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Re: Amendment to GR on GFDL, and the changes to the Social Contract

Nick Phillips <nwp@nz.lemon-computing.com> wrote:
> The GR as amended might appear to contradict the Social Contract, or the
> DFSG, but it certainly *does not* modify them, and hence cannot be said to
> require a supermajority.

Well, um.  That depends if you want the GR-as-amended to actually *do* 
anything other than spark a giant flamewar, doesn't it?  See below: There's a 
good argument that a GR which contradicted the Social Contract without the 
supermajority authority would be null and void.

> In fact, Adeodato's amendment is clear in its explanation that "we
> believe that the GFDL does meet the spirit of the DFSG (so long as you
> have no invariant sections)". If, therefore, that particular amended
> version of the GR were to pass, it would be clear that a majority of
> developers *did not* believe that it required or constituted a
> modification to either the Social Contract or the DFSG.

This argument-to-the-spirit is interesting: it is the claim that Debian should 
accept works where we believe that the intention of the license is 
satisfactory, even if the actual letter of the license is not and we have no 
clarification from the copyright holder.  This is a very unwise thing to do 
in my opinion; I don't think it serves Debian's users to accept such software 
when the licensor could easily decide to enforce the license as written.  But 
it is a tenable position, I suppose: a "don't be legalistic or excessively 
careful, even in matters of the law -- just accept anything that looks OK at 
first glance" position.  If it is the consensus view of Debian Developers 
(and I'm pretty sure it isn't), then I will go along with it.  Just as long 
as it's made clear to the users (preferably with a note attached to the 
Social Contract or something).

If it does pass, I will likely request that bsdgames-nonfree and xsnow be 
included in 'main' because it looks like the intention of these licenses is 
as free as the GFDL, although the letter of the licenses isn't and we have no 
clarification from the copyright holder.  Again if it does pass, I will 
*definitely* request the same for povray, as we know for sure that the 
intention of the license is free (thanks to the current relicensing effort), 
although the letter of the license isn't and we have no clarification from 
many of the copyright holders.  These actions would be in keeping with the 
new interpretation of the Social Contract, which I would be honor-bound to 

Perhaps this viewpoint would be better for Debian all around.  I don't think 
so, but I would bow to the will of the developers and see how it works out.

> Even if for some reason that I am unable to fathom you do fervently 
> believe that I am wrong in the above paragraph, then there is *still
> nothing* to say that we can't happily pass GRs that contradict each
> other. It would be foolish, sure, and perhaps reflect poorly on our
> ability to work through these things, but democracies pass laws like
> that the whole time and the courts seem to manage to resolve the
> contradictions.

Debian doesn't have courts.  The closest we've got is debian-legal, and 
there's a group of people who deny the legitimacy of debian-legal.  (They are 
usually the same people trying to put or keep random unmodifiable junk in 

If Debian passed a GR which contradicted the Social Contract -- without being 
an "implicit amendment" -- I would assume that the Social Contract would win 
and the GR would be void.  That's normally how analagous situations are dealt 
with in real courts.  That seems particularly undesirable.

> Note that the alternative to this process is for someone (usually a
> General, it seems) to stand up and tell the parliament not to be so
> damn silly, and to follow his interpretation of the constitution, or
> else. This usually ends badly for all concerned.
So with no courts, that's the only alternative, then?  :-(

Nathanael Nerode  <neroden@twcny.rr.com>

[Insert famous quote here]

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