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Re: Proposal - Defer discussion about SC and firmware until after the Etch release

A couple weeks ago, Frans Pop <elendil@planet.nl> wrote:
My rough summary:
- (almost) everybody agrees that non-free drivers don't belong in main;
- (almost) everybody agrees that sourceless firmware at least needs to be
 distributable before any kind of support can be considered;
- most people agree that Etch should not be delayed for a solution to the
 sourceless firmware issue;
- a fair number of people (though a percentage is hard to estimate)
 seem to feel that the current Social Contract is too restrictive when
 it comes to some types of files, forms of documentation and
 sourceless firmware;
- probably a larger number feels that we should not kill the project by
 scaring away users with hardware that depends on sourceless
 firmware and is willing to consider solutions for that while still making
 the projects preference for firmware _with_ source clear to users
 and others.
loading such packages  from contrib/non-free would imply that
these sections have to be added by default to the sources list
for these users which is undesirable given the aims of the project

It strikes me that our difficulty here is very similar to that behind
the "special exception" written into GPLv2.  It's a bootstrapping
issue which exists in part because the free software communities
need to co-exist with the non-free-software communities.

One obvious issue is that the sources list is relevant in contexts
where a person has access to the sources, and that installation
typically happens when a person only has access to installation

I think it's upsetting for some people to think about the fact that
some people cannot run their computer system without software
which, in some sense, we cannot maintain.  In the context of the
current discussion, such software is free (in terms of licensing fees),
but not free (in the DFSG sense).

Put differently, I think a lot of the angst, here, is centered around
the idea that we should deprecate Contrib and Non-Free.  Given
how this issue has progressed, I think it's rather clear that we are
not yet in a position to do that.

Put differently, in the past we have washed our hands of issues
associated with distributing Non-Free on different sorts of media.
In essence: "We are just making this available, but you're on your
own when dealing with the legalities of this stuff."    No one wants
to deal with that problem, but that just makes the problem crop
up in other ways.  Especially, since it looks like [by our standards],
the linux kernel currently belongs in Non-Free -- that's just
painful for us to think about.  No one wants the kernel to be in
Non-Free, especially with how we've been trying to wash our hands
of non-free.  And yet those very reasons for us "washing our hands"
are the sorts of reasons that would suggest it belongs in Non-Free.

Perhaps we need something analogous to the GPL's "special
exception" in our social contract?  Something that lets us boot
and run Debian on systems with special requirements, without
suggesting that we will give up on our efforts to maintain and
support free software.

In other words, something like amendment text B at
http://www.debian.org/vote/2006/vote_004 might be a good

But I think our current attitude towards non-free is off balance.

And I think the fact that we cannot put reasonably the kernel in
Non-Free, even though our standards say it should be in
Non-Free, illustrates something about how our current attitudes
are broken.

And, no, I don't have a solution.  ["Make copyright law make
sense so that copyright issues can be dealt with in a sensible
fashion" is an example of "not a solution".]

But I can easily understand why so many people are unhappy
and/or upset.


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