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Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org>
> [...] This GR is a position statement, not an amendment to the
> foundation documents, which means a couple of things. [...]

As I understand it, this proposal seeks to exempt parts of debian
from part of the DFSG.  Why is that not an amendment to the foundation

>          The application of DFSG#2 to firmware and other data

I note this proposal also applies to much 'other data'.  It is
self-contradictory and contains things which seem unsupportable.
I hope that it will not pass in this form.

In particular:

> The Debian Project recognizes that access to source code for a work of
> software is very important for software freedom, but at the same time
> "source" is often not a well-defined concept for works other than those
> traditionally considered "programs".

I think I disagree with this: the concept of source is well-defined from
long before programs.  I think I first learnt about it in history lessons,
before I knew what program "source code" was.  It would be interesting
to know if the term 'source code' came from the concept of sources for
literary works, but not essential for this discussion.

A primary work is its own source, while secondary and later works have
other works as sources.  What class of work do the proponents claim has
no source?

It may not be clear *what* the source code is for a particular work,
but those are practical problems to be solved.  A few particular problems
does not make the concept of "source" ill-defined for those works.

> The most commonly cited definition is
> that found in version 2 of the GNU GPL, "the preferred form of the work for
> making modifications to it," but for non-program works, it is not always
> clear that requiring this "source" as a precondition of inclusion in main
> is in the best interest of our users or advances the cause of Free Software:
>   - The author's preferred form for modification may require non-free tools
>     in order to be converted into its final "binary" form; e.g., some
>     device firmware, videos, and graphics.

How does this differ from free software C programs before GCC?  It is a
problem, but existance of the free software still advances free software.

>   - The preferred form for modification may be orders of magnitude larger
>     than the final "binary" form, resulting in prohibitive mirror space
>     requirements out of proportion to the benefits of making this source
>     universally available; e.g., some videos.

Do ftpmasters currently reject packages for source being too large relative
to the binary?  If not, I ask the proposer to remove this point from the

>   - The "binary" and "source" forms of a work may be interconvertible with no
>     data loss, and each may be the preferred form for modification by
>     different users with different tools at their disposal; e.g., some
>     fonts.

This problem seems to be a consequence of applying the GPL meaning of
source.  I ask the proposer to remove this obvious strawman from the

> While the Debian Free Software Guidelines assert that source code is a
> paramount requirement for programs, they do not state that this is the case
> for non-program works, which permits us to consider whether one of the above
> points justifies a pragmatic concession to the larger context within which
> Free Software operates.

Abandoning hope of adaptable, maintainable software is not pragmatic.
I ask the proposer to replace 'a pragmatic concession' with 'these

>         1. reaffirms its dedication to providing a 100% free system to our
> users according to our Social Contract and the DFSG; and

Point 1 above contradicts points 3 and 4 below.  We are not reaffirming
the DFSG if we are partly waiving them.

>         2. encourages authors of all works to make those works available not
> only under licenses that permit modification, but also in forms that make
> such modifications practical; and

This point should call on licensors, not authors.  Authors are often
powerless to change the licences, if the firmware is a work made for
hire and so the copyright is held by the employer.

Arguably, it's also encouraging manufacturers to continue shipping sourceless
firmware if it's even allowable in debian main.

>         3. supports the decision of the Release Team to require works such as
> images, video, and fonts to be licensed in compliance with the DFSG without
> requiring source code for these works under DFSG #2; and

This seems to require a modification to the foundation documents.

>         4. determines that for the purposes of DFSG #2, device firmware
> shall also not be considered a program.

On what planet is device firmware not a program?  It runs, even if not on
a CPU running the rest of debian.

I remain of the opinion that allowing a non-free-hardware-support onto CDs
is the most logical compromise, but I wait to see what response the above
questions and request bring.

My Opinion Only: see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/
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