Defining Free Software Business

MJ Ray mjr at
Mon Jun 26 06:27:03 UTC 2006

"Alfred M. Szmidt" <ams at>
>    It might even make certain members of this list understand how
>    non-free is not part of debian's OS
> Non-free is clearly part of Debian.

Not part of the debian operating system.

       We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is "free"
       in the document entitled "The Debian Free Software Guidelines". We
       promise that the Debian system and all its components will be free
       according to these guidelines. We will support people who create or
       use both free and non-free works on Debian. We will never make the
       system require the use of a non-free component.

> Debian/SPI/ftpmasters are legally
> responsible for whatever is put into non-free.

Debian - no.  SPI - sometimes.  ftpmasters - sometimes.  Those
interested in this aspect can see the head-scratching in the
debian-legal threads last month about the Sun Java fast-tracking.

>    and how it can be used to help get more free software,
> One does not get more people using free software by saying: Here, have
> some non-free software as well.

Indeed.  I think that's part of why it's not on the distribution
CDs.  However, you don't let people know that something is
non-free software by never mentioning its non-free-ness and you
never free software by ignoring it.  Similarly, you won't let
people know which companies offer non-free software by ignoring
them, or persuade those companies to improve.

>    But will the FSF's ambivalence towards debian allow us to use these
>    handy and familiar labels?
> The FSF has never had mixed feelings towards Debian, the stance has
> always been quite clear: 100% free software.  Something that Debian
> once along time achived, but not anymore. [...]

Debian still achieves it as much as it ever has, aiming for 100%.
The non-free archive existed when FSF sponsored debian development:
Instead, in later years, we've seen FSFers recommend other
distributions which had mixed non-free software into their CDs.
Debian takes some crap for being clear and honest in its
labelling.  Maybe debian flames from misguided FSF supporters
are another example that GBN might learn from?

Thank you for illustrating my pessimism,
MJ Ray - personal email, see
Work:  Jabber/SIP ask

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