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

Ian Jackson ijackson at chiark.greenend.org.uk
Wed Aug 8 13:39:05 UTC 2012

Sam Geeraerts writes ("Re: [Fsf-Debian] Non-free firmware question during install"):
> Paul van der Vlis wrote:
> > Still not sure this could be seen as recommending loading non-free
> > firmware.
> There was a discussion between the Linux-Libre maintainer and Stallman 
> about firmware filenames [1]. The idea is to not in any way help the 
> user get the firmware, but also not stop him from using any firmware 
> files he has.
> [1] http://lwn.net/Articles/421680/

Some of the views reported in that article are IMO verging on the
surreal.  I don't think it very likely that a reasonable way can be
found to meet both all the aims referred to there, and Debian's goals
which are very much focussed on actually improving the freedom of
users in practice.

That's not to say that Debian is only interested in practical
questions and uninterested in theory or ideology.  But I think
Debian's underlying view of the principles (insofar as anything like
Debian could be said to have a single view) is that enhancing the
rights and capabilities of users is the most important principle -
more important than the purity of the project's political message.

So when the principle that we should be enhancing the freedom of our
users in practice (let us call that the "practice principle") comes
into conflict with the principle that we shouldn't be making
statements which might be taken as support for unfreedom (let us call
that the "inducement principle"), Debian would consider the practice
principle more important.  Of course we should meet *both* principles
as far as we can, and only compromise on the inducement principle
when, and insofar as, the conflict is irreconcilable.

One of the valuable things that we can do here on this list is look
again at situations where Debian could perhaps meet the inducement
principle more fully without compromising the practice principle.


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