Defining Free Software Business

Yavor Doganov yavor at
Mon Jun 26 20:30:38 UTC 2006

Ben Finney wrote:
> The definition and goal of Debian has always been to make an entirely
> free operating system, ever since the original documents creating the
> project. 

I must admit that this is the only thing that made me a Debian user.
Later on I've discovered the technical advantages (and not only, my
machines are almost unusable with any other GNU system).

> What are you implying has changed, or will change?

I don't know, but how can you explain that the present DPL Anthony
Towns suggested the amendment for reaffirming the non-free section
[1], while at the same time proposing the original "Why the GFDL is
not suitable for Debian main" [2]?  How can you explain that the
Debian Project Secretary Manoj Srivastava thinks that the project is
providing a free (as in beer) [3] service and is providing as an
"add-on" (I'd call that freedom-substract-on) the non-free archive?

It seems that there is a hostility towards FSF and the understandable
desire to prove that "We know much better about freedom than you"
issue.  The problem is, while Debian is trying to "prove" its
maturity, it is extremely disappointing to long-time users, supporters
and freedom-carers.  To me, and I'm not alone in this, it is becoming
so crucial that I'm having doubts whether I still have to continue to
use Debian (I've stopped recommending it long ago).  I cannot rely on
Debian's judgement on what's free and what's not.

On a more general note, if you follow the Debian NM list, you'll
notice that 95% of the new maintainers talk in their introduction
about how they're attracted by the technical superiority of "open
source software", etc, etc.  While those people, in almost all cases,
are valuable contributors from purely technical point of view, I doubt
that they can lead the project to the same philosophical and moral
foundatations it once had.

> > But we are not interested so much in what Debian *is*, but what
> > software (free or proprietary) you distribute to users.
> This continues to be an irritating confusion, but one that many of us
> are working to change.

This is much more than an irritating confusion and I highly doubt that
it's going to be solved any time soon.  Don't get me wrong, but the
majority of people in Debian that are concerned about the "freedom"
issues (I intentionally put it in quotes), are concerned to continue
distributing non-free software.  (Hint for Mark, a.k.a. MJ Ray, who
will most probably disagree: just follow the infamous Sun Java thread
at -devel and the GFDL threads at -vote and -legal).


In the GNU Project, discrimination against proprietary software is not
just a policy -- it's the principle and the purpose.  Proprietary
software is fundamentally unjust and wrong, so when we have the
opportunity to place it at a disadvantage, that is a good thing. --RMS

More information about the Discussion mailing list