The Dell Latitude reality check

Paul Smith paul at
Wed Feb 16 22:07:17 UTC 2011

On Wed, 2011-02-16 at 15:49 -0600, Patrick Goetz wrote:
> A better solution would be to include the most common proprietary 
> drivers in some kind of encrypted sandbox on the install CD and let
> the user choose whether or not he/she would like to use the
> proprietary drivers at the time of the install.  I'll let the GPL
> legal experts figure out precisely how this could be done, but it
> seems to me it should be possible.

Hi Patrick.  I'm not familiar with the specifics of the broadcom
licensing per se, but if it's like the other proprietary driver
licensing problems we have then you're misunderstanding the situation.

The problem has nothing to do with the GPL vs. LGPL vs. whatever; in
fact it has nothing to do with licensing of any part of Ubuntu at all.

The problem is with the licensing of the _proprietary driver_.  These
drivers typically allow no-charge download directly from the vendor
website, but the license includes terms that make REDISTRIBUTION illegal
(without permission).  That means that Ubuntu _cannot give you_ the
driver, unless they go to the vendor and pay $$ (presumably you're not
asking that a distro you downloaded for free should pay $$ for the
privilege of shipping these proprietary drivers) or work out some other

In short, there's simply nothing that Ubuntu can do about this if the
vendor won't agree to allow redistribution.

For things like nVidia graphics drivers or the Microsoft truetype fonts,
etc. we can get away with this because they are not critical to bring
the system up, so we can get the system up then there's a little trick:
there's a package available that will automatically go to the vendor
site and download the package directly from there (no redistribution by
Ubuntu here) and install it.

Of course, this trick does not work with a network driver for obvious

I know this doesn't make anyone, including me, happier but at least we
can focus our ire in the correct direction and not shoot the hapless,
and helpless, messenger.


PS. Hopefully I've not completely misinterpreted the situation with the
broadcom drivers... I probably should have gone to look at the license
before writing all this.  Oh well!  :-p :-)

More information about the Ubuntu-devel-discuss mailing list