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Re: A GNU “social contract”?

From: Andreas Enge
Subject: Re: A GNU “social contract”?
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2019 21:32:39 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.12.1 (2019-06-15)


so here is a new version. Besides minor editorial changes, I did the

On Tue, Nov 05, 2019 at 12:27:19PM +0100, Ludovic Courtès wrote:
> I think we should avoid “we” because it’s ambiguous.  Instead, I very
> much prefer either “the GNU Project” or maybe “members of the Project”
> where appropriate, but “members” is undefined.

- Replaced back "we" by "the GNU Project" everywhere. Indeed I remember
  complaining myself when people used a very vague "we"...

> We could define “member” as someone who signed the social contract, but
> that’s probably not enough: a group of people could make a hostile
> takeover by signing it en masse.  So there needs to be some form of
> cooptation to avoid that, as is commonly done in organizations.
> I guess that leads to a new sub-task: defining the procedure to become a
> “member” of the project.

- Dropped the paragraph about current members having agreed to the social
  contract. This ends up being a circular definition, the social contract
  defining members as people adopting the social contract... I think the
  document stands by itself, and then it can get adopted.
> > All software written by us is distributed under copyleft licenses, designed
> > to ensure that developers cannot strip off users' freedom from GNU software.
> Like others wrote, this should be stated as a preference:
>   The GNU Project preferably distributes software it develops under …

- For further discussion, added a more restrictive paragraph:
  "Apart from rare historical exceptions...", which would mean there will not
  be any others in the future.
  By your arguments, that is too strong (concerning GCC support libraries and
  autoconf snippets, for instance).
  On the other hand, I am a bit wary of a "should" clause - when there is no
  firm principle, where do we draw the line? If it is only "preferable", why
  not adopt llvm rather than gcc if this feels convenient? The problem here
  is to make a clear distinction between GNU and "open source".
  Another possible formulation:
  "Unless the GNU Project deems that a different choice furthers the
  advancement of free software, all software..."
  This would assume that a formal decision (by some governing board, whatever
  it will be) is required for choosing a non-copyleft license.

> Also, it may be better to avoid the term “copyleft” unless we define it.

There is a pseudo-definition following it: "designed to ensure that developers
cannot strip off users' freedom". I am fine leaving it as a technical term,
with this additional explanation.

> > * GNU provides consistent systems
> Side note: in the first version, I tried to use “GNU” to refer to the
> software, and “the GNU Project” to refer to the collective.  It might be
> worth preserving that distinction for clarity.

This was a bit confusing, I think, in your original version; so I wrote
"GNU Project" in all the headings, since I think they refer to the project
and not only the software. I also (pseudo-)defined "the GNU system".

> > We develop an operating system and a set of applications, in the form of
> > GNU packages.  GNU package developers work together to ensure consistency
> > across packages.  GNU packages follow the design and development guidelines
> > of the GNU Project.
> Perhaps s/follow/should follow/ to better reflect current reality.


> > Free software has extended beyond the GNU Project, and we work with
> > companion free software projects that develop key components of our system.
> s/our system/the GNU operating system/ (to make it sound less
> possessive.)

"the GNU system" as defined above.

On Sat, Nov 02, 2019 at 05:13:22PM +0100, Mark Wielaard wrote:
> > So you would drop this paragraph, or just the examples?
> Just the examples. The idea is important. I just don't know the right
> words to express it generically. "If people technically have free
> software, but cannot practically exercise the freedoms they should
> have, then we should take action." does seem too generic.

Okay. I dropped the examples (DRM etc.), and kept the other text. I think
it makes sense as a more general mission statement: The FEF (Four Essential
Freedoms, I added capitals) as the firm basics, and then whatever it needs.

On Tue, Nov 05, 2019 at 12:27:19PM +0100, Ludovic Courtès wrote:
> Should we do a v2.1 based on this and feedback others gave?
> What do people think?

Here it is! Another round of feedback?


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