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Re: Request for GR: clarifying the license text licensing / freeness issue

On Sun, Apr 22, 2007 at 09:30:51AM +1000, Ben Finney wrote:
> > > [The status quo] doesn't address the concern that motivated this
> > > discussion: that the license texts which have restrictions on
> > > modification are non-free works by the DFSG, yet are being
> > > distributed in Debian against the Social Contract.
> >
> > This concern DOES NOT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED.  It needs to be IGNORED.
> You seem to be saying that a violation of the social contract should
> be ignored.

There's a difference between an ignorable concern and a violation.

Yes, the social contract says that the Debian system and all of its
components will be fully free; but for all practical intents and purposes
(heh), the accompanying license texts are as much a "component" of the
"system" as is the media the system is distributed on. Yes, you can't do
without it, but you also can't start obsessing on it because the matter can
soon get absurd after that. (There is no free hardware to run it on, oh my!)

Lawyers would likely ask us - what would be the legal purpose of addressing
this concern? Will anyone ever be able to bring on a legitimate complaint
against us for violating the social contract by distributing license texts?
(So would we be eliminating that risk by addressing the concern?)
I don't think so. (Somebody ranting on a random Internet forum about how
evil Debian includes evil licenses is not automatically a legitimate
complaint :)

Trying to "clarify" the social contract by elaborating on peripheral things
that aren't immediately obvious, is basically nitpicking, and it shouldn't
be done. Also, nobody cares for statements that can be normalized to 'you
can do all this, except that, that, that, and that', and those should also
be avoided if we want readers to take the spirit of the document seriously.

Lastly, being dissected by people who like to think that official documents
need to resemble mathematical proofs is not really the purpose of the social
contract. Yes, I sometimes do those things too, so I'm not trying to
blithely disrespect the said group. It's just that sometimes we who do that
need to curb our enthusiasm. :)

     2. That which causes joy or happiness.

(Reading on -vote, not on -legal.)

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