[Fsf-Debian] The question behind the questions [was No response?]

Bryan Baldwin bryan at katofiad.co.nz
Sat Aug 4 21:49:01 UTC 2012

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The discussions on this list are getting to the point where visibility
of the things that are preventing FSF from standing in solidarity with
Debian are becoming clear. Behind all the questions over firmwares and
definition's of Debian's inclusiveness and definitions of freedom is
just the one question that is really what we are all here to discuss.

The question is, "What is the minimum that Debian has to do or say to
get to be called a free distribution and still be the same Debian?"
Which is to say, a Debian that FSF can label free while simultaneously
retaining the same quick and easy access to vetted nonfree
repositories. This is the elephant in the room.

Debian's website says, software contained in contrib and nonfree are
not part of the system. Except those packages are hosted, supported,
and maintained in exactly the same way as everything else. We only
shift the nomenclature around a bit. This is Orwellian double-think.
How many fingers *is* Debian actually holding up? Some will say four
and some will say five and yet more will begin to ask if thumbs count
as fingers and so on.

I don't know what Bradley Kuhn would say about it, but I don't think
FSF should look the other way while Debian is stacking the deck and
stuffing cards up their sleeves. I don't think it would elevate
freedom in the community if they did.

The fully free systems already on FSF's list never had contrib and
nonfree repositories from which to distance themselves. Partly that is
because they are derivatives of existing distributions like Fedora and
Debian and simply extracted the freedom respecting bits, but mostly
because their main goal is to be free.

Which brings me back to the point I originally made. If Debian were
serious about being a free distribution, we wouldn't be taking out our
tape measures to figure out the minimum distance we need to put
between main and contrib/nonfree before it makes Debian's claim to be
100% free become something meaningful. We would be talking about
simply and irrevocably cutting off the contrib and nonfree
repositories ab initio.
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