Proposal: Revision of policy surrounding 3rd party and non-free software

Christian Schaller cschalle at
Tue Jan 21 18:37:38 UTC 2014

Hi Toshio,
While we might want to update some of the pages you mention, for most of them there is no need.
They are just general statements about wishing to support free software, which we do. And as I mentioned
in the original email, we need to have users to achieve that. There are some issues driving users away from 
Fedora that we can't fix (ie. software patent mess), but we should try to fix the things we can.

Our influence with the rest of the world and promoting freedom rests on us having users and obviously the
way we have been building Fedora and the policies around Fedora used so far is not giving us that. 

So we have decided to change, both in technical terms with the Fedora Next plan, but we also need to revisit
how we practice our policies, which is what this proposal is about. And to be fair the change we are proposing here
is not that radical, someone installing Fedora even after this policy change will still get a system using 100% free software
out of the box.

The only change is that we stop parenting our users and instead make it easier for them to make their own decisions about what software 
to install on top of their Fedora system to the degree we are able to.


----- Original Message -----
> From: "Toshio Kuratomi" <a.badger at>
> To: "Fedora community advisory board" <advisory-board at>
> Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 6:30:57 PM
> Subject: Re: Proposal: Revision of policy surrounding 3rd party and non-free	software
> On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 09:52:04AM -0500, Christian Schaller wrote:
> > This proposal comes out of the work on the Fedora Workstation PRD.
> > 
> > The Fedora project values freedom and has for a long time tried to minimize
> > our users exposure to non-free software.
> > While this is a good idea the time has come for fine tuning the policy a
> > bit. Fedora has been declining in popularity
> > for a long time now and we are trying to revamp it with the ongoing
> > work. That work has a lot of components,
> > but one of them is to make getting the software you need installed and
> > running easily on Fedora in a userfriendly manner.
> > 
> > As part of this a new software installer has been developed, as first seen
> > in Fedora 20 (
> > This new installer has given the Fedora desktop the beginning of a more
> > user friendly way and thus competitive way of installing
> > new applications and similar, but to finish the task we need to be able to
> > offer users easy access to the most popular and sometimes
> > critical pieces of Linux software available, including non-free software.
> > 
> > The way we want to achieve this is to make such software discoverable and
> > installable through the new software installer. We want
> > to do that in a way we feel is compatible with the overall goals of Fedora
> > and legally sound.
> > 
> > In order to keep with the Fedora policy of only shipping free software we
> > will only make available 3rd party software that offers
> > their own repository for their software. Examples here include Google
> > Chrome and Adobe Acrobat.
> > 
> A quick note since this jumped out at me on the first read and it's pretty
> easy to fix.  This restriction does not addresses free (libre) software
> requirements at all.  It addresses legal requirements.  It's much harder for
> Fedora Legal to review the random collections of software which RH is not
> already liable for than it is for Fedora Legal to review a repository
> dedicated to a single upstream project for which that project is
> responsible.  (Note that even there, some repositories will be easier to
> review than others.  Free(libre) software is easier for Legal to audit than
> closed-source.  Software that includes patented code (like chrome) would
> mean that Legal has to make sure that the repository owner has a license to
> distribute that code and that the license is sufficiently broad that
> enabling the
> > In order to keep things clear in a legal sense we will only include such
> > software in collaboration with said upstream and after a review by
> > lawyers.
> > 
> > The software will come with a warning in the installer that this is not
> > software provided by the Fedora project and that users need to contact
> > the relevant upstream for support. We will also make it clear that this is
> > not free software and users will be presented with a need to 'opt-in'
> > to use said non-free software for that reason.
> > 
> > We have created a mockup of how this could look, but be aware that this was
> > put together quickly and is in no way the final design. Neither all
> > the textual information we want in there as outlined above is included nor
> > is the final version likely to look exactly like this. We still feel it
> > might help
> > people understand a bit more where we are going with this:
> >
> > 
> > The working groups will be free to decide what software to try to get
> > included based on the guidelines above. In terms of technical impact and
> > support overhead the working group will need to decide if something is
> > 'supportable' and work with relevant development teams as needed.
> > 
> > In Fedora we want to support and encourage Freedom. We can only achieve
