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Re: [fab] Fedora as Free Software?

On Apr 21, 2006, Michael Tiemann <tiemann redhat com> wrote:

> I think the main thing is declaring it to be free software ourselves.
> We miss the mark by not actually saying it explicitly.

Yes, this is indeed the main point, as far as I understand it.  I
often tell people that, even though I do believe Fedora contains only
Free Software, I cannot promote it, because its policy allows non-free
software to go in, even if it's just a theoretical threat.

Consider that someone might be aware of the differences between the
OSD and the FSD and design a license specifically for the purpose of
passing the OSD and not passing the FSD.  Fedora, per its current
guidelines, might accept such a project, and at that point, it would
no longer be free, and any work we (FSFs) might have done promoting
Fedora would have to be undone, *if* we noticed the problem, which
would be tricky in itself given that it wouldn't require any changes
in policy.

So, yes, saying it explicitly is probably the most important thing to
enable all of us FSFers to realize that Fedora is indeed committed to
the same goals as we are, such that we can help Fedora verify that
Fedora is already purely Free Software and, if not, help it become,
such that we can then endorse it and promote it.

I enclose below an e-mail I sent Max Spevack a while ago, when he was
drawning in Fedora Foundation work, which is probably why I never got
a reply.  It probably helps figure out the sort of stuff we're after.
Compliance and committment with the FSD is the most important of all;
the other issues are still important, but not as important as the main

Of course, if Fedora were willing to switch to a Free Software focus,
as Michael suggested, that would make the secondary matters much
simpler, but if not, we're very close to what I ask below as we stand

--- Begin Message ---

I hear you're now in charge of Fedora.  Elliot tells me I should
discuss some matters with you.  Let me give you some background

Besides being a compiler engineer at Red Hat, I'm a free software
activist, and one of the founders and current secretary of Free
Software Foundation Latin America.  These two positions seldom
conflict, thanks to Red Hat's favorable stance to Free Software, in
spite of the insistence in calling it Open Source Software ;-)

I'm writing to you mainly because the various FSFs are planning events
for the International Free Software Forum 7.0, to be held this year
from April 19-22, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  One of the events we're
planning is that of promoting distributions that carry only Free
Software, and that have a public commitment to do so.

I've talked to Elliot several times in the past about how to make
Fedora promotable by the FSFs, and every time we talked we made small
steps in this direction, but we still miss some crucial bits, and I'm
wondering if there's any chance of our making the necessary changes in
time for us to promote Fedora 5 at FISL.

What we (FSFs) would need is to make sure that we (Fedora) only carry
Free Software, and that we (Fedora) do not intend to carry software
that is not Free Software, ever.

At this time, we (Fedora) have a stated policy of accepting packages
whose licenses are approved by the Open Source Initiative, or listed
as GPL-Compatible or GPL-Incompatible Free Software Licenses (this is
from http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Packaging/Guidelines).  That's a
good start, but it's a bit of a problem for us FSFs because there are
some OSI-approved licenses that do not comply with the Free Software

Even though they are rare, and I don't believe there's any such
software in Fedora, we (FSFs) would not like to take the risk of
recommending people to use something that *might* accept such
softwares because its policy allows it.  In fact, I'd personally
prefer if we (Fedora) made our requirements clear more along the lines
of the principles of freedom described in both the Free Software
Definition and the Open Source Definition than with a list of licenses
maintained by a third party.  The lists could be used for
confirmation, but appearing in one of them should not be enough; every
package would have to satisfy the Free Software Definition
requirements for Fedora to be endorsable by us (FSFs).

What we're after is that Fedora places Free Software on at least equal
footing with Open Source Software, i.e., where we currently say `only
open source software´, say `only software that is both free software
and open source software´, or `only software whose licenses comply
with both the Free Software Definition and the Open Source

Saying FOSS or FLOSS is not quite enough, because these terms are
ambiguous: does the software has to comply with both definitions, or
is complying with any single one of them enough?  If you define them
as meaning it must be both, that would probably be fine, but to avoid
confusion the definition of the acronym should be visible wherever the
term is used.

`free and open source software' is being used very often in the jargon
buster / glossary, but that has the same ambiguity.  Adding the word
`both' in front of that would solve the ambiguity in most cases.  In
others in which we use `is a free and open source $noun', rewording
might be needed, as in `is a $noun that is both free and open-source

All that said, I'm coming to think we'd be better off using some
invented acronym all over, with a URL pointing to the Jargon file
where an explaination of our meaning for it.  FF&&OS comes to mind as
a nice (if geeky) way to convey the intended meaning: it must be both
Free (as in Freedom) and Open Source, and it's an adjective, not a
noun like FOSS, so it should work better in our use cases.

I thought I'd point out that we (FSFs) do appreciate the relatively
recent change to the front page, that very prominently mentions `free
software', and the fact that the jargon buster now has the word free
next to pretty much every occurrence of open source :-) This got the
others I've been in discussion with to believe that there is hope :-),
and that we (Fedora) are almost there.  Forbidden Items is nice in
that it even links to the Free Software definition, but the Glossary
on the Wiki only mentions Open Source.

If making Fedora promotable by the FSFs by making this kind of minor
yet global change to the Fedora web sites and policies is a general
direction the Fedora Steering Committee would agree to move to, I'd be
happy to start hunting for specific points that could be improved in
this regard, and hopefully we'll be able to get to a point in which
the FSFs would be happy to endorse and promote Fedora in no time :-)

Another issue that is not a must, but that would be nice, would be to
avoid spreading the confusion regarding the name Linux.  For example,
when the Wiki FAQ says what Fedora is, and then proceeds to say what
Fedora Core is, it says it is an operating system based on Linux, not
making it clear that it means the kernel Linux.  It wouldn't make
sense for it to be the often-misnamed ``Linux Operating System´´ in
that case, although some people might infer support for such incorrect
and unfair name.  If you feel tempted to not use the term GNU/Linux to
describe the Operating System, I will respect that because I know good
arguments against that, even though I still find it unfair, but you
should then at least prefer Linux-based Operating System, which can be
understood as an operating system that has Linux as the kernel,
instead of just Linux Operating System, which implies the name of the
kernel *is* the name of the operating system.

Thank you very much for your attention, and apologies for the length
of the e-mail,

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Secretary for FSF Latin America        http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}

--- End Message ---

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