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Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware


i second this proposal.

(posted again, this time as signed eMail)

On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 12:18:04AM CEST, Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> wrote:

> Hi folks,
> Ever since the sarge release, an ongoing question has been: what do the DFSG
> require for works that are not "programs" as previously understood in
> Debian?  Several rounds of general resolutions have now given us answers for
> some subclasses of non-program works, but debate still rages regarding one
> particularly important class: firmware for peripheral devices.
> Andi Barth and I have discussed how we think the DFSG requirements apply to
> firmware and have fairly similar views on the subject, but we also know that
> there are other viewpoints within the project, so we're reluctant to make a
> unilateral decision about firmware handling for the etch release policy
> without finding out how the project as a whole feels about it.  In the
> meantime, the ongoing discussions within the kernel team and without have
> shed, as they say, more heat than light on the subject, so I feel it's time
> to answer this question so we can stop being paralyzed by these differences
> of opinion, agree to disagree, and move forward with the work that needs to
> be done for etch -- whichever set of work we decide that is.
> So below is a proposal that I'm seeking seconds on to establish how DFSG#2
> should be understood to apply to firmware -- i.e., that for Debian's
> purposes firmware should be considered data, not programs, and along with
> other data we should only encourage, not require, source code for firmware
> included in main.  This GR is a position statement, not an amendment to the
> foundation documents, which means a couple of things.  First, it's my
> understanding that there is no 3:1 supermajority requirement here; while the
> Project Secretary has the procedural authority to require a supermajority
> for the vote, I'm likely to consider a GR that fails with > 50% of the vote
> to be an endorsement by the project and proceed accordingly for etch. 
> Second, if developers disagree with this resolution, they are free to ignore
> it and follow the demands of their own conscience in their Debian work -- no
> one is ever *required* to ship a work in main that they believe is not free
> enough for Debian -- they'll just have a statement that the release team,
> and a majority of voting developers in Debian, disagree with them attempting
> to impose this opinion on others.
> It's my hope that this strikes a reasonable balance between respecting the
> views of individual developers and advancing a viable policy for the project
> so that we can move forward together on the goal of making each Debian
> release a first-class, free operating system.
> So, without further ado:
>          The application of DFSG#2 to firmware and other data
>          ====================================================
> The Debian Project recognizes that access to source code for a work of
> software is very important for software freedom, but at the same time
> "source" is often not a well-defined concept for works other than those
> traditionally considered "programs".  The most commonly cited definition is
> that found in version 2 of the GNU GPL, "the preferred form of the work for
> making modifications to it," but for non-program works, it is not always
> clear that requiring this "source" as a precondition of inclusion in main
> is in the best interest of our users or advances the cause of Free Software:
>   - The author's preferred form for modification may require non-free tools
>     in order to be converted into its final "binary" form; e.g., some
>     device firmware, videos, and graphics.
>   - The preferred form for modification may be orders of magnitude larger
>     than the final "binary" form, resulting in prohibitive mirror space
>     requirements out of proportion to the benefits of making this source
>     universally available; e.g., some videos.
>   - The "binary" and "source" forms of a work may be interconvertible with no
>     data loss, and each may be the preferred form for modification by
>     different users with different tools at their disposal; e.g., some
>     fonts.
> While the Debian Free Software Guidelines assert that source code is a
> paramount requirement for programs, they do not state that this is the case
> for non-program works, which permits us to consider whether one of the above
> points justifies a pragmatic concession to the larger context within which
> Free Software operates.
>         1. reaffirms its dedication to providing a 100% free system to our
> users according to our Social Contract and the DFSG; and
>         2. encourages authors of all works to make those works available not
> only under licenses that permit modification, but also in forms that make
> such modifications practical; and
>         3. supports the decision of the Release Team to require works such as
> images, video, and fonts to be licensed in compliance with the DFSG without
> requiring source code for these works under DFSG #2; and
>         4. determines that for the purposes of DFSG #2, device firmware
> shall also not be considered a program.
> ==============================================================================
> Cheers,
> -- 
> 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/

Martin Zobel-Helas			GPG Key-ID:    0x5d64f870
Debian Developer			eMail Privat:  zobel@ftbfs.de
Debian Stable Release Manager		eMail Debian:  zobel@debian.org

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