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Date:      Sat, 7 Oct 2006 14:31:45 -0400
From:      "Constantine A. Murenin" <>
To:        "Matt Emmerton" <>
Cc:        FreeBSD Mailing List <>
Subject:   Re: ipw(4) and iwi(4): Intel's Pro Wireless firmware licensingproblems
Message-ID:  <>
In-Reply-To: <007101c6e8f3$3e0c7aa0$>
References:  <> <> <> <007101c6e8f3$3e0c7aa0$>

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On 05/10/06, Matt Emmerton <> wrote:
> > On 05/10/06, Chuck Swiger <> wrote:
> > > On Oct 4, 2006, at 7:46 PM, Constantine A. Murenin wrote:
> > > > Why are none of the manual pages of FreeBSD say anything about why
> > > > Intel Wireless devices do not work by default?
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > >
> > > The manpages you've linked to explicitly state:
> > >
> > >       This driver requires firmware to be loaded before it will
> > > work.  You need
> > >       to obtain ipwcontrol(8) from the IPW web page listed below to
> > > accomplish
> > >       loading the firmware before ifconfig(8) will work.
> > >
> > > Is there some part of this which is unclear to you, Constantine?
> >
> > Yes, Chuck, some part is indeed unclear to me, precisely the part that
> > explains why does one have to go into that much trouble to have a
> > working system.
> It's required by Intel's choice of licence for the firmware for that
> wireless NIC.

Where did you find that in the man-pages?

> > Not permitting the firmware to be redistributed has nothing to do with
> > the FCC, however.
> > No, firmware redistribution is ENTIRELY up to Intel. I want the
> > firmware to be available under a BSD or ISC licence, just as with
> > Ralink. Intel's firmware is already available, but under a different
> > licence. Where does the FCC say that Intel must distribute firmware
> > under a non-OSS-friendly licence?
> It doesn't.  However, most licences allow derivative works to be created
> outside of Intel's control.  If one of these derivative work allows the
> device to be used in a manner that violates FCC rules and regulations, Intel
> remains liable because they a) the provider of the hardware device in
> question and b) the provider of the initial software (that spawned the
> derivative work)

As I see it, no matter what Intel does, a) and b) will always be the
case -- reverse-engineering efforts still have to use Intel's original
software to produce any viable results. I.e. by extending your
argument slightly further, Intel is screwed anyway.

> There is nothing stopping Intel from releasing the firmware, except for the
> legal fear that the FCC will hold them accountable for illegal acts
> performed with their device.

Even if the original document does not allow one to distribute
derivative works, anyone can still post complicated instructions on
modifying Intel's binaries such that the device violates the law. I
strongly doubt FCC would hold Intel accountable if any user follows
those complicated instructions, as it's almost impossible for Intel to
control those kind of things.

Intel should not write their own law, they should just make sure that
customers are unlikely to disrespect FCCs laws. FCC laws, on the other
hand, never say that manufacturers have to keep completely secret
anything about their wireless devices. Distributing the very same
firmware that already available under another licence doesn't have
anything to do with one's ability to respect or disrespect the FCC

Put it the other way around -- if Intel doesn't distribute the
firmware on terms acceptable to the end user, then it basically
_forces_ the user to come up with their own firmware, or use some
alternative firmwares. And what if alternative firmwares violate FCC?
Then who's fault is that? It is now clearly Intel's fault, because
they've made it legally difficult for the user to use the original
Intel firmware. I.e. Intel is better off distributing the firmware
under a BSD or ISC licence, unless it wants problems with their
devices with the FCC.


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