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

Bernhard R. Link <brl@pcpool00.mathematik.uni-freiburg.de> wrote:

> 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.

We never included non-free applications in main because we felt that 
there was no need to. And, indeed, even in 1993 it was possible to use a 
computer without any non-free applications.

That doesn't hold with the firmware argument. With applications, we had 
the choice between "Free but less functional" and "Non-free but more 
functional". With firmware we have the choice between "Non-free but on 
disk" and "Non-free but in ROM". There isn't a "Free" option at all yet.

So I think the real question is "How does us refusing to ship non-free 
firmware help free software?". If a user wants to use Debian, then the 
obvious thing for them to do will be to buy hardware that has the 
non-free firmware in ROM. Ironically, this will actually make it harder 
for them to ever use free firmware!

I think it's reasonable to refuse to ship non-free code when there's 
actually a choice or when it's likely to provide an incentive to 
implement a free version. But right now, I don't see any evidence that 
refusing to ship non-free firmware will do anything other than cost us 
users without providing any extra freedom.

Matthew Garrett | mjg59-chiark.mail.debian.project@srcf.ucam.org

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