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The Debian Social Contract (DSC) is a document which frames the moral agenda of the Debian project. The values outlined in the Social Contract provide the basic principles for the rules set forth in the Debian Free Software Guidelines. Those guidelines serve as the basis for the Open Source Definition.
Debian believes that the makers of a free software operating system should provide certain guarantees when a user entrusts them with control of a computer. These guarantees include:
- Ensuring that the operating system remains open and Free.
- Giving improvements back to the community which made the operating system possible.
- Not hiding problems with the software or organization.
- Staying focused on the users and the software that started the phenomena.
- Making it possible for the software to be used with non-free software.
The idea of the DSC was first proposed by Ean Schuessler after a conversation with Bob Young, co-founder of RedHat. Schuessler remarked that RedHat should issue a set of guidelines that would guarantee to the community that as the company expanded, it would always be committed to the ideals of Free Software. Young remarked that this would be a "kiss of death" for RedHat, implying that it would constrain the company's ability to generate profit. Concerned about Young's response, Schuessler and other Debian developers decided to bring up the idea of a "social contract" that would supplement Debian's initial Manifesto, written by Ian Murdock. Bruce Perens later headed the effort to coordinate the creation of the DSC, using the Free Software Definition as basis.
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