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

Paul W. Frields stickster at
Tue Jan 21 23:37:38 UTC 2014

On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 11:45:06AM -0800, Toshio Kuratomi wrote:
> 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.

I tend to agree with Toshio here as well.  These statement changes are
important to document, and not making them while in practical terms
making real changes would inevitably confuse contributors.  If the
idea is to lobby for a slightly revised approach, let's make it

Ten years is a long time to do things one way.  The WGs are evidence
that Fedora is changing the way it approaches its "product."  If
success requires giving incrementally more latitude in some areas, we
should fully consider that.

I agree with Toshio that changing the permeability of the membrane
between Fedora and non-free software may not fit with how Fedora's
philosophy is expressed, *as currently written*.  But that doesn't
mean the change should be dismissed on that basis ("It was never thus,
thus it may never be").

> 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 rewritten examples you gave here are constructive, thanks.  I
would say maybe "anything they need" or "choose what they want to do"
are quite open-ended and maybe don't say what's intended.  Maybe
something like: "When using certain Fedora products[*] we want people
to be able to easily handle common needs which no libre-software
currently and fully satisfies...."

Paul W. Frields                      
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