[Mageia-dev] Clarification on firmware licenses

Anssi Hannula anssi.hannula at iki.fi
Sat Jan 15 20:00:55 CET 2011

Hi all!

Sorry for bringing this stuff up again, but it seems there is still some
confusion regarding firmware licenses and to which repository put the
various firmware packages.

Clear cases:
- open-source firmware with source code goes to core
- firmware which doesn't allow modifications or has other similar
  restrictions goes to non-free

However, what to do with firmware that is licensed under a free license
(e.g. BSD/GPL) that doesn't have source code?
There are quite a few of those (see e.g. [1]).

A quick look at other distros shows the following:

 - All firmware without source code goes to non-free.
 - No "GPL" firmware without source code at all, even in non-free
   (presumably because if Debian would distribute those files, Debian
    would have to provide the source code to comply with GPL, which it
    can't do because the source code isn't available at all).
 - No unknown-license firmware at all.

 - All redistributable firmware is allowed in main repo (there is no
   non-free repo), even if non-free.
 - Unknown-license firmware is allowed only if it was previously
   distributed as part of kernel.

 - All redistributable firmware is apparently allowed in main, even if
   non-free license with restrictions on modification. (this is in
   contrary to Ubuntu licensing page [2] which says that modification
   must be allowed for all packages in main).
 - Unknown-license firmware that was previously in kernel is also in
 - All other firmware files with no license at all is also allowed,
   in multiverse repository.

 - No sane policy, half of them is in non-free and the other half in
 - Unknown-license firmware is allowed only if it was previously
   distributed as part of kernel.


[2] http://www.ubuntu.com/project/about-ubuntu/licensing

Anssi Hannula

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