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

Le mardi 05 avril 2005 à 11:50 -0400, Richard B. Johnson a écrit :
> >> You are mixing apples and oranges. The fact that the GFDL sucks has
> >> nothing to do with the firmware issue. With the current situation of
> >> firmwares in the kernel, it is illegal to redistribute binary images of
> >> the kernel. Full stop. End of story. Bye bye. Redhat and SuSE may still
> >> be willing to distribute such binary images, but it isn't our problem.
> >>
> Wrong! It is perfectly legal in the United States, and I'm pretty
> sure in your country, to distribute or redistribute copyrighted
> works. Otherwise there wouldn't be any bookstores or newspaper
> stands.

It is not legal to distribute the mix of a GPL software (the Linux
kernel) and a proprietary file (the firmware). I wasn't aware of the
"mere aggregation" interpretation, and I'm probably a bit late to say I
disagree with it - mainly because you'd have a hard time convincing a
court this is the case.

> There is nothing about firmware that is any different than any
> other component of a product. If the product was legally obtained
> and it requires firmware to run, then there are no special
> considerations about how one inserts the firmware into the
> product.

Indeed, but that's not what I'm talking about.

> If you are a GPL-religious-zealot who believes that you are
> supposed to get the technical design (i.e. the software schematics)
> of the hardware device for free so you can copy it, then you are
> going to have to learn something about intellectual property.

Maybe you should try to understand what people are saying before
teaching them anything.

> The firmware, in most cases, are the bits generated by a design
> program that creates the function of the device. It's what the
> manufacturer paid 5-10 engineers over a period of a year or so
> to produce. The rest of the design is just some chips you
> can get off-the-shelf. Even if the manufacturer said; "Here you
> are.... You can have the design....". You don't have the
> "compilers" and other stuff necessary to turn this design
> into the firmware unless you planned to steal the design.
> So, you either accept the firmware component, thanking the
> manufacturer for it, or you go cry foul someplace else. This
> whole firmware thing is a non-issue, blown way out of
> proportion by people who don't have a clue.

You are completely missing the point. I don't care whether the firmwares
should be free, or whether they could be free. The fact is they are not
free, and Debian doesn't distribute non-free software in the "main"
archive. The fact is also that mixing them with a GPLed software gives
an result you can't redistribute - although it seems many people
disagree with that assertion now.

Finally, you shouldn't forget that, technically speaking, using hotplug
for uploading the firmware is much more flexible and elegant than
including it in the kernel. Upgrading the firmware and the module should
be two independent operations. People who are advocating the current
situation are refusing technical improvements just because they are
brought by people they find convenient to call "zealots".
 .''`.           Josselin Mouette        /\./\
: :' :           josselin.mouette@ens-lyon.org
`. `'                        joss@debian.org
  `-  Debian GNU/Linux -- The power of freedom

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