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Re: non-free firmware

On Mon, Jan 09, 2006 at 08:13:18PM +0100, Sven Luther wrote:
> > current fact is that the qlaxxx firmware is gpl,
> > so on has all it's right in main.

> It is GPL, except for the binary blob of firmware, as the two constitute
> separate work, this is not a violation of the GPL. The exact licence, that
> this one comes under, as pointed out by Frederik and Andres on irc is in
> Documentation/scsi/LICENSE.qla2xxx :

>   This program includes a device driver for Linux 2.6 that may be
>   distributed with QLogic hardware specific firmware binary file.
>   You may modify and redistribute the device driver code under the
>   GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
>   Foundation (version 2 or a later version).

>   You may redistribute the hardware specific firmware binary file
>   under the following terms:

>         1. Redistribution of source code (only if applicable),
>            must retain the above copyright notice, this list of
>            conditions and the following disclaimer.

>         2. Redistribution in binary form must reproduce the above
>            copyright notice, this list of conditions and the
>            following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other
>            materials provided with the distribution.

>         3. The name of QLogic Corporation may not be used to
>            endorse or promote products derived from this software
>            without specific prior written permission

> Which unless someone released a heavily modified GPL licence silently in out
> back, very very far from the GPL itself.

Yes; this is not GPL, this is a simple BSD license.  The BSD license is
certainly considered free:  it grants us all the redistribution and
modification rights that we require in order for a work to be included in
main.  The only thing it doesn't grant us in this case (which is not a
license issue, though the license does acknowledge the issue) is source
redistribution simply because we don't have any source code.

So this work is not acceptable for main if we require source code for
firmware; and it is acceptable if we don't require source code for firmware.

I have argued previously (on debian-legal and elsewhere) that for some types
of works, such as icons, fonts, and documentation, "source code" is not
important to the modifiability of a work in the same way that it is to
programs.  There are many cases in which the original source form used by
the author is *not* the preferred form of modification for the creation of
new derivative works, and it seems to me that the DFSG silently acknowledges
this reality by speaking about "programs" (not the ambiguous "software")
directly in DFSG #2.  But of all the forms of software that we distribute
which aren't normally considered "programs", firmware is certainly the most

I believe the problem currently before us is, therefore, to decide whether
we as a project consider firmware to be "programs" for the purposes of DFSG
compliance.  I am disposed to accept that they are not, but I'm not
comfortable making this decision on behalf of the project ex cathedra as an
RM.  Instead, my plan had been to, over the next month or two, review the
past discussions of this point, talk the issue over with various folks, and
propose a GR that would clarify this interpretation of the DFSG where
firmware is concerned.  If the "discussion" part is starting now, so much
the better.

Please respect M-F-T to debian-project.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
vorlon@debian.org                                   http://www.debian.org/

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