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Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 15:06 UTC (Thu) by Jonno (subscriber, #49613)
Parent article: Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

While there are more issues, to my mind the largest sticking point is the management of the non-free and contrib components. While the Debian Social Contract explicitly exclude them from the Debian system, they are still maintained by the Debian *project* for use *with* the Debian system, which according to the FSF guidelines is enough to be considered "encouraging" their use.

I can not see Debian being approved by FSF without externalizing them to a separate project, with a separate community and brand (though possibly still hosted on Debian maintained infrastructure).

One solution would be to offer main at "deb http://ftp.XX.debian.org/debian stable main", but offer non-free and contrib at "deb http://ftp.XX.nonfreedebs.org/nonfreedebs stable non-free contrib".

My imaginary "nonfreedebs.org" would have their own website, wiki, forum and mailing lists, all separate from debian.org. While nonfreedebs.org would make plenty of references to debian.org, debian.org would never reference nonfreedebs.org. Also, while the Debian installation media would not include any non-free software, or in any way mention nonfreedebs.org, nonfreedebs.org would offer re-branded installation media that does.

The fact that both debian.org and nonfreedebs.org would be hosted on the same physical computers, and that most (if not all) nonfreedebs.org developers would also be Debian Developers, should make no difference to FSF endorsement of Debian.

For this to become a reality, section 5 of the Debian Social Contract would have to be changed, which would require a General Resolution.

While the exact wording of such a resolution would have to be worked out by people smarter than me, and FSF should be consulted to verify that it indeed would be enough to satisfy them, the following should be a decent discussion starter:

5. Works that do not meet our free software standards
We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of works that do not conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. While such packages will not be offered as part of the Debian system, they can be configured for use with Debian. To support these users, we are prepared to provide infrastructure (such as web hosting, bug tracking system and mailing lists) for a third party to use to provide non-free packages compatible with the Debian system.


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Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 15:44 UTC (Thu) by panzerboy (subscriber, #16142) [Link]

> 5. Works that do not meet our free software standards
We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of works that do not conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. While such packages will not be offered as part of the Debian system, they can be configured for use with Debian. To support these users, we are prepared to provide infrastructure (such as web hosting, bug tracking system and mailing lists) for a third party to use to provide non-free packages compatible with the Debian system.

It might be that FSF will object at this as well. Isn't providing infrastructure for something endorsing it in a way?

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 20:29 UTC (Thu) by Jonno (subscriber, #49613) [Link]

> It might be that FSF will object at this as well. Isn't providing infrastructure for something endorsing it in a way?

Not necessarily. I would consider it to just be *tolerating* it, combined with a desire to bring some semblance of order to the chaos...

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 23:37 UTC (Thu) by ldarby (guest, #41318) [Link]

It's not just tolerating, it's actively providing resources to the "enemy", which the FSF won't accept.

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 23:47 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

> It's not just tolerating, it's actively providing resources to the "enemy", which the FSF won't accept.

If you define the "enemy" as your users who are trying to get things done, you are correct.

The FSF has forgotten their earlier statements that it's acceptable to use closed code when there is no open equivalent yet. Instead they are trying to say that users should not have the choice of closed code at all.

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 13, 2012 0:09 UTC (Fri) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

When did FSF say that? A exact reference would be better.

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 19, 2012 15:55 UTC (Thu) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

I doubt it was the FSF - I think it predates the FSF.

But you'll find RMS quoted as saying that if you look back far enough. Probably the mid 80s.

Cheers,
Wol

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 13, 2012 1:20 UTC (Fri) by ldarby (guest, #41318) [Link]

> If you define the "enemy" as your users who are trying to get things done, you are correct.

By enemy I meant the popularity of the software, possible the software itself, and maybe the authors, but not the users.

> The FSF has forgotten their earlier statements that it's acceptable to use closed code when there is no open equivalent yet.

I can't remember where I read this and I can't find a link, but I thought RMS's said it's never OK to use non-free, apart from when replacing it, i.e. in order to bootstrap the GNU project. And if there's no free alternative then to get started writing one. (I'm not saying that's practical, I'm saying that's what his position is...)

> Instead they are trying to say that users should not have the choice of closed code at all.

Yes, the FSF has a zero-tolerance policy for non-free, and trying to prevent it being used, by preventing users from finding out about it, is consistent with that. (although it's pretty much censorship, and very ineffective at that)

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 20:16 UTC (Thu) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

To support these users, we are prepared to provide infrastructure (such as web hosting, bug tracking system and mailing lists) for a third party to use to provide non-free packages compatible with the Debian system.

That wouldn't fly since, to be approved as a »free« distribution, the FSF wants Debian to pretend there is no such thing as non-free software.

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 12, 2012 20:23 UTC (Thu) by Jonno (subscriber, #49613) [Link]

That is patently false. While only FSF can say definitely if my idea would be enough, they absolutely *don't* want you to pretend non-free software doesn't exist.

In fact they *want* you to preach to your users about the evils of non-free software, but only *require* you to not encourage it's use (for a fairly broad definition of "encourage").

Searching for common ground between Debian and FSF

Posted Jul 13, 2012 1:29 UTC (Fri) by ldarby (guest, #41318) [Link]

> That is patently false. While only FSF can say definitely if my idea would be enough, they absolutely *don't* want you to pretend non-free software doesn't exist.

Actually, the requirement is you have to cover your ears and shout "LA-LA-LA-I-CANT-HEAR-YOU" whenever non-free is mentioned.

Hint: turn on your sarcasm detector :)


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