The DFSG, a promise to our users
Every once in a while, there is an argument in the debian-legal mailing list: a particular package was rejected because its license didn’t comply with the DFSG, and someone asks for Debian to relax its interpretation of the DFSG. This package, they say, is very important and useful, and the Social Contract states that users are our priority, and, after all, the DFSG are only guidelines and can be skipped every once in a while. I don’t subscribe to this line of thinking.
The DFSG are not only a set of “features” the license of a work must have to consider that work “free”: they are a list of promises to our users about what they will be able to do with everything they receive from us. For example, when DFSG#2 says that “the license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software”, this means to our users: “everything you get from Debian you’ll be authorized to modify, and then give your modified copy to anyone under the same terms as when you received your copy”.
That’s why when someone says “the DFSG are just guidelines, we can bypass them just for this very useful package” it would not be proper to actually do it, as we would not be living up to our own promises.
This post was not triggered by any particular event; I just wanted to write something not containing a doctored photo or a joke :-)