
> I think it's very clear that the free software community is harmed
> by promoting trap formats like RAR, so I won't extend on that.

I think you're a little unclear on the difference between promoting a
format and failing to actively discourage a format.  If you were
filing bug reports only on packages that *defaulted* to writing RAR,
I'd agree with you.  However, some users may have legitimate need to
write files in proprietary formats such as RAR (e.g. for reasons of
communication with an organization that they don't control), and by
going out of your way to disable that ability, you *violate* DFSG #4.
All you're doing for people in this category is making free software
unusable for their needs, and driving them to completely non-free

Zed Pobre <zed@resonant.org> a.k.a. Zed Pobre <zed@debian.org>
PGP key and fingerprint available on finger; encrypted mail welcomed.

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