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Re: LCC and blobs

On Thu, Dec 16, 2004 at 02:23:54PM +0100, Martin Waitz wrote:
> I have a PCMCIA card that lost its flash memory.
> So suddenly its driver became non-free?

Only if all such cards have lost their flash memory, which is improbable.
As long as some cards exist with a working flash, the driver is useful
without having to lug along non-free firmware.

(There's a corner case: hardware which always ships with a firmware
which does not work with the driver, and can be flashed by the user
with firmware that does.  This doesn't seem any less a dependency than
when the driver itself has to load it; the only people the driver
works for is those who have already manually installed the non-free
data.  I havn't thought too much about this case.)

> What about all those drivers for hardware that I don't own?
> They don't work for me, yet I won't flag them as non-free.

The question is whether it works for somebody, not whether it works
for you.

> Sending firmware to the device is not that different to sending some
> magic initialization commands. Firmware should be treated as exactly
> that: magic initialization data for the device.

"Magic initialization commands" are probably not copyrightable, so they're
free; they're part of the driver, and cause no problems for anyone[1].

Firmware is (generally) copyrightable, and the license on the firmware
affects the usability of the device and its driver to users.

[1] there are some corner cases (of what seems to me to be copyright abuse),
eg. in the AIM client case, but that's a very different scenario and
should be treated independently.

Glenn Maynard

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