[Fsf-Debian] Who gets to say what the definition of “Debian” is?

Ben Finney ben+debian at benfinney.id.au
Sun Aug 5 13:07:50 UTC 2012

Bryan Baldwin <bryan at katofiad.co.nz> writes:

> On 08/05/2012 12:27 PM, Ben Finney wrote:
> > Sometimes the name “Debian” is used colloquially to refer to the
> > Debian project, and the name “GNU” is used colloquially to refer to
> > the GNU project. I think we agree that those uses, while they are
> > usually clear enough, do frequently cause unfortunate confusion such
> > as exhibited in this thread.


> > Yes. Hopefully we all can continue to work on resolving that here
> > in this forum.
> There is no confusion here. The difference between Debian and the
> Debian Project is completely immaterial to either being considered
> freedom respecting.

Debian is 100% free; all of its parts are free software, or are subject
to removal from Debian on that basis alone.

The Debian project is composed of people; many of those people work on
producing non-free software, and no-one has promised they will abstain
From that. This does not affect whether Debian is free.

> Debian "the system", allegedly 100% free, was not suddenly discovered
> to our shock and amazement to share the name Debian with another
> completely autonomous developement movement who just so happened to be
> engaged in making nonfree software packages […]

Just as GNU, which is an operating system, was not suddenly discovered
to share a name with a project which produces website articles and so
on, tightly related to GNU and served from the same servers, under
non-free “you may not modify this” terms. That does not affect the fact
that GNU is free, because those things are not part of GNU.

> So then you say, that over there, that's not part of us.

No, that's not what is said. It doesn't even make sense, as you're
conflating a bunch of bits (“that over there”) with a group of people

This is exactly the confusion I'm pointing out. GNU is not people, and
Debian is not people. Both those names refer to operating systems. It is
unreasonable to call GNU or Debian non-free based on the totality of all
things produced by the GNU project or the Debian project.

Of course, the GNU project is often called GNU, and the Debian project
is often called Debian, but that's usually in awareness of the risk of
exactly this kind of confusion. To think of them as the same thing leads
to nonsense like “you say, that over there, that's not part of us”.
You're confusing software with the people who produce or maintain it.

If we can talk about Debian as defined by the Debian project, and about
GNU as defined by the GNU project, this confusion is cleared up.

 \     “When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no |
  `\     test in reality, this [the Auschwitz crematorium] is how they |
_o__)             behave.” —Jacob Bronowski, _The Ascent of Man_, 1973 |
Ben Finney
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