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I don't understand "non free firmware to install debian"

Started by iuytr, July 28, 2022, 01:29:20 PM

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I found this on the internet: "Some firmware images are free and open-source, and some of them are non-free, which means that you would need to add the non-free and contrib components to your APT sources."

Is it  legal to install non free firmware when I want to install debian?

Mad Penguin

Hi, well, technically I can see hot the "non-free" bit might sound a little worrying. However (!) non-free in this context doesn't mean necessarily "paid for", but rather that it comes with "strings attached". These strings would typically be detailed in the terms and conditions provided and might be something like; you agree not to try to reverse engineer the code, modify it, put your name on it and sell it etc etc ..".

So the answer literally would be; "it depends on the terms and conditions / license that comes with the firmware in question", but typically, I would not expect Debian to include any software that would be illegal to install. So "non-free" in this context typically means "you're not free to do whatever you want with it", rather than "you need to pay for it".

(Caveat; some software I guess may be subject to export licenses and sanctions etc, so if you're installing in certain countries then I guess there may be an issue .. but for the countries I have in mind, it still may not be an issue ... ;-)  )

... there is always a trade-off between being able to read and track the terms and conditions for every bit of software you use (which IMHO would be quite an ask) , and trusting your supplier not to lure you into installing something you shouldn't.

Edit: it would seem there is a technical definition of what goes into "non-free", which is software whose license does not comply with Debian's definition of "free software". (https://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines)