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

Ian Jackson ijackson at chiark.greenend.org.uk
Wed Aug 8 13:22:46 UTC 2012

Michael Gilbert writes ("Re: [Fsf-Debian] Non-free firmware question during install"):
> 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.

If we're being honest it's difficult to see what such a persuasive
argument would look like.  "We recommend you go and buy a different
computer"?  "We recommend you give up on Debian and use OpenSuSE"?
These are not very plausible, let alone persuasive.

I think whingeing at the user is entirely proper - they might, for
example, be just trying out the computer before they buy it.  But in
many cases there are not very many practical alternatives, and our job
is to extend the user's freedom as far as we can.  That does mean
constantly pushing at the boundaries of compromise - but it does also
mean the making of compromises so that the result does indeed serve
the user.

> 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?

I think going down this route to excuse statements made by programs
would amount to sophistry.  I don't think there is any meaningful


More information about the Fsf-collab-discuss mailing list