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Re: RFD: amendment of Debian Social Contract

On Wed, Nov 05, 2003 at 05:51:21PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > The same way we always have; by claiming that non-free isn't "part of
> > our distribution".
> Except we're not saying "our distribution" anymore, we're using the plural.
> We're also saying "100%", and "every work". There's nothing in there to
> indicate that *anything* should be anything but completely free.

> I think that's a contradiction in terms; how can you possibly be dedicated
> to being 100% free software, while distributing non-free software? I suppose
> we can just put in 110% in the first place, but, personally, I'd hardly find
> that sane.

I suspect these observations are why Debian is occasionally criticized
as being hypocritical by the Slashdot crowd.

It seems that relatively few people get Debian via CD these days, and
installation directly from the mirror network is far more common, where
contrib and non-free enjoy apparent parity with main.  If our
"distribution" is "that which we distribute" then yes, clause 5 flatly
contradicts clause 1.  It's hard to claim that we're 100% Free Software
when we're clearly not.

> For reference, my current preferred ballot would probably look like:
> 	[ 2 ] Change social contract, drop non-free and contrib
> 	[ 4 ] Change social contract, keep non-free and contrib
> 	[ 1 ] Reaffirm social contract as is
> 	[ 3 ] Further discussion

As I've noted elsewhere, this splits the advocates of "change social
contract", rendering defeat of the proposal virtually certain given the
high (3:1) majority requirement.

Our voting system allows only one option to win, and affords no
interpretive subdivision of options.

I do not see how you can reasonably expect me to support such a naked
attempt to doom my proposal to failure through ballot engineering.

As I've said elsewhere in this thread, if we need a separate GR to make
it clear that the DPL and/or archive administrators are not to take
sudden and unilateral action based on the outcome of a vote to drop
clause 5 from the Social Contract, then let's get the ball rolling on
that GR.  I, for one, have been assured that it's not necessary.

Do *you*, in your capacity as an archive administrator, plan to take
unilateral action to drop non-free if a resolution to drop clause 5 of
the Social Contract passes?  Are you willing to pledge not to?

> I don't think it makes any sense to change the social contract if we
> want to keep non-free and contrib -- if that's the case, let's leave
> changing it until we're ready to get rid of non-free and contrib, when
> it'll be far easier to get the required support -- and if more than 50%
> of people wants to drop non-free, I don't think it makes sense for a
> minority to demand that it be kept anyway.

I agree that if more than 50% of people want to drop non-free, that it
doesn't make sense for a minority to demand that it be kept anyway.
Hence my proposal to amend the Social Contract *first*; as written, the
SC effectively forbids us from dropping non-free even if a 99:1 majority
want to eliminate it.

(I should note that the Social Contract doesn't *clearly* forbid us from
dropping non-free and contrib.  Instead, it talks in the past and
present tense, where every other clause of the Social Contract speaks in
the future tense and is clearly worded in terms of commitments we intend
to keep.  I think, however, that this is a pretty feeble difference upon
which to hang a proposition to remove non-free and contrib, and we're
better off just not talking about non-free and contrib in the Social
Contract if we're not willing to make fully-fledged commitments about
them.  If we're *really* committed to reaffirming the Social Contract as
most of us seem to interpret it, we should amend SC #5 to *strengthen*
it, not weaken it.  E.g., 'We acknowledge that some of our users require
the use of programs that don't conform to the Debian Free Software
Guidelines. Therefore, we will maintain "contrib" and "non-free" areas
in our FTP archive for this software. )

> Naturally others MMV, and I reserve the right to change my preferences
> both as to rankings on options.

Of course. :)

> > I would have thought that leaving non-free alone while we study the
> > issue, and come to a full understanding of what we want to do with it
> > and why, would be the pragmatic[1] thing to do.
> The pragmatic thing to do is to work out what we want to do, then decide
> to do it; ie have the discussion first, then vote on it, not vote on
> half the issue, then try to get ourselves out of whatever mess we've
> got ourselves into.

I disagree that yours is the only "pragmatic" approach.

> > I think we can tolerate distribution of non-free works as a peripheral
> > activity, 
> Sure, that's what we're doing right now with non-free specifically
> mentioned in the social contract. The total space non-free takes up in the
> archive, is frequently less than that of a day's uploads to queue/accepted.


> (And no, I don't much like saying "Debian will be 100% free", then
> deliberately contradicting yourself with an "except for...". But it's
> better to be up front about it, than say one thing, then do something
> else.)

We're already widely perceived as doing exactly that.

> If I were to propose a rewrite the social contract, it'd probably look
> something like:
>    We, the contributors to the Debian project, make the following pledge:
>      We will build a free operating system
>    We will create and provide an integrated system of free software that
>    anyone can use. We will make all our work publically available as free
>    software. We will accept and support the use of the Debian
>    distribution by all users for all purposes, without discrimination.
>      We will build a superior operating system
>    We will collect the best software available to form our operating
>    system, and strive to continually improve upon it making use of the
>    best tools and techniques available.
>      We will support the community
>    We will ensure our users, our developers and the wider free software
>    community are encouraged to take part in Debian's development. We will
>    be attentive to the concerns they raise, and work actively to resolve
>    them.
>      We will be open about our activities
>    We will conduct our affairs in public and allow anyone to follow our
>    discussions. We will make problem reports publically available as soon
>    as they are submitted. Where public discussion is not immediately
>    feasible we will make any private discussions publically available at
>    the earliest opportunity.
>      We will support all the software we can
>    We accept that some of our users require the use of programs that
>    don't meet our standards of freedom and quality. We will support these
>    users by distributing, supporting and improving such software,
>    whenever possible. We will ensure that this support does not
>    needlessly burden users and developers who do not wish to use or
>    maintain such software.

Thanks for providing this food for thought.  There is much good stuff in
the above, so do not be surprised if some of it finds its way into an
amended proposal of mine.  :)

G. Branden Robinson                |        Fair use is irrelevant and
Debian GNU/Linux                   |        improper.
branden@debian.org                 |        -- Asst. U.S. Attorney Scott
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |        Frewing, explaining the DMCA

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