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

Brian Thomas Sniffen <bts@alum.mit.edu> wrote:

> I think that requiring a hardware upgrade to support behavior is
> irrelevant to free software.  Firmware that's part of the hardware is
> part of the hardware.  Firmware that looks like software is software.
> If Debian *could* ship it, it's software.  Stuff requiring
> 3d-acceleration, or the -686 kernels, are all free.

A vendor produces a piece of hardware with a GPLed driver. In order to
save a few pennies on manufacturing cost, the firmware is provided on
the driver CD rather than on an eeprom. You would then argue that we
should ship the driver in contrib.

The vendor then produces a second revision of the hardware. It uses the
same driver, but this time the firmware is on an eeprom. By your
argument, we are then free to move the driver to main.

In both cases, the quantity of non-free software used has remained the
same. The purpose of contrib is to discourage free software with
non-free dependencies. Deciding whether software falls into it or not
purely based on another vendor's choice of media seems mad. Either we
disapprove of hardware that requires non-free firmware, or we don't -
whether it has to be on the user's hard drive is a hardware
implementation issue, not a philosophical difference.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.legal@srcf.ucam.org

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