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Re: [AMENDMENT]: Release Etch now, with source-less but legal and freely licensed firmware

Frans Pop <elendil@planet.nl> wrote: [...]
> Sure. However it makes no sense having a discussion about individual blobs
> or, even worse, about whether these are distributable under the GPL at all.
> As Steve has pointed out repeatedly, that last responsibility lies with the
> maintainer (the kernel team) and the FTP masters, not with debian-vote.

As I've pointed out and repeat again here, getting this wrong may cause
criminal liability of some resellers and mirrors.  I think it's fair
for -vote to issue a clear position statement and (hopefully) protect
the project from attack if those responsible do something different.

> This whole discussion on vote has gone off on absurd tangents with (several)
> people who are not lawyers making even more absurd statements about
> legality.

As if to prove that point, see [*] below.

> How the hell do you expect a list discussion between non-qualified people
> _ever_ come to a conclusion instead of degenerating into flamewars?

To reach a conclusion, I expect people to post summaries, facts, references
and so on, while refraining from personal attacks and rhetorical flamebait.
However, even after years of asking people on- and off-list on -legal to do
that, we're not there there, so -vote is even less likely to achieve it.

> I have two times proposed to postpone the detailed analysis of the firmware
> situation until after the release, and I still feel that that is where it
> belongs: not on the list, but with a (delegated) team of developers who
> have access to proper legal advice and can study the implementation issues
> surrounding it in relative quiet and can prepare a position statement (with
> alternatives) that can _then_ be voted on.

On past experience, I have no confidence in this being done well in secret.
I note that we have agreed that we will not hide problems.  This should be
done in public as far as possible.

> > The problem is that there are individual drivers/firmware for which that
> > is in doubt.  For example, Larry Doolittle said recently:
> > ,----
> > | 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.
> > `----
> This is still an interpretation of the intention of the GPL, not a legal
> standpoint.

What is the difference between an interpretation and a legal standpoint?
Years in law school and a lack of personal investment in the problem?

> My, just as amateurish, standpoint is: the preferred from of modification of
> code for firmware blobs included in a driver that is otherwise coded in C
> (or assembler or whatnot) - and for that matter for images, video and even
> documentation - is whatever the licenceholder chose to distribute it as.
> This does not mean that it is the optimal form from a Free Software point of
> view, it also does not mean that if someone chooses to reimplement the
> firmware that he could not choose another form. What it does mean is that
> it is rather pointless to second guess the licenceholder unless there are
> very clear indications that they or the person accepting the code into the
> kernel have been careless.
> The party primarily responsible for making the judgement what can be
> included in the kernel under the GPL are the upstream kernel developers.

[*] - This is not merely amateurish but inexpert.  The various debian
project people are the licenceholders and it's fairly clear that they
may not distribute as whatever format they choose and call that source.
I think maybe the licenceholders in the above text should be the licensors
or the copyright holders, but even then the argument seems incorrect
to me.

We can easily argue that the upstream kernel developers are primarily
responsible, but we should check their work, as any mistake can make
DDs, mirrors and vendors liable too.  We must be confident that we have
valid permissions from the copyright holders - that is to say, for each
expression, we have a licensing statement from them that says something
like firmware Z is Copyright year Y person X and licensed under the terms
of the GNU GPL.

If someone questions Z and we can't show a valid licence for it, we
should investigate, then remove or replace if needed, not ignore it,
rant about Licence Nazis or ping-pong bugs.  And please, ask for help
if you don't know what you're talking about.  There is a limited pool
of help available, but there is help available and this stuff can get
confusing fast if you fluff its jargon.

> No, licence problems should _never_ be the subject of a GR. Only DFSG
> freeness of "software" can be.

I think it's as valid to issue a position statement that declares 'we will
attack these copyright problems in this way' as it is to have one with
'we view this aspect of the DFSG in this way' or 'we interpret licence
X as following (or not) the DFSG (but give no reasons)'.

Hope that explains,
My Opinion Only: see http://people.debian.org/~mjr/
Please follow http://www.uk.debian.org/MailingLists/#codeofconduct

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