TomCallaway/ProposedFirmwareLicensePolicyChange

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Justification

Red Hat Legal advised that it would be good for us to update our policy on firmware licensing to better reflect reality, specifically, the unique clauses found in CPU microcode firmware licenses.

Existing Firmware Licensing Policy

Some applications and drivers require binary-only firmware to function. Fedora permits inclusion of these files as long as they meet the following requirements:

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 redistribute 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.

Proposed New Text for Firmware Licensing Policy

Some applications, drivers, and hardware require binary-only firmware to function. Fedora permits inclusion of these files as long as they meet the following requirements:

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.
  • The files must be necessary for the functionality of open source code being included in Fedora.
  • The files are available under an acceptable firmware license, which is included with the files in the packaging.

The Fedora Project considers a firmware license acceptable if:

  • it allows some form of royalty-free use, subject to restrictions that the Fedora Project has determined are acceptable for firmware licenses (see below), and
  • it does not restrict redistribution in ways that would make a software license unacceptable under Fedora licensing guidelines, except by:
    1. requiring that the firmware be redistributed only as incorporated in the redistributor's product (or as a maintenance update for existing end users of the redistributor's product), possibly limited further to those products of the redistributor that support or contain the hardware associated with the licensed firmware; and
    2. requiring the redistributor to pass on or impose conditions on users that are no more restrictive than those authorized by this Fedora firmware licensing policy.

A non-exhaustive list of restrictions on use that Fedora considers acceptable for firmware licenses are:

  1. any restrictions that are found in software licenses that are acceptable for Fedora;
  2. prohibitions on modification;
  3. prohibitions on reverse engineering, disassembly or decompilation;
  4. restricting use to use in conjunction with the hardware associated with the firmware license.