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Re: are GPLed sourceless firmwares legal to distribute ?

Frank -

> the ftpmasters and many others want to give those drives the
> benefit of doubt and assume that they aren't sourceless, but are, e.g.,
> just dumps of unnamed registers and therefore "the preferred form for
> modification".  After all, they were what was given to the kernel people
> when the driver was released as .c and .h files under the GPL.

Commenting on the word "given" in that last sentence,
there are following basic classes of files:
  1. originally written and released by the hardware manufacturer
  2. written by someone else, with support from/cooperation with/payment from
       the manufacturer, who also provided the binary blobs
  3. written by someone else, who managed to cajole a "legitimate" copy of
       the firmware blob from the manufacturer, but with unclear
       or self-contradictory licensing arrangements
  4. written by someone else, who just snarfed a copy of the needed
       firmware from a driver CD or USB sniffer, with no consideration
       to ownership or licensing
My analysis does not try to distinguish between these cases, although
in some cases I have suspicions.

No matter the path, the firmware provided is in binary form, and its
rendition in .c, .h, or sometimes hex-record form is an irrelevant
detail.  I can convert between them at will, with no loss of information.

> So the real question is whether we want to do that, whether in the
> particular cases there's in fact any doubt, etc.

In making the list, I left off all cases where I had any doubt.
I am not perfect, but I have plenty of experience using and writing
firmware of many kinds.  I would be very surprised if any of the
listed firmware is not derived from a human-legible design file of
one form or another.

So while it is perhaps a polite excuse that "we don't know for sure
if these thousands of bytes of hex code were ever compiled from source",
no sane person would bet against it.

Sven says:
> A quick survey based on the size of the firmware blobs suggests 1/3 of
> them may be register dumps, while 2/3 are most probably code.
but I disagree.  Sven, can you contact me privately, so I can research
and/or drop some of your potential register dump files?

     - Larry

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