[Fsf-Debian] Non-free firmware question during install

Michael Gilbert mgilbert at debian.org
Tue Aug 7 21:21:57 UTC 2012

On Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 2:41 PM, Paul van der Vlis wrote:
> Here a new try:
> ---------
> | detect network hardware
> |
> | Some of your hardware needs firmware to operate. Debian only ships
> | free firmware and probably there was no free firmware available for
> | your hardware at the time this installer was made.
> |
> | We do not recommended it, but it is also an option to install non-free
> | firmware.
> |
> | The missing firmware files are: ......
> |
> | Firmware can be loaded from removable media, such as an USB stick or
> | floppy.
> |
> | [...]
> --------
> If we want to make it a bit more userfriendly, we need to point to a
> website with the non-free firmware. But I expect the FSF would not like
> that (I would not have problems with it).

For what it's worth, the "Documentation" section of the FSF Guidelines
for Free System Distributions [0] state the following:

    What would be unacceptable is for the documentation to give
    people instructions for installing a nonfree program on the system,
    or mention conveniences they might gain by doing so.

    For a borderline case, a clear and serious exhortation not to use
    the nonfree program would move it to the acceptable side of the line.

So those guidelines could seemingly be satisfied if the discussion
were include a persuasive argument to avoid the non-free files.

Although a lingering question is whether program output can be
considered documentation.  I would argue so as for example "program
--help" is a kind of documentation.  Then again perhaps the FSF would
be willing to expand the applicability of that section to lift the
documentation-only interpretation?

Best wishes,

[0] http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-system-distribution-guidelines.html

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