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Re: non-free firmware: driver in main or contrib?

aurel32@debian.org wrote:

>I have just packaged a driver for wifi cards. The driver is licensed 
>under GPL, but the cards needs a non-free firmware to be uploaded in 
>order to work.

I will quote from policy 2.2.2:

     Examples of packages which would be included in _contrib_ or
     _non-US/contrib_ are:
        * free packages which require _contrib_, _non-free_ packages or
          packages which are not in our archive at all for compilation or
          execution, and
        * wrapper packages or other sorts of free accessories for non-free

Your driver can be compiled and successfully executed without the
firmware, so it should go in main because it's free software. As you
correctly stated, the card needs a firmware, not the device driver.
The hardware device may not perform useful work until its firmware has
been loaded, but we distribute the driver and not the device.

A similar issue was raised for clients for proprietary instant messaging
protocols like AIM and MSN: long ago it was decided that as long as they
are DFSG-free they can be part of Debian, even if they are obviously
useless without the proprietary servers they connect to.

Considering that every complex device needs a firmware to work (of which
usually we lack the source code), I cannot see why it should be
relevant for our policy or detrimental to the cause of free software if
this firmware is distributed by the hardware producer on a CD or in a
flash EEPROM.


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