[Fsf-Debian] No response?

Bryan Baldwin bryan at katofiad.co.nz
Sat Aug 4 10:15:51 UTC 2012

Hash: SHA1

On 08/04/2012 08:12 AM, Paul Wise wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 11:38 AM, Paul van der Vlis wrote:
>> I agree with the FSF when they say: "Debian also provides a 
>> repository of nonfree software".
> I don't believe that putting the non-free software on a different 
> set of infrastructure still maintained by Debian is meaningfully 
> different to what we have now.
>>> Is there an opportunity to make the separation between what 
>>> "is" and "is not" Debian even clearer, and to do it in a way 
>>> that remains consistent with Debian's social contract?
>> I think my idea would make it clearer. But not 100% sure it's 
>> worth the work. Maybe there are other things more important.
> Fundamentally, the issue seems to be about the clarity of the 
> distinction between Debian (the 'main' section) and 
> non-free/contrib. Do we have any opinion from RMS or other FSF 
> folks about what amount of clarity is required before they would 
> consider Debian a "free distro"? Until we have that there isn't 
> much point discussing potential levels of separation.

I agree. And it dances around the real issue.

The point of separation of main from contrib/nonfree is moot. It
doesn't matter whether Debian developers or maintainers work in both
sectors or not. The only thing that really matters is what is in your
literature, your documentation, and your repositories. Of course,
people who really really cared about their freedom probably wouldn't
want to work in both camps.

It would be interesting to get a response directly from FSF
_specifically for Debian_ to meet the free distribution requirements,
but its terribly terribly redundant. FSF have *already* published
their requirements in sufficient detail with which to begin work. Does
anyone working on Debian really need a third party to give
step-by-step plan to figure it out?

Asking FSF to examine Debian to give you such a response is tantamount
to saying, "If you want us to be a free distribution, do our work for
us." Being a free distribution is not mysterious, nor a moving target.
Its all laid out rather unambiguously.

Nonetheless, here is my take (not necessarily representative of FSF).

* Remove all references to contrib/nonfree from *everything*. It
should not appear in the comments of sources.list, or anywhere in the
packages and documentation, or in Debian's websites and mailing lists.
* No packages should require anything from contrib or nonfree to be
installed (isn't this already true?).
* No packages should reference, offer, or refer to any other nonfree
software before, during, or after it is installed (even if it can be
installed without the nonfree).
* Replace all references like "understanding that some users need
nonfree" with "we are dedicated to identifying and removing all
nonfree packages whenever discovered and as soon as they are
discovered." It would also be helpful if Debian developers were
frequently caught in the act of doing so, as well. Not just labelling
nonfree as bugs and ignoring it for years.

Thus, if I browse the Debian website, or download a Debian installer
and install it, or join a Debian mailing list, I expect never to see,
hear, or discover anything about any nonfree software or repository
anywhere, unless it is in a blacklist explaining why it was
removed/not included. Requests for support for nonfree should be
denied without comments or references that point to where such support
is available.

As far as where contrib/nonfree should go, if there were no direct
links from Debian's websites, mailing lists, documentation, packages,
or software to them, that would be good enough for me. Wherever they
end up going, "Debian" probably shouldn't be part of the title, either.

Needless to say, I'm completely skeptical and incredulous. Here's why.

Unless the majority of Debian's movers and shakers are happy with and
excited about the prospect of doing all of the above, I don't think
Debian will *ever* get to the point where its a fully free
distribution. Plastering the website with 100% free notices doesn't
mean anything and doesn't count. You have to *want* to be free to get
free. If Debian really really wanted to be free, this discussion list
wouldn't even exist. The devs would have simply gone out, done it, and
filled out the application email for consideration by FSF like
everyone else who's on that list already did.
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