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Proposal: Source code is important for all works in Debian, and required for programmatic ones

I'd like to propose the following option to the current GR process.

As I will (starting late sunday PDT) be away for a week and a few days
at Burning Man,[i] I will be unable to appropriately respond to
corrections and suggested amendments during that time. However, I will
do so immediately at my return.


The Free Software movement is about enabling users to modify the works
that they use on their computer; about giving users the same
information that copyright holders and upstream developers have. As
such, a critical part of the Free Software movement is the
availability of source (that is, the form of the work that a copyright
holder or developer would use to actually modify the work) to users.
This makes sure that users are not held hostage by the whims (or lack
of interest or financial incentive) of upstreams and copyright

Different types of works have different forms of source. For some
works, the preferred form for modification may not actually be
digitally transferable.[1] For others, the form that originally was
preferred may have been destroyed at some point in time, and is no
longer available to anyone. However, to the greatest extent
possible,[2] the availability of source code to users is a critical
aspect of having the freedom to modify the software that is running
upon ones computer.

Recognizing this, the Debian Project:

  A. Reaffirms that programmatic works distributed in the Debian
     system (IE, in main) must be 100% Free Software, regardless of
     whether the work is designed to run on the CPU, a subsidiary
     processing unit, or by some other form of execution. That is,
     works must include the form that the copyright holder or upstream
     developer would actually use for modification.

  B. Strongly recommends that all non-programmatic works distribute
     the form that the copyright holder or upstream developer would
     actually use for modification. Such forms need not be distributed
     in the orig.tar.gz (unless required by license) but should be
     made available on upstream websites and/or using Debian project

  C. Reaffirms its continued support of users whose hardware (or
     software) requires works which are not freely licensed or whose
     source is not available by making such works available in
     non-free and providing project resources to the extent that
     Debian is capable of doing so.

  D. Requests that vendors of hardware, even those whose firmware is
     not loaded by the operating system, provide the prefered form for
     modification so that purchasers of their hardware are can
     exercise their freedom to modify the functioning of their

1: Consider film negatives, or magnetic tape in the case of audio

2: Here it must be emphasized that we refer to "technically possible"
   or "possible for some party" as opposed to "legally possible for
   Debian". We also assume digital distribution, and do not attempt to
   require the distribution of physical objects.


Obvious points for discussion:

1. I would really like to be able to commit to some form of
   installation support for users who need to be able to use non-free
   firmware to install their system; some more work is needed in d-i
   land, though to make sure that this is separated out and that it's
   trivial to have a Free system, and know that what you're
   installing/using/distributing is Free Software.

2. Distributing the huge source forms for non-programmatic works is
   going to be a problem. I don't think they're needed in the
   orig.tar.gz, because that would needlessly bloat the archive, and
   it's probably not required unless the works are copylefted.
   However, we should make an effort to encourage upstreams to make
   them available and likewise make them available to our users. [Even
   if it's just in people.debian.org/~you/ or similar and mentioned in
   the copyright file, it'd be a good step.]

3. If there is substantial objection to D, I will probably remove it;
   however firmware, whether we happen to distribute it or not, is a
   hazard to user's freedom to modify the functioning of their

4. Finally, if in the context of the release of etch, we need to
   compromise our ideals and accept programmatic works without source,
   we should do so by specifically exempting them from DFSG 2 for the
   purpose of releasing etch by a GR which needs to meet the 3:1
   requirement instead of attempting to define ourselves into such a
   position, especially when source code is clearly a desirable thing
   to have from our users and our perspective.

Don Armstrong

i: At Big Time; usually somewhere around 9:30 and Hope (outer ring)
with multiple domes (big-ish to small) and a few mobile domes as well
in case someone wants to find me. ;-)
"There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the    
right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
 -- Bach 

http://www.donarmstrong.com              http://rzlab.ucr.edu

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