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Re: Patch submission should not imply agreement to policy (was Re: Promo

From: Christopher Lemmer Webber
Subject: Re: Patch submission should not imply agreement to policy (was Re: Promoting the GNU Kind Communication Guidelines?)
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2018 09:28:53 -0400
User-agent: mu4e 1.0; emacs 26.1

Mark H Weaver writes:

> Christopher Lemmer Webber <address@hidden> writes:
>> Thorsten Wilms writes:
>>> On 29/10/2018 09.59, Björn Höfling wrote:
>>>> In law, there is the term of "conduct implying an intent". So even not
>>>> signing anything you could argue that by sending a bug or a patch you
>>>> silently agree with the community guidelines, CoC, etc. You enter the
>>>> community be interacting the first time. And will be judged by their
>>>> guidelines.
>>> It used to be that you could pick a Free Software project and send a patch.
>>> Now sending a patch is supposed to imply agreeing to the equivalent of
>>> an EULA? Everyone is expected to welcome that as progress?
>> Submitting code to a project under a copyleft license is also agreeing
>> to policy.
> What is the basis for this claim?
> While I'm generally in favor of the CoC, I strongly oppose the idea that
> submitting a patch or communicating with us implies automatic agreement
> to our policies.
> We should not claim that someone has "agreed" to anything without their
> conscious knowledge and consent.  Even if the law would allow us to make
> such a claim, we should not do it because it would be unjust.
> Please, it is enough to make our policies clear and highly visible, to
> encourage people to read them, and to give the lead project maintainers
> the authority to issue warnings, and if deemed necessary, to ban people
> from our communication channels who repeatedly or severely violate our
> CoC.  I support that practice, as long as it's used judiciously, and I
> have every confidence in Ludovic and Ricardo to do so.
> We do _not_ need to extract promises from contributors ahead of time
> that they will follow our policies, and I think it's a bad idea to ask
> them to.  It's a worse idea to claim that they've done so implicitly
> without their knowledge or consent.
>       Mark

I suspect we do not disagree Mark, but the way in which you replied to
me makes it sound like we do, so let me clarify. :)  My short reply was
because I was trying to demonstrate, in few words, that the message I
was replying to was introducing an inaccuracy.  I did not clarify what
that was, but I will below.

We accept many patches from users where the user does not sign an actual
document, but their patch and their name applied on the top is
considered sufficient evidence that they have declared their code to be
licensed under the GPL.

But I should clarify the claim I was making, since I was not trying to
say that the legal or mechanistic aspects of this were equivalent.  Let
me quote what was I was replying to:

>>> It used to be that you could pick a Free Software project and send a patch.
>>> Now sending a patch is supposed to imply agreeing to the equivalent of
>>> an EULA? Everyone is expected to welcome that as progress?

The statement above makes it sound like the Code of Conduct is
dramatically new.  My claim here was that in both cases, there is a
policy the community has adopted.  One is legal and copyleft, the other
is behavioral and a code of conduct.  In both cases, your participation
in this community is dependent on your willingness to agree to respect
the policies and norms that the group upholds.

What's interesting to me is that this isn't new at all, it's just
codified for some specific things.  The Code of Conduct is not a legal
document, it is a set of policies about community norms.  Many of these
norms already existed, and the same process (speak to the person, ask
them to change their behavior, if we can't fix it, yes they may be
banned) has existed for a long time in free software circles.  What is
new from the code of conduct perspective is making explicit what some of
those norms are, and what participants can expect if they are not

I have seen some accusations that this is censorship or an overreach or
equivalent to an EULA to have these norms enforced.  And yet the free
software community, and especially GNU projects, have long been
enforcing of policies.  Copyleft is a mechanism for enforcement of
policies by law, but even beyond that, I think most of the members of
this group would find it perfectly acceptable to ban someone who began
to post patches to the list under a license that was incompatible with
the GPL and which "poisoned" our ability to use them upon seeing them.
The former is a legal agreement, the latter is a norms agreement, but
they are both policy, and by participating in our group in general you
have an understanding that these policies exist.  The code of conduct
does not provide a legal enforcement mechanism, so the EULA comment in
that sense does not hold up; this is just a codification of some of the
norms that we have.  But someone made the EULA comment, and the extent
that it *did* make sense (that there are policies, in some way), I
wanted to reply to it.

The free software community has always had policies, has always asked
people to respect language, has always had the expectation that if you
participate in our community, you are expected to abide by certain
norms.  Having those norms even be explicit is not new; there are norms
posted all over the GNU website, and participants are frequently asked
to abide by them.  Internet forums of all kinds have expressed rules and
policies.  That is not new.

Let's be clear about what the difference is then about adding a code of
conduct: we are extending and making explicit the norm-policies of
requirement to participate in our community to extend to various forms
of respect for others.  For a long time, many such norms were even
implicit rather than explicit.  We are choosing to make explicit some
norms that encourage good behavior and respectful treatment amongst
participants in the group.  We are also explicitly requiring respecting
the well being of participants who have long had difficulty
participating due to reasons that are largely culturally systemic.

It is this last sentence that most people objecting to a code of conduct
seem suspicious of, but I feel like much of the conversation around code
of conducts beats around the bush that many of the skeptics simply don't
believe that last sentence is true.  Well, it turns out the code of
conduct is a useful document whether you believe that last sentence is
true, but I believe it sticks in the craw of people who believe that our
society does not have unequal distributions of justice, and that is the
source of almost all objections.

Every community provides some sort of governance.  Having policies,
whether legal (copyleft) or norms (all the other things we expect), is
not new, and I hope I have demonstrated that.  So a code of conduct is
not any more like adding an EULA for all participants than other policy
traditions are.

All the best,
 - Chris

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