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Re: RFD: amendment of Debian Social Contract

On Thu, 30 Oct 2003 00:22:04 -0500
Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org> wrote:

> 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.
> 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.

Agreed, in large part - and I have seconded without that change. I do,
however, think that any change in non-free will have an immediate and
controversial effect on contrib, so that non-free and contrib are
inextricably bound together.  So, mention of one demands mention of the

(I can't quite get past the feeling that, in part, this proposal is a
stalking horse to lower the quorum needed to remove non-free, but I
am willing to accept that effect.  It brings other things to the table
that are more important.)

> >   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.

Precisely, suppose someone were to build a Debian based Zope
distribution which had, as goal, availability of every freely
distributable Zope module.  We have about 70 modules, there are at least
400.  A literal reading of clause 4 says that we reserve the right to
charge a fee for such a distribution, although, if at least one
commercial module were added in, we would not have the right to charge a
fee.  While such a reading is fairly silly, and we would never, in
fact, do this - one point of this exercise must be to avoid introducing
future ambiguities.

Restatement: there is software that is not packaged in Debian and that
is not commercial.  The above statement leaves such software in limbo. 
I don't care much about the exact wording, but I do think that it is
important that we not discriminate against free software which no Debian
packager has picked up (to date).

For that matter, supposing that non-free no longer exists, we should not
be discriminating against a distributor who is bundling non-free,
non-commercial software, if we are not discriminating against non-free
commercial software.

How about this?


> 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.


We will not object to commercial software that is intended to run on
Debian systems.  We will allow others to create distributions containing
Debian software, without any fee from us.

This separates the two ideas of creating commercial software and
creating derivative distributions - there is no need to guess about
whether fees apply to non-commercial derivatives.

This point is structurally much more important than the non-free/contrib
point, in that there really are Debian based distributions that do not
contain commercial software, Knoppix comes to mind.

Jim Penny

> 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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