Binary firmware in Fedora

fedora-logo-bubbleI stumbled over this thread on the Fedora Extras list today which discussed the inclusion of Binary Firmware in Fedora Extras. I remembered only vaguely that there was something mentioned in the package guidelines, but it is there:

Requirements:

  • The files are non-executable (note: this means that the files cannot run on their own, not that they are just chmod -x)
  • The files are not libraries.
  • The files are standalone, not embedded in executable or library code.
  • Explicit permission is given by the owner to freely distribute without restrictions (this permission must be included, in “writing”, with the files in the packaging)
  • The files must be necessary for the functionality of open source code being included in Fedora.

Sure, these requirements are hard, therefore not too many firmware will find its way into Fedora – on the other hand it makes it at least possible in theory, and therefore puts a bit of pressure to release the firmware under licence terms which meet these requirements.

If it makes sense to include binary firmware blobs in such a way? Sure, they do not meet the criteria of truly Free Software, because there is code you cannot look into and which cannot be reproduced.
On the other hand the code is not allowed to be stuff like a program or libraries – the rules are clear there, and you have at least to respect that when you talk about Free Software which is indeed about program or library code.

In any case it was surprising when I read it now again.