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Re: On the freeness of a BLOB-containing driver

On Sat, Dec 11, 2004 at 04:43:48PM -0800, Bruce Perens wrote:
> What about the rest of the driver? I think that if you remove the BLOB, 
> it's Free Software. It talks to a bus interface, which is a natural 
> demarcation between our Free Software and the proprietary hardware 
> design. It loads an arbitrary firmware file into the device. The device 
> might not work without the BLOB, but the driver's still free as long as 
> it does not incorporate the BLOB.

It's free, but it has a non-optional dependency on non-free software, which
means contrib, not main.  In reality, it doesn't talk to an arbitrary
firmware file; it has to talk to a functional one, or the driver is not
going to do anything useful.  In practice, these types of drivers are not
going to work on their own; they'll have a README that says "go download
the firmware from the vendor's site, or this driver won't work".  That
type of notice is a big hint that something belongs in contrib, IMO; the
real effects are the same as saying "go download and install this non-free

One or two people have argued that these drivers still have a use, even when
the firmware is not available: it can be used as a starting point for
implementing a free firmware; and so it should go in main.  I think that's
akin to saying, "this program that requires a non-free shared library can be
used as a starting point for reimplementing the library, so it should go in
main".  That's bogus; by that logic, everything in contrib would be allowed
in main.

Glenn Maynard

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