Re: Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware
On Wed, Aug 23, 2006 at 03:40:49PM +0100, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> Bernhard R. Link <email@example.com> 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.
I agree with you. But the point is on how you communicate about the fact.
What Steve and others who seconded him propose is to ship non-free firmware in
main, and declaring it as data, and thus disguising it as free software.
By moving the non-free firmware to non-free, we clearly renew our believe in
free software, and encourage effort to reverse engineer or convince vendors,
as aurelien and piotr and a few others are reimplementing the apple mac os
classic boot sector.
It is still relatively easily possible to design the whole non-free firmware
support in such a way that it is totally transparent to the user, apart of a
message in the installer or something, which will inform him that he needs
non-free firmware for its hardware, and asks if he wants to make use of it.
So, shiping non-free code because there is no choice is just fine, but shiping
it while insisting it is free is not.