DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib - Debian

This is a discussion on DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib - Debian ; On Tue, 2008-11-04 at 15:11 +0100, Loc Minier wrote: > On Tue, Nov 04, 2008, Robert Collins wrote: > > I wish I understood the reasoning here - putting aside the fact that > > most of the software in ...

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Thread: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

  1. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    On Tue, 2008-11-04 at 15:11 +0100, Loc Minier wrote:
    > On Tue, Nov 04, 2008, Robert Collins wrote:
    > > I wish I understood the reasoning here - putting aside the fact that
    > > most of the software in Debian is under a copyleft licence and so we
    > > *must* provide the source. Why is the source for the radio on my wifi
    > > card any *less* critical than the source for the driver for my wifi
    > > card?

    >
    > Because I can consider the wifi firmware a subsystem which doesn't
    > contaminate my main OS;


    If it wasn't fixed and never got altered I would subscribe to this
    argument.

    > there's a clear interface between the two
    > systems -- it's like talking to another computer


    Not at all, I don't own that other computer, and if it doesn't work
    correctly I have to talk to it's owner to get it fixed.

    > , talking to your hard
    > disk


    Not at all the same; probably because they are part of the standard boot
    sequence I have yet to see a hard disk needing firmware (for SCSI/ATA
    disks, I can't comment on more esoteric interfaces).

    > , talking to your keyboard


    Some keyboards we can't use properly because there is proprietary
    features activated by USB command sequences that are not documented and
    open. Those keyboards get less functionality on Linux until someone
    reverse engineers them. Wouldn't it be great if that wasn't the case?

    > : something proprietary or free might
    > well be inside, I don't care as long as I can run a free OS on the main
    > CPU.


    I care that I can use the full capabilities of e.g. that extended
    keyboard, that all the media keys, LCD displays and so on work.

    > I'd *prefer* if it was free, but I can start another project to
    > fulfill this goal. I don't want the freedom requirements for the main
    > OS to require using free hardware, just like I want the freedom
    > requirements to require talking to computers running free software.


    It may be that for that hardware Debian does not fit your desires. Can I
    remind you of this little statement:

    "Social Contract" with the Free Software Community:
    1. Debian will remain 100% free

    We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is free in
    the document entitled The Debian Free Software Guidelines. We promise
    that the Debian system and all its components will be free according to
    these guidelines. We will support people who create or use both free and
    non-free works on Debian. We will never make the system require the use
    of a non-free component.

    > Now if Debian can distribute a blob which allows my hardware to run as
    > indicated by a clear interface with my free OS, that's good enough for
    > me.


    Why draw the line there? why not be happy if Debian can ship a blob that
    uses the kernel's binary interfaces? There's no moral or technical
    difference.

    > And if we don't require the hardware to be freely modifiable, why
    > require the firmware to be so?


    Because the firmware isn't the hardware. It is software.

    > > And if the answer reduces down to 'firmware is made by proprietary
    > > vendors and does something many people need and we don't have a
    > > replacement yet' - well thats fine, but at various points we didn't have
    > > a free kernel, or a free libc, or a free graphic desktop environment.

    >
    > And we didn't have Debian or OpenMoko; and the glibc, linux, and
    > Xorg/GNOME/KDE/Xfce are huge separate projects and we could start new
    > projects to free more things up.


    Debian started in 1993; Linux was first released in 1991, glibc had its
    core functional in 1988
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_C_Library#cite_note-1). KDE was
    started in 1996, and GNOME in 1997. XFree86 forked around 1992, IIRC.

    We *had* Debian long before we had a free graphical desktop environment
    [that really meets the term - a window many isn't enough ]

    > Google.com is run with software I don't have access to


    google doesn't affect the functionality of hardware you own.

    > , but I use it
    > daily, as well as my microwave


    ECOMPLETELYUNRELATED

    > , or my wifi card.


    Which is the point under contention.

    -Rob
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  2. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    Robert Collins wrote:
    [...]
    > I wish I understood the reasoning here - putting aside the fact that
    > most of the software in Debian is under a copyleft licence and so we
    > *must* provide the source. Why is the source for the radio on my wifi
    > card any *less* critical than the source for the driver for my wifi
    > card?


    One potential reason is that in most jurisdictions you are legally *not
    allowed* to use custom wifi firmware. Consider that most wifi systems
    are software radios and that the software is entirely capable of
    exceeding all regulators' transmissions strength limits or subverting
    the carefully tuned frequency-hopping algorithms, etc. And of course,
    it's the *hardware vendors* who'll be liable if someone does subvert
    their wifi card to do this --- they'll be violating their FCC (or other)
    license --- so there'll be pretty hefty signature validation to ensure
    that only official firmware can be used.

    So having the source doesn't actually gain you anything --- you would
    neither be able nor allowed to do anything with it, apart from printing
    it on T-shirts.

