on disabling drivers that use non-Free firmware

Robert Millan rmh at aybabtu.com
Wed Jan 21 12:33:44 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 11:33:08PM -0500, Richard M Stallman wrote:
>     > In general we want not to distribute programs that require non-free
>     > software to work.
>     We wouldn't be doing that.  We'd be distributing programs that don't
>     work at all, unless 'notifying the user of incompatibility with Free
>     Software' is regarded as a feature.  There wouldn't be any traces of any
>     actual dependency on non-Free Software there.
> In one sense, that is true.
> In another sense, all the REST of the code in that driver is code that
> will only work with a certain non-free program (plus a small change in
> the line that calls the loader).
> Both interpretations seem valid.  So the question is, what serves the
> cause better?  To include that program, or to delete it?
> I think (or thought) that deleting it is better.  But I am not
> absolutely certain.

If we're talking about drivers, the user won't usually know they're asking
for firmware files, unless she's knowledgeable enough to check dmesg.  OTOH
I think it's bad to assume the firmware is always going to be non-free.  It
could be liberated, or others could write a replacement, and then not having
the ability to load the free version becomes a technical inconvenience.

Robert Millan

  The DRM opt-in fallacy: "Your data belongs to us. We will decide when (and
  how) you may access your data; but nobody's threatening your freedom: we
  still allow you to remove your data and not access it at all."

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