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Re: firmware status for eagle-usb-*

Michael Poole <mdpoole@troilus.org>:

> My opinion is that if someone wants Debian to distribute the firmware,
> treat it as software, and apply the DFSG to it; otherwise, treat it as
> outside the Debian system in the respect that the driver should not be
> considered to depend on the firmware.  I think this is consistent with
> our practice for other things on the far side of a low-level interface.

This makes sense to me.

> I do not think applying a very broad idea of dependency is a good
> idea: it goes beyond what copyright licenses can require, is not
> likely to lead to more free firmware, and leads to a bigger patchset
> having to be maintained for the kernel.

Another possible argument is that Debian probably doesn't want to get
involved in assessing the freeness and compatibility of components
that Debian does not distribute. For example, consider the case of one
of Debian's bootloaders depending on "the" BIOS. There might be a
DFSG-free BIOS for some platform, but if Debian doesn't distribute it
then Debian probably doesn't want to get involved with testing whether
Debian's bootloaders are compatible with it.

However, none of this answers the question of under what circumstances
a driver can be permitted to "suggest" rather than "depend" on a piece
of firmware that Debian does distribute (in non-free). For example,
what if there are unsubstantiated rumours of the driver in some cases,
perhaps with old or prototype hardware that is not generally
available, working without the firmware or with some alternative free
firmware (that Debian doesn't distribute)?

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