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Re: Questions to Candidates

On Mon, Mar 04, 2002 at 07:55:29PM +0100, Jordi Mallach wrote:
> Hello everyone,
> The following questions are for the three Candidates:
> - In our Leader Elections of 2001, one of the "hot topics" in the Debian
>   world was the proposal to remove the non-free archive. As most of you
>   know, that proposal never got resolved, and it finally ended dying
>   when everyone got bored of the gigantic flamewar.
>   Again, what is your stand about non-free & Debian?

I do not personally believe that software licensed in ways incompatible
with the DFSG is an essential part of Debian's work.  As our Social
Contract notes, it's not even an official part of our distribution.

By and large, I think it is uncontroversial to assert that Free Software
continues to be able to do more and more, and non-free software fills
fewer essential roles in Debian users lives than it did when the Project
was founded; also, more and more Debian users find themselves not
needing non-free software are at all in their everyday lives.

There was a time when people who said we'd have free desktop
environments, free office suites, and free (graphical) web browsers were
laughed at.  Those people aren't laughed at anymore.  Instead, many of
the people who ignored the laughter, rolled up their sleeves, and got to
work are finding themselves able to feed their families through their
work on Free Software.

The significance of this development should not, in my opinion, be

>   Would you push to get a final answer on that debate?

I think it is important that the General Resolution that John Goerzen
proposed almost 2 years ago come to a vote.  As DPL, I will work with
the Project Secretary to see to it that the Developers are ultimately
able to express their will via our Standard Resolution Procedure on this

However, I'd be careful with language like "final answer".  I believe
the Social Contract and Debian Free Software Guidelines should be given
the freedom to evolve along with our Project.  Not necessarily changed
at the slightest whim, as some of our developers fear, but I do not
think they should be regarded as historical documents incapable of

Let me provide two examples.

It's possible that the time will come when the contents of our non-free
archive are so marginal and so little-used, or otherwise problematic to
retain, that we decide to stop hosting it on Project machines.  (That
time may be now; without a vote, it's difficult to say.)

It's also possible that a backlash against Free Software will manifest
itself through government regulation, sponsored by corporations that are
threatened by this model of individual empowerment, development, and
cooperation.  For instance, just last week, the U.S. Senate held
hearings on a proposed bill that would mandate the existence of
copy-prevention technology in all consumer-grade computer and software:
<http://www.politechbot.com/p-03206.html>.  I am hopeful that this
legislation will be defeated, but it would be foolish to ignore the
possibility that certain avenues of Free Software development will be
driven underground before the dinosaurs of obsolete market models become
extinct.  It's a grim -- but hopefully remote -- possibility that the
DFSG we cherish will be rendered inapplicable to whole swaths of
software development by national laws in countries where a large amount
of Debian development takes place.  Under such sad circumstances, I
would probably rather see the DFSG or Social Contract amended than
effectively forbid an entire country's worth of Debian developers from
participating in our Project.  However, I am optimistic that such a
tragedy will not come to pass.

The bottom line is that I feel that the Social Contract and DFSG are
documents of critical importance to our project, but they are also
instruments of circumstances of their authorship.  For me, Debian is,
first and foremost, the people who comprise it.  When the composition of
our project and times change enough to place the Social Contract and
DFSG in conflict with the desires of our own membership, those documents
must change.  Our first loyalty has to be to each other; otherwise,
there will be no Project around to serve our twin priorities of our
users and Free Software.

This is why I do not think we should attempt "final" interpretations --
or revisions -- of the Social Contract and DFSG, or to settle the
question of non-free for all time.  For when we are all retired and our
children are Debian Developers, they deserve the right to express their
will on the subject, just as we (will) have.

>   What would you do to solve the ambiguities that were found in our
>   Constitution during that debate?

As I understand it, the Project Secretary will be applying the revised
Condorcet method to this election, and he will use that to make a formal
recommendation for or against its adoption as a Constitutional
amendment.  I'm inclined to defer to his judgment on this matter,
though I will make another attempt to wrap my head around all the
nuances and corner cases before casting my own vote.  :)

> At the time of those votings, I felt our vote system was broken, as 3
> seconded proposals never got anywhere. I'd like to see this problem
> solved.

Me too!  I think the current Project Secretary has a good plan under
development, and I have no desire to disrupt it before it's been given a

G. Branden Robinson                |    One man's theology is another man's
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    belly laugh.
branden@debian.org                 |    -- Robert Heinlein
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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