Vendor only distributable packages - was " Kernel 2059 from Dave Jones fixes nvidia.ko loading"

John Morris jmorris at
Thu Mar 23 21:28:40 UTC 2006

On Wed, 2006-03-22 at 02:23, Arjan van de Ven wrote:

> > But has anyone at RH tried asking for permission?  Including preset repo
> > lines for livna is right out, both legally and morally for the mission
> > of Fedora.  But what about the idea of a legal but non-free catagory for
> > Flash, Acrobat, Nvidia, ATI, etc? 
> what makes you think NVidia and ATI are legal?

Ok, I'll bite.  It's legal until they they get busted.  Since that isn't
going to happen, it's legal.  If anyone started a legal fight over it
the BEST case scenario is they rework their code a bit and push most of
it into userland at the cost of performance. All of the other scenarios
are very bad.  Since everyone involved knows this is reality and most
are somewhat rational there won't be a fight.  To get a fight started
somebody has to believe they have something to gain and there would only
be losers in a GPL enforcement action against Nvidia or ATI.

I think the word you are looking for is moral and that gets a little
fuzzy but not much.  In the end everyone knows the situation is sub
optimal for everyone but until someone can propose a solution it is what
we have to live with.  You can't negotiate with the 3D vendors because
they aren't able to state their position openly.  It is clear they are
terrified about something regarding opening their code or specs but
without knowing what we are left guessing.  (Is it fear of Microsoft? 
Fear of patent lawsuits if it became known how many they are violating? 
Fear of customers seeing just how crappy their stuff really is?  Fear
that most of the value is in the driver instead of the hardware, thus if
the knowledge embedded in the drivers were freely available the Chinese
could knock off some competitive hardware designs? The possibilities are

However with all the major forces in the Open Source world quickly
aligning for a hellbent push to a 3D desktop to compete with Aero Glass,
moral considerations are going to be paved over by expediency.  It won't
be the first time.  Remember when many otherwise 'pure' distributions
shipped Netscape because it was the only viable browser?

Which brings me back to my original question.  If we accept that some
chunks of closed software are going to remain in most user's machines
for the foreseeable future, how can the process of obtaining these
pieces be simplified.  If Debian can accept the existance of a non-free
repository, is it a winning position to be more hardline than "we are
more RMS pure than even RMS himself" Debian?

So if making it easier to obtain certain non-free components is
thinkable the questions remaining are:

1. Which unfree components is it acceptable to point to.  This isn't a
slam dunk either way. Especially since things like mp3 support that are
illegal in the US are perfectly legal in most of the rest of the world. 
It is probably going to end up being a legal requirement to leave it out
since Fedora is too closely tied to RH to escape the ravages of the
trial lawyers, but if you are arguing that legal be damned, we must do
the moral thing then how can imposing bad US laws on the rest of the
world be justified?

Just my $0.02 but I'd argue that Flash needs to be in until the free
replacement works for most users.  Acrobat can probably be told to piss
off now because xpdf, at least for me, already opens more documents than
acroread.  The Nvidia driver will probably be there forever but if the
Free ATI driver ever gets to the point it works for most users it should
be pushed instead.  Java support for browsers via gcj is almost ready to
kick Sun to the curb but not today.  Firmware blobs (like the Intel wifi
cards) should be so long as the vendor is OK with it.

2.  How large a barrier is needed to make explicit that unsupported
software is on the other side, in the case of driver software that makes
most of the machine unsupportable.  Would it be enough to put the repo
files for these components in extras with no dependencies, so a user
would have to explicitly install them?  Should their installation
trigger a dialog with a EULA style warning they must click off on? Or
perhaps include them in the default list of repos set to disabled with
comments explaining the situation?

John M.     This post is 100% M$Free!
Geekcode 3.1:GCS C+++ UL++++$ P++ L+++ W++ w--- Y++ b++ 5+++ R tv- e* r

More information about the fedora-test-list mailing list