    (Incidentally, this is one reason why mobile phone handset vendors are
    so paranoid about reflashing phones. A phone with a maliciously
    programmed GSM stack would turn into a rather efficient cellphone jammer.)

    --
    David Given
    dg@cowlark.com


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  3. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    David Given wrote:
    > One potential reason is that in most jurisdictions you are legally *not
    > allowed* to use custom wifi firmware. Consider that most wifi systems
    > are software radios and that the software is entirely capable of
    > exceeding all regulators' transmissions strength limits or subverting
    > the carefully tuned frequency-hopping algorithms, etc. And of course,
    > it's the *hardware vendors* who'll be liable if someone does subvert
    > their wifi card to do this --- they'll be violating their FCC (or other)
    > license --- so there'll be pretty hefty signature validation to ensure
    > that only official firmware can be used.

    Enough with the "liability" argument.

    IMHO this is FUD well spread by companies that didn't want their IP
    "exposed". Atheros cards don't have any firmware; you can transmit in
    whatever frequency you want to with ath5k/ath9k -- ath9k is distributed
    by Atheros themselves while ath5k is nowdays endorsed by them.

    There are companies within the EU (possibly within the U.S. as well)
    that gained access to those bits (namely, the Atheros HAL) via NDA and
    distributed modified binaries that lifted any software limitations
    whatsoever.

    The most famous one that I know of is MikroTik; they sell a
    "superchannel" upgrade that allows you to tune Atheros cards to
    2.3-2.5GHz and 4.9-6.1GHz.
    IOW, frequencies that are illegal to use without a license in most parts
    of the world.

    I highly doubt that MikroTik would do that (or Atheros would let them)
    if they had a risk of getting sued for liability in case one of their
    thousand customers violated the local or EU/federal laws.

    > So having the source doesn't actually gain you anything --- you would
    > neither be able nor allowed to do anything with it, apart from printing
    > it on T-shirts.

    That assumes that you want to operate only on unlicensed/ISM bands.

    You can always *buy* a license from the local regulating authority to
    transmit to other frequencies, in order to avoid interference by
    unlicensed stations (and yes, I know people that have done this).

    > (Incidentally, this is one reason why mobile phone handset vendors are
    > so paranoid about reflashing phones. A phone with a maliciously
    > programmed GSM stack would turn into a rather efficient cellphone jammer.)

    That's also false. You can easily jam cellphones using equipment bought
    from your local radio shop.
    There are even (perfectly legal) commercial products that do exactly that.

    Regards,
    Faidon


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  4. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    On Wed, Nov 05, 2008, Robert Collins wrote:
    > It may be that for that hardware Debian does not fit your desires. Can I
    > remind you of this little statement


    Please, don't quote the social contract on me.

    And I already expressed that I understood my position implied changes
    to foundation documents.

    > > Now if Debian can distribute a blob which allows my hardware to run as
    > > indicated by a clear interface with my free OS, that's good enough for
    > > me.

    > Why draw the line there? why not be happy if Debian can ship a blob that
    > uses the kernel's binary interfaces? There's no moral or technical
    > difference.


    I acknowledge it's hard to draw the line. One idea in this thread was
    "[ultimately] runs on the host's CPU". It's hard.

    > > > And if the answer reduces down to 'firmware is made by proprietary
    > > > vendors and does something many people need and we don't have a
    > > > replacement yet' - well thats fine, but at various points we didn't have
    > > > a free kernel, or a free libc, or a free graphic desktop environment.

    > >
    > > And we didn't have Debian or OpenMoko; and the glibc, linux, and
    > > Xorg/GNOME/KDE/Xfce are huge separate projects and we could start new
    > > projects to free more things up.

    >
    > Debian started in 1993; Linux was first released in 1991, glibc had its
    > core functional in 1988
    > ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_C_Library#cite_note-1). KDE was
    > started in 1996, and GNOME in 1997. XFree86 forked around 1992, IIRC.
    >
    > We *had* Debian long before we had a free graphical desktop environment
    > [that really meets the term - a window many isn't enough ]


    I still don't see your point. I hope you see mine that all these
    efforts are run as separate projects though. And the availability of
    new free software after the apparition of Debian isn't really an
    exciting argument. Would Debian have been possible without a free
    glibc and a free kernel? Should we make it harder for Debian to be
    useful because we don't have free firmware and hardware?

    > > Google.com is run with software I don't have access to

    > google doesn't affect the functionality of hardware you own.


    No, but what is debated here is whether I need to be able to change it.
    I can't change google's software, I might not be able to change the
    firmware's software depending on the hardware implementation (whether
    the firmware can be dynamically loaded) or on the availability of the
    firmware's source. Yet I can use google and my wifi card.

    What's possible is pretty clear at the time you buy the hardware and
    wont change over time, wont require relicensing.

    > > , but I use it
    > > daily, as well as my microwave

    > ECOMPLETELYUNRELATED


    Or my phone; this was to illustrate my point WRT to interfaces: I don't
    mind interfacing with something non-free when (there's no free
    replacement and) there's a clear interface.


