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

Toshio Kuratomi a.badger at
Tue Jan 21 19:45:06 UTC 2014

On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 01:37:38PM -0500, Christian Schaller wrote:
> Hi Toshio,
> While we might want to update some of the pages you mention, for most of them there is no need.
I both agree and disagree with you here.  There is no *need* to update the
other pages mentioned.  As I said, the minimum that the Board would have to
decide upon for FESCo to write a policy for pointing to repositories
contianing non-free content would be whether Fedora should allow that
specific pointing.

However, I think it is desirable to make changes to those pages.  The
support that Fedora has for libre software is an underlying philosophy that
subtly affects many of our policies and future decisions.  It's important to
document these things so that we know what we and our future contributors
are on the same page as we go down the road.

> They are just general statements about wishing to support free software, which we do.

Firstly, that's not the case for all of the statements I listed.  Some of
them make statements about proprietary software that should be changed to be
more clear.

Beyond that the problem is properly managing expectations.  For instance,
reading the Freedom Foundation, we see that we aren't just "supporting" free
software.  Instead we are dedicated to it.  We advance it as a central goal.
We limit the effects of proprietary code.  We avoid taking the easy way out.
And we create products and processes that anyone can copy for their own

Those are much more active and agreesively proming of libre-software than
simply saying that we "support" free software.  The use of these words
without any contering wording about how we feel about proprietary software
sets up the reasonable expectation that Fedora should not be making it easy
for proprietary software to be installed.

I think that the current wording sprinkled throughout our many
"philosophical" documents of the Project serve to make the expectation
that we *do not support proprietary software* and that we may even actively
work to make proprietary software unwelcome if it doesn't do anything that
libre software can do just as well.  To counter that (if the Board does
think we should counter that), we should say something that makes clear that
our boundaries are actually less strident than that.

We might want to rework everything to be more like what's written on the
Objectives page (currently as a non-objective of Fedora):
"While we do not purposely make installation of such components more
difficult, we also do not allow our schedule or processes to be driven by
theirs."  (Note that the part immediately preceding that on the page should
be toned down as part of this reworking).  This would be very similar to
what Fedora currently does in practice and a very minor emphasis change in
the rest of the documents.  I don't think that's enough to encompass making
pointing to third party, non-libre software repositories an integral part of
our products, though.

For that, I think we would want to go a bit further and talk about how we
cooperate with proprietary software.  The previous example might be stated
as "The only the only promise we make is not to make changes solely to break
proprietary software".  A better statement that would encompass pointing to
some proprietary software would be "We want people to be able to do anything
they need with our platform and therefore we make it easy for them to find
proprietary software when no libre-software exists to do the same thing".
That statement might not encompass Adobe Acrobat or Google Chrome (at least,
as long as the flash plugin for firefox continues to work for most flash
content), though.  A position that might encompass those could be: "We want
people to be able to have the freedom to choose what they want to do with
their system, including running proprietary software.  We endeavor to make
it just as easy for people to run proprietary software as the libre-software
alternatives that exist." (/me notes that ajax once defined a position that
is also at odds with this [the Linux-is-not-about-choice position] but that
never made it into written policy.)


The rest of your message seems to be about how we need to allow non-libre
software in some shape or form to retain users.  Since I'm not on the Board,
those aren't the piece of this discussion that are relevant to my critique
but the Board should definitely consider them when they decide whether to
ajust our current position on non-libre software.

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