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

Ankur Sinha sanjay.ankur at
Wed Jan 22 00:06:50 UTC 2014


I'm rather late to this thread, given that about 60 e-mails have already
been sent at it. Here are my 2 cents:

On Tue, 2014-01-21 at 09:52 -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.

I'd like to point out here that we refrain from providing non-free
software not only because of the legal issues they bring up. We, as a
community, *choose* to not ship non-free software because we want to
keep Fedora an *ideal* FOSS distribution, one that does not do anything
at all to enable the use of non-free software. The legal bit sure, but
more so because of our core values, our foundations, basically our
commitment to FOSS.

> 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.

-1. Explained below. 

> 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.

"clear in a legal sense", again, what about our commitment to FOSS?

> 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:

This may not be the final version, but based on the current status, it's
far from sufficient IMO.

Here's the current workflow for a new user that's used to using non-free
software on, let's say, Windows:

- Installs Fedora
- Tries to play music/use other non-foss software
- Is slightly confused when he can't find them using *any* package
manager * 
- Searches the web
- Finds *many* links on how to do this, redirecting him to RPMFusion 
- - Links include many how-tos, Ask Fedora, Fedoraforum, RPMFusion, even
us at #fedora and other community troubleshooting channels.
- Is frustrated because he can't understand why Fedora won't ship it *
- Learns the explanation either at RPMFusion, or because the various
posts explain that Fedora walks a strict line when it comes to non-foss
- As a result, understands that for everything non-foss, he will need to
do some extra work
- Goes about his business knowing he'll have to search for "chrome
fedora" to install it etc.

It's a one time learning curve. You run into it the first time you use
Fedora. The lesson learned here is invaluable.

* -> what this proposal is trying to help out with (if I've understood
it correctly)

Under your proposed workflow, this becomes:
- Installs Fedora
- Tries to play music/use other non-foss software
- Searches gnome-software
- Finds software
- Reads pop up
- Goes "Oh! Ok.", Clicks "install"
- Goes about his business never learning why Fedora didn't include the
software in the first place. "Oh yeah, some issues. Just click OK and
you'll be fine."

Most users will just assume that Fedora doesn't ship chrome because
google hosts binaries, or that Fedora does not include Adobe
reader/flash because adobe provides binaries. No one is going to take
the pains to dig in and actually find the "Forbidden Items" page if it's
so easy to install non-foss software.

> 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.

As I've pointed out above, we sacrifice convenience for the sake of our
foundations. I've also pointed out that the existing method better
educates any one trying to use Fedora. In fact, it has built our
reputation as "not the easiest distribution to use, but one that only
uses FOSS". It is why people that feel strongly about FOSS choose Fedora
over Ubuntu. It is why I'm here, and not contributing to Ubuntu.

I also think that our community members hosting RPMFusion to provide the
necessary daily used non-foss software shows that we do care about our
users, and that we do bow to non-free *necessities*. However, it is not
weaken our stance on FOSS in any way. It says "We're not going to
include any of it in Fedora, it's not FOSS. However, because we want our
users to watch movies and listen to music for which non-free software is
*necessary*, we will build packages that work well with the main Fedora
distribution, and host them for our users." The term "necessity" is
stressed upon.

> 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

-1 from me. 

I'd like to contribute to a distribution that looks to be FOSS as much
as possible, even if it means that our users have to run around a little
to install required non-free necessities. I would not like to contribute
to one that's on the lines of "Oh, yeah, they're supposed to be very
strict about FOSS, like every other Linux distribution, but they want to
be popular and make non-foss software available in the app-installer
anyway. It's 2 clicks."

I will not be for any changes that add non-free software to Fedora, even
if it's only their metadata.
Warm regards,
Ankur (FranciscoD)

Join Fedora! Come talk to us!

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