on disabling drivers that use non-Free firmware

Richard M Stallman rms at gnu.org
Mon Jan 12 15:09:17 UTC 2009

    Should we have rejected a Free program that ran on one of the Free Java
    Virtual Machines whose development I joined back in 1996 or so, just
    because most people would run them on a JVM?

No, and we did not reject them.
On the other hand, if a Java program supported just part of its
functionality on a free JVM, and worked fully only on a non-free JVM,
we would have rejected it,.

						  I don't think so, and I
    don't think this scenario is comparable with that of Linux drivers that,
    until someone develops Free firmware, will *only* run in the presence of
    non-Free firmware.

The driver that needs a non-free firmware program to support certain devices
is analogous to the Java program that needed a non-free JVM to support
some of its functionality.

We should reject that driver, at least in the form offered.  However,
disabling the code to load the non-free firmware eliminates the problem
and makes the driver ok.

      I played with replacing
    the non-Free firmware files with zero-sized files at some point, while
    some devices failed miserably with that arrangement (e.g. sound cards
    producing random noise from the moment the firmware was loaded until the
    machine was powered off), others seem to have managed to do useful work.

If the driver works usefully when you disable loading the non-Free
firmware, great.  That modified driver is ok to distribute.

More information about the linux-libre mailing list