Posted Jun 7, 2008 14:22 UTC (Sat) by man_ls
In reply to: Moving the firmware out
Parent article: Moving the firmware out
I can see strategic, logistic and practical considerations against distributing the firmware with the Linux kernel.
A hardware vendor may (misguidedly of maliciously) think that it is a bad idea that Linux distributions carry its firmware blob. One trivial cause might be that the vendor wants its users to upgrade to the latest hardware. We have seen something similar with proprietary graphics drivers which do not support older cards, and with Vista drivers too. Stupid (new customers would not exactly come running to our door), but possible.
Also, a malicious party (say, SCO) may buy the copyrights from a hardware vendor with the sole intent of bringing a copyright dispute against the kernel. While the firmware can be ripped out in a matter of hours from the current version, it would cause a logistic nightmare to take it out of all distributed kernels. No matter how stupid it is (since firmware is there to be distributed), but we have seen how meritless cases can drag on for years.
Even if all vendors agree, you need written permission to distribute copyrighted material. Linux contains a lot of firmware binary blobs. Now, are all permissions stored in the kernel tree? How can a distribution make sure that it has permission for all binary blobs? What about redistribution rights? This is even before considering the problem with GPL linking that others have pointed out.
These issues may not have a solid basis, but people have been known to do dumber things. Even we watching from the sidelines can surely understand how e.g. a Red Hat lawyer might be worried to see these gray blobs in their distribution.
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