> > that goal if we are considered relevant and with a sizeable community
> > using Fedora.
> > We support and encourage the use of free options in Fedora by having them
> > as our default and recommended solutions, but we are only hurting
> > ourselves and
> > limiting our chance to educate and inform our users by making them turn
> > away from Fedora due to feeling that getting what might be critical
> > software for
> > their usage is a hassle with Fedora.
> > 
> > So to summarize the proposal.
> > 
> > * Fedora will continue to not ship non-free software and as part of that
> > will continue to only default to free software.
> > * We will add the needed metadata to the Software installer to give our
> > users the freedom to choose to install legally cleared 3rd party software
> > * The Working groups will have the ability to work with legal council and
> > technical teams to achieve this goal
> Talking with jwb on IRC, it seems that the intention of this is not to
> overrule FESCo but to get a Board change of policy on libre software.
> Taking that as a basis to start this conversation, most of this policy
> should go to FESCo to decide as it came up just a few months ago and
> resulted in this FESCo policy:
> The Policy covers most of the same things that are covered in the FESCo
> policy.  There is one part of this proposal that does need a Board decision,
> however.  That's mentioned in the non-free repositories section of the
> Current FESCo policy:
> == Repositories with non-free (libre) software ==
>  Repositories that contain non-free software are not allowed in any form as
>  they are contrary to the aims of Fedora. If a product should want to make
>  these repositories discoverable it would require a change in policy from
>  the Fedora Board. Please be sure that FESCo is included on any such request
>  to the Board.
> In FESCo's meeting where we discussed this[1]_, we decided that the Board's
> previously established position(s) of Fedora's relationship to Free Software
> would conflict with our making it easy to search for non-free software.
> Therefore we would need the Board to change that relationship before we
> could consider policy allowing non-libre repositories.
> At minimum, we'd probbaly need the Board to simply say that it was okay for
> us to allow searching and pointing to non-free software in the same manner
> as we allow for COPR repos (see the existing FESCo policy for the details).
> More satisfying to the people who raised objections would be to either
> change or rephrase and clarify the pieces in all the Fedora Policies that
> seem
> to conflict with non-libre software.  Places that I found by quickly
> searching this morning:
> * The Fedora Foundations:
>   The Freedom Foundation is weighted towards free software.  It could be
>   rephrased or changed to make cooperation with non-free software more clear.
>   (Also mentioned on other pages like:
> * Vision statement
>   Probably could work this in by promoting the collaboration element more
>   and talking about collaboration between free software and closed source
>   software.
> * The Mission Statement:
>   * [Our Mission] and [Elements of Fedora's Mission] could be rephrased to
>     show our relation to proprietary software.  Could be similar to the
>     reworking on the Vision Staement.
>   * [Our Core Values] has something interesting: "we guarantee that Fedora
>     will always be free for everyone, everywhere, to use, modify and
>     distribute"  When we think about whether pointing people to proprietary
>     software should be allowed, we tend to think about modification mostly.
>     But we probably should think about the other things mentioned here as
>     well:  Can we/do we wish to allow pointing to software which:
>     * Excludes some people?  (Ex: Not for nuclear plant operators)
>     * Excludes some usages? (Not to be used for evil)
>     * Distribution? (the third party repo is free to redistribute and they
>       give us a license to point to them but our users are not free to
>       redistribute the code that they download through that.)
> * Our Objectives:
>   * [Creating a Free distribution] Probably mention something about people
>     being able to use proprietary software of the products we create
>   * [Objectives Outside of the Fedora Project] Need to change the bullet
>     point relating to proprietary components.
> Personally, I'm on the fence about whether these are good changes or not.
> But I do think that if we change direction we should be willing to make that
> change pervasively through our whole set of policies rather than just to
> enable a single use case.
> Moving away from the question for the Board for a moment, I think that the
> mockup of the App Installer screens are roughly what FESCo and Fedora Legal
> asked for so those would probably be fine.  The change in who is responsible
> for approving third party repositories is contrary to things that FESCo
> discussed in their meetings about the policy so we'd likely not approve
> those verbatim.  Pointing to non-free software (assuming that the Board
> okay'd that) would likely be very similar to the current policy for [Other
> Repositories with only free (libre) software] listed on the Third Party
> Repository Policy page.
> .. [1]_:
> -Toshio
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