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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu !free

From: MJ Ray
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] Ubuntu !free
Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 14:47:45 +0100
User-agent: Heirloom mailx 12.2 01/07/07

Noah Slater <address@hidden> wrote:
> On Tue, May 13, 2008 at 10:38:49AM +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> > Please, if it's an essential part of Emacs, dual-license it under the
> > GPL so that it can always be included with Emacs in any distribution.
> Licencing of manuals is controlled by the FSF where the copyright assignment 
> has
> taken place, so petitioning individual developers is a useless exercise.

Why?  Developers can relicense their own work, even after copyright
assignment.  While it would be fantastic (and a lot less work) if the
FSF would make all GNU manuals available as free software, petitioning
individual developers can also fix these bugs if they grant additional

  "Upon thirty days' prior written notice, the Foundation agrees to
  grant me non-exclusive rights to use the Work (i.e. my changes and
  enhancements, not the manual which I enhanced) as I see fit;"

So I believe it's entirely possible for Dave Love to permit his
documents to be distributed under the same terms as the rest of the
Emacs package. I feel it's a little unfair to blame the debian project
for this type of bug (which debian left in the distribution for years
after discovery before deciding on the current ugly fix) and not
mention this other possible fix which Dave Love could make.

If I've misunderstood and "as I see fit" doesn't include granting
additional licences as the author requests, please explain because I'm
not the only person currently making this mistake!

> > As far as I can recall, FSF still doesn't distribute a complete
> > operating system itself
> To the best of my understanding GNU is a complete operating system.

Perhaps, but FSF doesn't distribute a complete operating system itself
currently AFAIK.  If you start at www.fsf.org and follow the "Learn
More" link on the GNU section, there's no way to get it from there. If
you start at www.gnu.org and follow the "GNU/Linux distributions"
link, then it links to third-party suppliers, including ones like
Ututo which have slipped up in the past.  That's fine, but it's not
the same as distributing it themselves.

> You're implying that because the FSF does not distribute a free operating
> systems (which it does) it has no position holding firm on it's ethics, which
> seems a little absurd to me.

Sorry, but that is not what I'm trying to imply.  I want to imply that
the manner of criticism (AFAICT mainly non-recommendation of debian,
recommending out weaker alternatives and flaming the project) by FSF
and its supporters is probably unhelpful for its goals.  (Actually, is
FSF's full current constitution online anywhere?  I wanted to check
its actual goals and didn't find it.)

> Would you have them recommend any and all GNU/Linux distributions, only to be
> rightly pulled up for the conflicting messages this would send?

No.  I would have them list any and all GNU/Linux distributions and
comment and constructively criticise them in that listing, like they
do with licences.  After all, no-one seriously claims FSF is
recommending the Jahia Community Source License, do they?  Yet it's
there and linked.

> > It is a serious bug for any part of the debian operating system (=the
> > main repository on the FTP archive and the only bit on the official
> > CDs and DVDs) to Recommend anything from non-free.
> You're conflating debian/control syntax with the actual meaning of the word.

The debian/control syntax is meant to mimic the actual meaning of the

> I would consider this example to be a recommendation of non-free software:
>   http://packages.debian.org/etch/rar

I wouldn't call that a recommendation, but OK, so packages.d.o would
also need splitting, along with ftp-master like I wrote before.

That page and the data underlying it is not supplied as part of the
debian operating system => debian does not make that recommendation.

> Waving your hands and saying that Debian "simply" has some packages 
> "somewhere"
> on an FTP mirror but they are somehow "not official" is an absurd thing to do.

Well, I think it's absurd to wave one's hands and say that the debian
project is somehow evil because its website describes and links to
non-free software, when the FSF is fine even though its website
descibes and links to non-free software with a lot less clear labelling.

> > Debian no more recommends non-free software than FSF does when it mentions
> > that such-and-such is available for Microsoft Windows.
> The FSF do not host, advertise and provide extensive resources for searching,
> downloading, installing and using non-free software. Debian does.

