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Re: firmware status for eagle-usb-*

Loïc Minier wrote:
> Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> - Mon, Oct 18, 2004:
>>I don't believe you can.  In order to distribute software under the GPL,
>>we must provide the "preferred form for modification" of that software,
>>which is the source.  From your description, it sounds like such source
>>exists but is not being distributed.  This means that we do not have the
>>preferred form for modification available, so we cannot make it
>>available to others, which means we can't satisfy our obligations under
>>the GPL, and therefore we cannot distribute the software at all.
>  <silly>What makes you think there's a program in
>  firmware-xyz.bin?</silly>
>  I think you should re-read my mail, I'm talking about two different
>  programs: a linux driver, with some utilities, with some data you're
>  usually interested to send (for example a logo to display on a LCD) but
>  that only affect a non-Debian system; *AND* a firmware program, that
>  might or might not be a program (what if it is a configuration file?).
>  Now, we both know the firmware is certainly a program too, but it is
>  not the same program: for a Debian system running the drivers, this is
>  mere data.

This argument has been made before, and the clear consensus is that
firmware is software; this is even clearer than the situation over
documents and other "data", which were also decided (on a project-wide
basis) to be software.  There is still occasional argument on the topic
related to the status of the driver if Debian doesn't distribute the
firmware at all, but there is a strong consensus against including the
binary firmware image without source in Debian.

My question to you is this: does the author of the firmware edit the
binary directly, or do they have some other format?  If the latter, it
shouldn't be in Debian main, and if it is GPLed, we can't legally
distribute it at all.

>  I know this is an ambiguous position, and I'm sorry I have to take it,
>  but think for a minute the modem would be running on a ROM and not a
>  RAM, or on a Flash!  We wouldn't have to send that binary blob that we
>  don't need to worry about when it's already there.

I'm not sure if I'm parsing this correctly.  Are you saying that some
modems don't need the firmware to be provided?  If that is the case,
then the driver has some useful functionality without the non-free
software, so it can go to main (without the firmware); then you would
just need to figure out the legal details of supplying the firmware
(such as the GPL-without-source issue).

- Josh Triplett

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