Re: Binary-only firmware covered by the GPL?

From: Matthew Wilcox
Date: Thu Mar 25 2004 - 20:00:05 EST

On Thu, Mar 25, 2004 at 05:31:53PM -0500, Jeff Garzik wrote:
> Well IANAL, but it seems not so cut-n-dried, at least.
> Firmware is a program that executes on another processor, so no linking
> is taking place at all. It is analagous to shipping a binary-only
> program in your initrd, IMO.

Linking isn't the issue. I went and read the original bug on this a
while back. The issue is that it's a program that's distributed in
binary form without source code. That's forbidden from being in main
by the terms of the Debian Social Contract.

I realise there's a grey area between "magic data you write to a device"
and "a program that is executed on a different processor". For example,
palette data for a frame buffer. But nobody's arguing for that grey
area here -- it's clearly a program without source code that Debian
can't distribute.

I think this is a terribly unfortunate state of affairs and I'm not happy
about how it's been handled or communicated. I'd really appreciate it
if someone managed to think of a good solution to this.

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon
the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those
conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse
to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince
himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep
he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception." -- Mark Twain
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