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GR: Removal of non-free (with explanation)

[This is not an amendment; this my proposal of December 29th repeated,
with some extra text surrounding it]

It has been drawn to my attention that people are failing to read
and/or understand my proposal. For reference, here it is (as it
currently stands) repeated:

 The next release of Debian will not be accompanied by a non-free
 section; there will be no more stable releases of the non-free
 section. The Debian project will cease active support of the
 non-free section. Clause 5 of the social contract is repealed.

This has been very carefully designed and worded, every clause is
operative, and the tenses matter. Futhermore, it is careful in what it
does *not* say. It means precisely what it says, and it does not say
anything that is not contained within the text; it is not difficult to

There are no time constraints. It is written on the assumption that
anybody who has the power to block the removal of non-free via
deliberate inaction (such as ftpmaster) will act in good faith, and
deal with it in a reasonable manner. The only thing vaguely resembling
a time constraint is that non-free is cut out of the next stable
release - but there should be nothing difficult about that. Testing
and unstable can be cleared out whenever we're ready.

Clause 5 of the social contract contains a commitment to support
non-free, which is removed - but this is redundant anyway. Clause 1
contains this sentence:

"We will support our users who develop and run non-free software on
Debian, but we will never make the system depend on an item of
non-free software."

Nothing in the proposed resolution says that an external agency will
handle non-free; some people have suggested that it should. I
considered this originally, but it would be meaningless. We cannot
commit to the action of a non-Debian entity in a GR. If such a
statement were present it would have no force, so its presence or
absence should not alter the way that anybody votes.

Nothing in the proposed resolution says that we will provide
transition plans or mechanisms for assisting in the creation of
non-Debian non-free packages (such as the Owner and Bugs control
fields), because these are technical issues, and a GR cannot make
technical decisions (check section 4.1 of the constitution; this
resolution is classified under section 4.1.5). If such things were
written into the GR, they could only be advisory, so again their
presence or absence should not alter the way that anybody votes.

That sort of thing is a matter for the developers who are responsible
to decide, the DPL if nobody is responsible, or the technical
committee (hah!) if nobody can or will agree.

The fate of contrib is left undecided because there doesn't seem to be
any real objection to its presence, so there's no reason to force it
out with a GR. This proposal merely removes the constraint that
requires us to keep it; whether it stays or not can then be a normal
decision made on technical grounds.

The primary design constraint of this proposal was that if it passes
and everybody acts reasonably, it will be the last vote we need to
have on this issue. Any of the proposals I've seen for *how* to remove
non-free are possible if this resolution passes. They would all be
reduced to technical decisions which can be made in the usual
way. There is no need to pick one before passing this resolution, and
even if we did, it can't be enforced - after the resolution passes, a
different approach could be chosen.

I anticipate that if this resolution passes, people will formulate
timetables and transition plans as appropriate; I would expect that
one of the first things to happen is that no new packages are accepted
into non-free. I would expect the DPL to be responsible for seeing
that those things which require affirmative action from the project
administration are carried out appropriately (note that the DPL
elections are due RSN, and people probably want to pay attention to
the positions that candidates take on this).

In summary: I am calling for a vote merely on the question of whether
or not we should remove non-free, and explicitly *not* on the question
of how we go about removing it. I do not believe that we can or should
vote on the latter question, and I think we would have to revise the
constitution in order to do it (and I don't think we should do that

Current seconds of this proposal:

Santiago Vila <sanvila@unex.es>

Chad Walstrom <chewie@wookimus.net>

Branden Robinson <branden@debian.org>

These people have seconded my earlier, superseded proposal:

John Goerzen <jgoerzen@complete.org>

Graham Wilson <graham@debian.org>

I encourage them to second my amended proposal.

If you do not support this proposal because you think non-free should
stay, I don't care, and am not interested in amending the proposal
until it is acceptable to you.

If you think non-free should be removed, but still do not support this
proposal, then I would be interested to know why (although I will not
commit to amending the proposal until it is acceptable to you; for
example, I do not think that extending the deadline until the release
after sarge is reasonable - instead, we should vote on the issue again
sometime (not necessarily soon) after sarge has relesed, as
circumstances regarding non-free may have changed by then).

If you can't make up your mind, there are plenty of people who are
willing to preach at you about the merits of either option. I am not
one of them.

  .''`.  ** Debian GNU/Linux ** | Andrew Suffield
 : :' :  http://www.debian.org/ |
 `. `'                          |
   `-             -><-          |

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