    TBH I don't see enough new ideas or arguments in this thread anymore to
    justify proposing fundamental changes to our core documents, so I'll
    shut up.

    --
    Loc Minier


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  5. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    On Tue, Nov 04, 2008, Gunnar Wolf wrote:
    > It is better and more honest to our users to tell them, "that's not
    > ours and we cannot fix it. We cannot pledge to support it. Here it is,
    > it is a nice blob, but it is NOT ours, go bug your hardware
    > manufacturer for support".


    Ack.

    > It is not that I want Debian to ship a system with no hardware support
    > - But that I'd prefer it to be kept visibly separate.


    I fully agree.

    > And not because they are inherently evil or anything, but because
    > Debian is not the right place to distribute them from. See what I
    > wrote regarding the RFCs - I agree with the IETF, the RFCs server much
    > better their purpose being non-free than if they were DFSG-free. But
    > that's not a reason to bend Debian's principles and ship IETF RFCs in
    > main.


    I see your point. Albeit all the things we're talking about are quite
    different in nature.

    A wifi card needs to be usable to access the network even during an
    install, so if we want to support hardware which requires firmware to
    be loaded after each boot with the Debian OS, the file needs to be
    accessible to the Debian OS.

    I see how easy it is to define that "everything which Debian
    distributes is free software". I wish I'd have a rule as simple to
    claim which would make it clear that "this is a free OS which comes
    with some companion firmware files without source to make hardware just
    work".

    Anyway, there's too little traction to suggest changing our foundation
    documents in an unclear way, so I'll shut up.

    --
    Loc Minier


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  6. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    Manoj Srivastava wrote:
    > But there is less pressure on the author, since they are getting
    > paid, since people who want to run debian hassle free will by their
    > hardware anyway.
    >
    > I think that the same argument would have helpd for including
    > netscape in main as Alex Yukhimets was arguing back in '97. There might
    > be short term gain in popularity by letting the line shift on freedom
    > (heck, windows still is the dominant OS for a reason).
    >

    I think we need to be sure that the pressure is towards option C, and
    not from B to A.

    We might find vendors get the wrong message: "We want to able to to use
    your product with Debian out of the box", which swings them towards the
    "easier" option A (closed firmware distributed on ROM), not option C
    (open firmware with source).

    Brian May


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  7. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    Faidon Liambotis wrote:
    [...]
    > IMHO this is FUD well spread by companies that didn't want their IP
    > "exposed". Atheros cards don't have any firmware; you can transmit in
    > whatever frequency you want to with ath5k/ath9k -- ath9k is distributed
    > by Atheros themselves while ath5k is nowdays endorsed by them.


    In which case things have changed within the past couple of years ---
    after all, the whole purpose of the Atheros HAL was to inforce those FCC
    limits. Do you have any references? Like, to an FCC statement of policy
    change? If so, it would be extremely useful to have.

    [...]
    >> (Incidentally, this is one reason why mobile phone handset vendors are
    >> so paranoid about reflashing phones. A phone with a maliciously
    >> programmed GSM stack would turn into a rather efficient cellphone jammer.)

    > That's also false. You can easily jam cellphones using equipment bought
    > from your local radio shop.
    > There are even (perfectly legal) commercial products that do exactly that.


    Well, yeah, but those devices are either (a) home built and therefore
    unlicensed, which means they're either illegal or operating under some
    sort of exemption as experimental hardware, or either (b) commercial and
    licensed, which means they're operating within the regulators' limits.
    (Or (c), in that they're commercial and illegal.)

    That's a totally different matter from taking a piece of licensed
    equipment where the vendor has promised the regulator that it operates
    according to the rules, and then using that unmodified equipment to
    violate those rules. Sure, you know and I know that changing the
    software counts as a modification, but that's not how the regulators think.

    Luckily it's very unlikely that Debian will ever having anything to do
    with the labyrinthing maze of potential lawsuits that are involved in
    GSM protocol stacks... what *is* the Debian project's policy on using
    Debian with safety-critical systems, anyway? There are a number of
    licenses that specifically prohibit the use of their software in such
    environments; do these count as DSFG-free? Is there any such software in
    Debian?

    --
    David Given
    dg@cowlark.com


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  8. Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

    On Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 9:47 PM, David Given wrote:

    > Luckily it's very unlikely that Debian will ever having anything to do
    > with the labyrinthing maze of potential lawsuits that are involved in
    > GSM protocol stacks... what *is* the Debian project's policy on using
    > Debian with safety-critical systems, anyway? There are a number of
    > licenses that specifically prohibit the use of their software in such
    > environments; do these count as DSFG-free? Is there any such software in
    > Debian?


    Such licenses don't comply with DFSG #6, there should not be any such
    software in Debian, there may be some in non-free though. If you find
    any such software in main, please file RC bugs.

    --
    bye,
    pabs

    http://wiki.debian.org/PaulWise


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