Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware
* Matthew Wilcox <firstname.lastname@example.org> [060823 15:46]:
> Certainly, it's one of the purposes. But I don't think we've *lost*
> anything by distributing binary firmware. Consider the cases:
> 1. Everything in hardware. You're not able to fix anything without a
> soldering iron ... and good luck to you with that.
> 2. Unmodifiable firmware in EEPROM. Need an EEPROM programmer, and a
> good deal of skill to fix anything. Again, best of luck.
> 3. Binary-only firmware in the driver. Slightly better chance of trying
> to figure out what's going on, but still low.
> 4. Firmware source in non-preferred form. Modifications probably
> possible, but when the next round of changes come out from the
> vendor, you probably have to ditch your mods.
> 5. Firmware source in preferred form. Can send changes back to vendor,
> everybody wins.
> (and I'm sure people can think of other finer distinctions).
> You seem to want to disallow cases 3 and 4 which makes sense from a
> "here are the rules of data freedom, now i must follow them" point of
> view, but really don't make sense to the vendor, nor to the user. It
> seems like an all-or-nothing approach.
That's not different at all to normal programs.
Perhaps it even becomes a bit clearer if you substitute 1) and 2) for
programs with "no software".
Having non-free software is - for the very single developer and any seen
locally - better than having no program to do the task all together.
We (Debian project) acknowledge the need of users and distribute such
stuff in the non-free section in addition to our distribution, so that
people are not locked into totaly non-free systems but only have to
bear that much unfreeness as it necessary.
We are giving a promise here, that with the stuff in our distribution
you have the freedom to use it, to give it to others and to fix it.
This means the missing of legal obstacles and the possibility to do so.
For this discussion "preferred form of modification" is perhaps not the
best definition. It's good for licenses as it is not easily to work
around. I think here the difference is between the source being in
a form practical to edit or not. Without a practical form there is
no possibility to change it. And this is a limitation we have to
make clear to people and not lock them into by claiming all is good
and well and it could be part of our free operating system.
Bernhard R. Link
 having no software at all increases the pain and makes it more
likely someone writes something free, but for the single person that
cannot write it, this is too far reached.