Not host under its own control (this is one difference between the two
organisations I acknowledge), but I believe FSF does advertise and
provide resources for searching, downloading, installing and using
non-free software, although less readily than with stuff from the
debian project.

> > I thought FSF's complaint was that the debian project (not the OS) hosts 
> > some
> > non-free software packages on its archive network
> Again, this is a misrepresentation. The contrib and non-free packages permeate
> every level of the Debian universe, from the public website, to the system 
> tools
> to the FTP archives you keep mentioning.

I don't know how to deal with such utter denial!  They "permeate" it
so completely that you can use Debian without any of them(!) - some
new users are surprised that some of them exist (sometimes discovering
this after they broke their Debian-official-CD by badly installing
stuff directly from places like nvidia.com).

Anyway, it's clearly labelled and described, like the big red
"non-free" on http://packages.debian.org/etch/rar and could be
seperated without much work.  What is meant by "Debian" and where we
currently are with respect to our freedom-related bugs is also pretty
clearly labelled and described, yet many people try to confuse you
between debian (the OS), the project, debian developers, debian donors
and contributors and more.

> > most of the GNU project's mirror network hosts non-free software packages 
> > too
> ... and I am willing to bet that the mirrors, which are presumably provided
> gratis, have absolutely no affiliation with the GNU project.

What's "affiliation" here?  Most of the debian mirrors are donated and
have no affiliation beyond that and maybe a DNS record.

> > FSF with their history of good philosophy and poor recommendations
> Care to provide any examples?

I provided Ututo's past inclusion of no-commercial-use mpg123 and
the notorious nvidia drivers in a past email.

I seem to recall at least one case of an FSF member recommending LinEx
in an interview and then asking the publication to remove it after
supporters of both debian+FSF pointed out the famous non-free software
in LinEx, then settling for a footnote.

> The FSF does not recommend any organisation that distributes non-free software
> and this is an understandable public position to take.

I'm not sure that is true in two ways.  First, little things like that
slip into FSF's recommended organisations.  It's usually an honest
mistake and not worth getting hung up on, but let me use blag for
example, because I know it best.  How about blag's mplayer package
including the clear instruction "On x86, additional Win32 binary
codecs should be added to /usr/lib/win32/" - while being a little less
clear about it, I think that's pretty surely recommending the non-free
Windows Media codecs. Or, what about many of blag's packages linking
to Freshrpms.net which includes stuff like acroread and simple
instructions on how to install them?  Or, how about distributing the
nvidia drivers in
?  Blag's not configured to use it, but it's on their ftp site.

Secondly, I don't think it's understandable, to pretend that there are
N perfect distributions and the imperfect ones aren't worth discussing.

> This two things are not in conflict. There is no reason to feel like you have 
> to
> defend Debian "against" the FSF. No one is attacking. [...]

I don't feel that I have to defend debian against the FSF, but I want
to defend debian against those improper claims and maybe get more help
from FSF supporters.  People often suggest that debian has introduced
this type of bug into Emacs (it was already there and FSF corrected
the debian project's misunderstanding that the Emacs licence applied
to those documents by applying the FDL to them), or somehow isn't 100%
free because FSF won't recommend it.

I feel the best way is to correct any misrepresentations (note that I
quote and cite when possible, which disappointingly few others do - I
used to think it was because claims like "Licencing of manuals is
controlled by the FSF where the copyright assignment has taken place"
are actually false and it's obvious if you read the actual assignment
papers, but now I think maybe it's just acceptance of common myths
without checking) and explain the absurdities in the current FSF
approach to distributions, in the hope that FSF supporters will help
FSF improve.

Hope that explains,
MJ Ray (slef)
Webmaster for hire, statistician and online shop builder for a small
worker cooperative http://www.ttllp.co.uk/ http://mjr.towers.org.uk/
(Notice http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html) tel:+44-844-4437-237

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