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Re: Proposal: Keep non-free

I consider this proposed position statement poorly justified, for the reasons that follow.

On 2004-02-21 15:48:48 +0000 Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> wrote:

First, it allows us to provide useful packages that we could not otherwise

It also reduces the demand for developers to encourage and help DFSG-free alternatives to those packages. I think such encouragement/assistance is consistent with Debian's stated goals. Is it coincidence that the free Java systems in main progress more rapidly now that we do not have a Java in non-free?

that's in non-free can be maintained with all the usual tools we have
for the main Debian distribution: dependency analysis, autobuilders,
even security support.

It does not really seem healthy for the Debian operating system development to use its facilities to help develop software that cannot be part of the Debian operating system.

Third, it allows us to establish productive relationships with upstream
authors of non-free software, which gives the free software community
an effective channel for communicating their needs and desires.

This seems almost entirely independent of non-free being in the archive. *Developers who care about freeing non-free software* allows us to establish those relationships. In recent discussions on -vote, no case was presented where non-free alone caused the relationship or freeing of the software. Always, diplomatic developers were involved. Is there a "magic of the non-free archive" case? If so, why is it not in this rationale?

While none of those arguments can be proven in any sense, they all have
supporting evidence

You ought to give that evidence explicitly, I think. Mentioning it without referring to it is null.

-- the fact that people bother to maintain it and
install it is evidence that some non-free software continues to be useful,

I suspect people often install non-free through ignorance and habit. Some maintainers appear to maintain packages there through intransigence and because it is possible. I do not yet offer any evidence to support this, as this is only a first reaction to your comment and I have not had time to collect any evidence.

By contrast there is not, to the best of my knowledge, any evidence at all to support the claims that supporting non-free costs as anything notable.

Then, the sides are equal, at best. However, your rationale is not presenting the case against the motion, so I would not expect it to include that evidence, but the absence of evidence for your proposal is unusual.

The costs in manpower are also fairly
small: all the ongoing support is a freebie from supporting software in main (and contrib); and the setup support is (by my estimation) trivial,
and having already been spent isn't able to be recovered.

If nothing else, do ftpmasters have to check uploads, as with other packages?

Similarly, there
have been claims that without non-free, we'll have a bigger incentive to encourage people to relicense their software freely: that if they don't,
we won't distribute it, but those claims haven't been supported by any
evidence at all, anecdotal or otherwise.

What evidence would you like? The above line of reasoning seems fairly obvious, from a classical supply-demand theory of markets. It is difficult to compare effects of alternate realities, because both cannot exist simultaneously.

On the other hand there are reasonably measurable potential costs to
removing non-free. [...] the only people
that seem likely to invest that time seem to be people who would have
otherwise invested it in doing things beneficial to Debian

This Great Unanswered Question is the core of that debate: would the maintainers of an alternative non-free framework be already active Debian developers or not?

There could be another benefit to removing non-free: developers would need to accept that the Debian project is not the only source for Debian packages and actually resolve some of the third-party package support matters, like Origin and Bugs, and enabling something like apt-checksigs as default.

Finally, I believe that making a resolution to keep non-free is a better
outcome than further discussion so that we can ensure that it's clear
to all our members and all our users what our intentions are on this
controversial issue for the forseeable future.

What approaches "the discussion is over" is not really a healthy position statement. Reading the docs, I'm also not sure that such a position statement is non-null.

MJR/slef     My Opinion Only and possibly not of any group I know.
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