[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: one of the many reasons why removing non-free is a dumb idea

On Tue, Jan 06, 2004 at 12:56:05PM -0600, John Goerzen wrote:
> On Tue, Jan 06, 2004 at 12:02:45PM +1100, Craig Sanders wrote:
> > One thing that all of the advocates for dumping non-free have in common is
> > a complete disregard for the actual contents of non-free.  they like to
> > pretend that it's all proprietary software, that it doesn't even come close
> > to free, that source-code isn't available.
> As a long-time advocate for dumping non-free software, and someone that has
> maintained a package in non-free, I can readily disprove that by stating that
> your statement does not describe my beliefs.

then explain why software that is almost-free (e.g. software that is free for
use or modification but is prohibited from commercial sale) should not be
distributed at all by debian.  explain why free-but-patent-restricted software
should not be distributed at all by debian.  explain why software that is free
for personal or educational use should not be distributed at all by debian.
explain why software that is free for all but use by government agencies or
spammers or whoever should not be distributed at all by debian.

sure, none of it qualifies as DFSG-free....that's precisely why we have a
section called non-free, to put stuff that isn't free enough to be a part of

there is a huge difference between almost-free software and proprietary

there are some items in non-free that i personally think should not be there,
software that is binary-only, proprietary stuff.  however, some people find
that stuff very useful and we decided long ago that the criteria for what can
go into non-free is not the whims and prejudices of individual developers, the
criteria are simply:

 1. "are we allowed to distribute it at all?"
 2. "can anyone be bothered packaging it?"

that satisfies both legality and the question of actual need.  if there was no
need for the package then nobody would bother to package it.

> > Aside from the convenience for our users, this has also been useful in
> > motivating some software authors to get their programs out of the non-free
> > ghetto by changing the license to one that is truly free.  there have been
> > numerous examples of this happening over the years.
> If non-free is as useful as you and others claim, I have no doubt that an
> alternative non-free repository will spring up very soon after Debian stops
> hosting non-free.  

trashing existing infrastructure and "justifying" it with vague hand-waving
suggestions about replacements magically springing up is not good enough.

> Consider the number of repositories on http://www.apt-get.org/main/.

who actually uses these?  i'm sure that some of them are good quality, but
there is no guarantee of that. i (and many others) use debian because of the
consistent quality and standard of packages AND the 24/7 availability of the
mirror network. i specifically do not want to use anything like the rubbish
found in RH's contribnet, and i do not want to be dependant on any packages
that are only available from one server on someone's home DSL connection.

as has been said before: not good enough.

> > This non-free data & documentation can still be used and even modifed by
> > the end-user, however, and the fact that modified versions can not be
> > redistributed really makes NO PRACTICAL DIFFERENCE to anyone at all.  no
> > one really needs to modify doc-linux-nonfree-text, or povray-doc.....any
> > possible need to modify can easily be worked around with an errata sheet,
> > or by submitting a change to the authors.
> This sounds like an argument for keeping these files in main rather than an
> argument for keeping non-free.  

No.  it does not sound anything like an argument for putting these files in

> Perhaps you should propose a DFSG or social contract modification that would
> permit that?

No.  i am happy with the current situation - non-free stuff that we are legally
allowed to distribute can go in the non-free ghetto.

Do not put words in my mouth or deliberately misrepresent my views.  that is
dishonest and dishonorable, but zealots have no care for honour, do they?
anything goes in the name of the cause.

> However, I'm not sure you're right, even given that.  Why should someone be
> able to freely modify software but have to rewrite documentation from
> scratch?  How could that documentation really be free if it can't be used, in
> a practical sense, at least as liberally as the accompanying software?

who cares?

some people are happy enough to be able to use and modify the software or
documentation for their own purposes and have no intention of ever
re-distributing their modifications or selling the software.  some are happy to
just use the software as is, and appreciate having the source available for
security or bug audits.

for those who do care, they have the freedom to write a replacement.  they are
no worse off for the existence of this semi-free code or documentation.

in short: pragmatic need trumps rabid ideological purity, every time.

> > ditto for data sets like the 'yale' star catalog.  this is the sort of data
> > that end-users don't need to change and, more importantly, where changes
> > should be managed by qualified experts.   for some data sets it is a Good
> > Thing that there is only one official, authoritative (preferably
> > peer-reviewed) source.
> And yet, restrictive licenses means that if you disagree and think it's a Bad
> Thing, you have no choice in the matter.  The hood is still welded shut, even
> though most might prefer it that way.

then you do the work and create your own data set and release it under whatever
license you like.

if you don't care enough to do that, then you really don't care enough to have
the right to comment on other people's use of such data, documentation, or
software. in any case, you certainly do not have the right to interfere with or
impede their use of same.


Reply to: