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Re: [gNewSense-users] Is Fedora 100% free software? If so, how does it

From: jeff
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] Is Fedora 100% free software? If so, how does it differ from gNewSense?
Date: Mon, 06 Nov 2006 13:21:36 -0300
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20060913)

J.B. Nicholson-Owens wrote:
jeff wrote:
Actually, what is in Fedora that isn't 100% Free Software? And I'm not looking for "I think they..." or "I heard they...", but someone who can say: "this particular binary file installed in this directory here in FC6 is non-Free". I think you may be spreading some (likely unintentional) FUD.

I don't think being "100% Free Software" is Fedora's goal.  According to

"Fedora itself is a completely Open Source project. Fedora has a
publicly-available CVS repository, and the source code for every package
is readily available. All code must be covered by an Open Source license
for inclusion in Fedora, guaranteeing your rights to modify and
redistribute the software."

what I'm getting at here is that to me this language says Fedora can use the slightly looser definition of "open source" to allow software under licenses which are not deemed free by the FSF but are deemed "OSI Certified Open Source Software" such as:

- the Original Artistic License,

All of the packages in FC6 are under the perl 4 or later artistic license.

- Apple Public Source License v1.x,

There are zero packages in Fedora under this license.

- Reciprocal Public License,

There are zero packages in Fedora under this license.

- and some other licenses listed on

Here's a list of all the packages in Fedora Core 6 and their licenses:

whereas gNewSense would not distribute software licensed under any of these licenses. This is one of the practical differences between the free software and open source movements that comes from the different definitions of the terms "free software" and "open source".

I certainly appreciate the differences between "Free Software" and "Open Source"--I far prefer the former and the latter makes me cringe. I think it sucks what ESR did.

One must also consider that software can be non-free regardless of the form in which it is distributed. Thus, source code counts too, not just binaries.

This is true. I guess they'd have to fork the kernel /source/ code as well since it has BLOBS (which are /not/ in their resulting binaries).

Using rpm and grep, I found some packages that may match what you're
asking about.  I tried to target packages made by Red Hat, Inc. or the
Fedora Project.  Querying all the packages on a friend's Fedora Core
system, I saw:

- cracklib:ugzilla> which is licensed as "Artistic"

If cracklib is licensed under the original Artistic license (instead of
the clarified Artistic license), the FSF deems cracklib non-free.

Ok. But you didn't read /usr/share/doc/cracklib-2.8.6/LICENCE
"This document is freely plagiarised from the 'Artistic Licence',
distributed as part of the Perl v4.0 kit by Larry Wall, which is
available from most major archive sites"

Basically the same license as perl4, which i assume is a-ok with FSF.

- a number of packages whose license is listed as "Freely Distributable"
including krbafs,

Looks BSDish.

> dos2unix.

Looks to be BSDish--basically you can redistribute modify, but you must include the copyright document.

I assume gnewsense will distribute things under BSD/MIT license, correct?

cyrus-sasl, fonts-ISO8859-2-75dpi, and

I'm no sure about these. I didn't see a LICENSE/COPYRIGHT file.

Fedora /has/ been dropping packages due to not-free-enough licenses. Dropped in fc6 due to licenses were: openmotif, macutils, ckermit, and cleanfeed. A few packages were changed including the /source/ of netpbm to drop non-free bits. I believe if you point out ones that are not free they will remove them. You actually have to do the research though, not just speculate...

 > Mere redistribution permission is insufficient to be free.  Without
knowing the exact terms under which this software is distributed to users, it's impossible to say for sure if any of these programs are free.

And without exactly reading the licenses, it's impossible to know. ;)

Another area of concern is repositories -- what software will the
organization distribute to their users from repos under their control,
even if not part of a default install?  Debian, for instance, carries
unambiguously non-free software in repos under their aegis (the
"non-free" repo).

Fedora does not include any non-free repos in their stock config. There are are offshoot non-free repos (livna, freshrpms, atrpms, dag, etc), but they are not part of the fedora project--fedora has no control over them.

Ubuntu recently bragged about how Ubuntu users could install the
proprietary Opera web browser "with a couple of clicks" while
simultaneously claiming they "will not have restrictive licenses
associated with it".  I blogged about this
when Opera and Ubuntu distributed the press release on this matter.

Does Fedora do something comparable?


Basically, I think my point is that Fedora is actually far closer to the Free Software model than most people realize... And if it's not Free, it's a bug, just like it is in gnewsense.

Thanks, :)


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