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Re: non-free firmware in kernel modules, aggregation and unclear copyright notice.

On Mon, Apr 04, 2005 at 09:58:30PM +0200, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 04, 2005 at 09:29:45PM +0200, Sven Luther wrote:
> > On Mon, Apr 04, 2005 at 12:17:46PM -0700, Greg KH wrote:
> > > On Mon, Apr 04, 2005 at 08:27:53PM +0200, Sven Luther wrote:
> > > > Mmm, probably that 2001 discussion about the keyspan firmware, right ?
> > > > 
> > > >   http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2001/04/msg00145.html
> > > > 
> > > > Can you summarize the conclusion of the thread, or what you did get from it,
> > > > please ? 
> > > 
> > > That people didn't like the inclusion of firmware, I posted how you can
> > > fix it by moving it outside of the kernel, and asked for patches.
> > 
> > Yeah, that is a solution to it, and i also deplore that none has done the job
> > to make it loadable from userland. For now, debian is satisfied by moving the
> > whole modules involved to non-free, and this has already happened in part.
> Does this imply your installer will use these non-free modules?

The installer already has provision for loading additional .udebs from floppy
or net, not sure about other media, and we don't build yet non-free d-i images
with those non-free modules builtin, but it could be arranged. This is
post-sarge issues though, and we still have some time to solve them.

> If the driver for the controller your harddisk is behind is not used by 
> the installer you could simply remove these modules instead of moving 
> them to non-free.

yeah, the problem is a whole bunch of people have tg3 network cards it seem :)

> > Nope, i am aiming to clarify this issue with regard to the debian kernel, so
> > that we may be clear with ourselves, and actually ship something which is not
> > of dubious legal standing, and that we could get sued over for GPL violation.
> >...
> If it was a GPL violation, it wasn't enough to contact only the small 
> subset of copyright holders that worked on this specific file since 
> this file might be compiled statically into the GPL'ed kernel.

That is not a problem, since even if the firmware is built into the same
executable as the rest of the kernel code, it still constitutes only mere
agregation, where the kernel is the distribution media, in the GPL sense.
Please read the mail i linked too in the original mail for detailed
argumentation of this.

The only problem to it constituting mere agregation is that the firmware blob
is not clearly identified as such in the tg3.c file (for example), and that
there is no licencing condition allowing their distribution apart the GPL,
which these firmware blobs where evidently not meant to be put under.


Sven Luther

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