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Re: RFD: amendment of Debian Social Contract

On Wed, Oct 29, 2003 at 05:39:49PM -0500, Jim Penny wrote:
> On Wed, 29 Oct 2003 16:25:28 -0500
> Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote:
> > 13) Clause 5 has been stricken entirely.  *This amendment does NOT
> >     mandate the removal of the non-free section from anything,
> >     anywhere.*  What it does do is withdraw our commitment to provide
> >     a"non-free section" via a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) archive
> >     specifically.  This makes it possible for us to decide, in the
> >     near or distant future, to stop distributing the non-free section
> >     without violating our own Social Contract.
> I will second, subject to an amplification of 13).  This change in
> language has no direct effect on either the removal of the non-free or
> contrib sections of our archives.  

I'm not clear.  You mean you want me to amplify just the rationale part?

> Rationale:  it is not clear that it makes sense to continue to
> distribute contrib, absent non-free -- alternatively it is not clear
> that a contrib made up largely of installer packages for non-free items
> is in the spirit of removing non-free packages.   

I'm not sure I agree with your rationale as stated.  There are packages
in contrib that are neither installers for non-free software, nor depend
on non-free *packages*.  The only package I maintain in contrib, for
instance, xtrs, is one such example.

Package: xtrs
Description: emulator for TRS-80 Model I/III/4/4P computers
 xtrs is an X-based emulator for the Tandy/Radio Shack line of Zilog
 Z-80-based microcomputers popular in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
 xtrs requires ROM images from the original machines.  The ROMs are
 copyrighted by Radio Shack and are not freely licensed.  (Exception: in Model
 4P mode, a freely licensed boot ROM included with this package can be used to
 boot a Model 4 operating system from a diskette image.)  Instructions are
 provided for retrieval of TRS-80 ROM images by those who may legally use

Lest I be accused of wanting Debian to cling to contrib because I have
package there, and not non-free, because I don't have a package there,
let me be clear: it really doesn't matter at all to me if Debian drops
to contrib.  I maintain xtrs in a Subversion repository and can generate
packages for it at will.  xtrs is also not the world's most popular
software (its appeal is necessarily narrow), so it doesn't have all that
many users.  The amount of time I spend on xtrs versus, oh, say,
XFree86, is like comparing the mass of a sparrow to the mass of the Sun.

So, with that out of the way, I don't mind your amplification per se,
but I think it is important that we be clear in understanding of what
types of works are in contrib.

It is possible that we will at some point want to redefine the criteria
for a package's inclusion in contrib.  I feel such a decision is largely
orthogonal to the topic of this thread.

>   4. Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software
>  We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free software
>  community.  We will place their interests first in our priorities. 
>  We will support the needs of our users for operation in many
>  different kinds of computing environment.  We will not object to
>  commercial software that is intended to run on Debian systems, and
>  we will allow others to create value-added distributions containing
>  both Debian and commercial software, without any fee from us.  In
>  furtherance of these goals, we will provide an integrated system of
>  high-quality works of software and other materials with no legal
>  restrictions that would prevent these uses of our operating system
>  distributions.
> s/commercial/non-free/ or perhaps
> s/commercial/non-Debian/
> Rationale: there is software which is non-DSFG free, but also
> non-commercial.  And I could imagine a distribution that picked up some
> free software that was not officially Debian packaged, which should also
> be allowed.
> Seconded, with, or without these changes -- although I would clearly
> prefer both.

I don't like the ring of the exact substitutions you propose, but I
understand the intent and I think I see where you're coming from.
Clause 4 (both the original and as I have proposed amending it),
somewhat sloppily identifies "commercial" with "non-DFSG-compliant",
which is not the most common or obvious reading of the term.

Thanks for raising this issue.

G. Branden Robinson                |
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      Please do not look directly into
branden@debian.org                 |      laser with remaining eye.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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