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Re: [AMENDMENT BR3] GR: Disambiguation of Section 4.1.5 of the constitution

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I hearby second this amendment.

Joe Nahmias

Branden Robinson wrote:
> I propose the following amendment:
> -   5.2 The Foundation Documents are the works entitled "Debian
> -       Social Contract" and "Debian Free Software Guidelines".
> +   5.2 The Foundation Document is the work entitled "Debian
> +       Social Contract".
> Rationale
> ---------
> It occurs to me that there are some people who may wish to afford the
> Debian Social Contract the opportunity of a 25% minority veto, but not
> wish to extend this to the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
> My reasoning is grounded on an following argument which I made on
> debian-legal several months ago.
> My experience in the Debian Project leads me to believe that we approach
> licensing issues in a quasi-judicial fashion.  We have certain bedrock
> principles which are broad and general, embodied in our Social Contract.
> Above that we have at least two layers of increasingly detailed, but
> less foundational, articulation of principle.
> In my opinion, this is only natural.  When faced with a software license
> and we have to answer the question "is this Free Software?", we can take
> one of two approaches: have some sort of Freedom Oracle who cogitates
> upon the question for a while and gives us an answer, or we can attempt
> in a collaborative manner to argue and reason our way towards an answer.
> Here's the analogy I presented to debian-legal back in March 2003:
> FSF's definition of Free Software      -->   Constitution
> Debian Free Software Guidelines        -->   statutory law
> debian-legal discussions               -->   case law
> (The above is admittedly wholly grounded on the U.S. legal system for
> its metaphorical value.)
> This is part of the reason I think it wouldn't be a disaster if we
> permitted the DFSG to be modified through a majority vote of the
> developers -- that's because it's not the REAL foundation.  The real
> foundation lies in our answer to the question, "What is freedom?"  Our
> Social Contract pledges us to Free Software; the Debian Free Software
> Guidelines are not a *definition* of Free Software, but rather a
> template into which we place a license; we then see if the license fails
> to mesh with the template in some way.
> So the Debian archive administrators and the debian-legal mailing list,
> to whom it often falls to resolve questions about the licensing of a
> work we are to distribute, attempt to interpret the DFSG and the
> licenses brought before them.  Every package maintainer who cares to pay
> attention to the license on the work he or she is packaging also plays a
> part in this process.
> We analyze licenses for "freeness" in a context -- an *important*
> context -- which is our understanding of what freedom means.  This is
> one reason we should not be overly literal in our interpretations of the
> DFSG, and blithely brand a license as "DFSG-free" if it seems to abide by
> letter of the DFSG in its narrowest reading, but poses a threat to our
> users or Free Software that we did not have the foresight to articulate
> in the DFSG.
> The Social Contract pledges us to defend the interests of our users and
> Free Software, not to push into "main" every work that fails to run
> afoul of the Debian Free Software Guidelines in some specific way.
> Thus, I think we should regard the DFSG as akin to "statutory law"; it's
> important, and violating it has consequences, but ultimately it is just
> a tool in service of the foundational principles.  In the U.S., where
> statutory law conflicts with the Constitution, the law loses -- and it is
> judges who make this determination.  For the Debian Project, I think
> that if the DFSG and the meaning of freedom conflict -- whether the DFSG
> is too permissive in a given case or not permissive enough -- our
> foundation of freedom must triumph, and the DFSG must be re-interpreted
> or modified.
> Therefore, I think it might be a good idea if the DFSG were allowed to
> be more of a "living document" than the Social Contract.  If the DFSG is
> amendable with a simply majority, it will be more easily able to ebb and
> flow with the lessons we learn on the debian-legal mailing list, and
> better able to react to the creative new ways some proprietary software
> interests find to undermine freedom.
> The debian-legal list may be on the front lines of this effort, but it
> will still fall to the entire Project to ratify actual changes to the
> text of the DFSG, though section 4.1.5 of the Constitution.
> I do not, however, see why a 3:1 supermajority should be required to
> modify a document with as narrow a focus as the DFSG has.
> -- 
> G. Branden Robinson                |    I had thought very carefully about
> Debian GNU/Linux                   |    committing hara-kiri over this, but
> branden@debian.org                 |    I overslept this morning.
> http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Toshio Yamaguchi
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