The FSF's Hardware Endorsement Program
At the same time, whenever we've talked to hardware manufacturers or sellers about this issue, they've often told us that they're interested in offering more hardware that meets our needs. The main reason they hold back is because they're not sure they can justify the expense involved.
In October, we publicly announced a hardware-endorsement program to help bridge this gap. Hardware that's endorsed by the FSF will do as much as possible to respect your freedom and give you control over the device. And the program demonstrates to sellers that there are already plenty of potential customers who take freedom seriously.
The program is designed to cover all kinds of hardware, such as full computers and parts, portable and embedded devices, and individual peripherals. Highlights of the criteria include:
The device cannot require or recommend that you use any nonfree software to use it fully. Any drivers, firmware loaded at runtime, or dedicated utilities to interact with the device must all be free.
Almost all software running on the device must be free. (There's one narrow exception for software running on auxiliary processors where no free software is available, and the software is not meant to be upgraded by the seller or the user after shipment.) You must be able to modify and/or replace all of that software, too. And you'll be able to do it all without legal worry, because any patents the seller owns or has licensed must be licensed to you.
You don't have to worry about the device spying on you. The device cannot share your personal information with others unless you give permission, or unless sharing that information is fundamental to the device's operation. If the device supports formats encumbered with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), the DRM must be implemented in free software (and thus breakable by users).
Products that meet all of the criteria will be fully endorsed by the FSF. We'll provide them with a seal to put on their boxes, a joint press release, listing on our web site, and other marketing help. Because of this, the criteria do also require that the product's marketing be consistent with our own public messaging, to avoid any conflicts between what we say and what the seller says.
As I write this article, we're still working on refining the criteria based on public feedback we've received so far. In the meantime, we've also received a lot of contacts from hardware sellers who are interested in obtaining our endorsement. Nothing's final yet, but we're very hopeful that we'll be able to announce the first few endorsed products soon.