Exactly one year ago (well actually there are 4 days left before the aniversary), a bug was reported on launchpad, called Non-free files distributed without license/copyright info.
Basically, it complained that people reported bugs like "I need the firmware available on http://hosting.ru/~bob/" for my DVB card to work, and the said firmware was added into linux-restricted-modules (then linux-firmware) without checking it can be redistributed, and without writing the origin and license in copyright file.
This is not really new as in earlier version they were even included in linux-image package, already without correct license info.
This bug got very few activity, like people closing it for old releases, or asking to attach Xorg.0.log twice...
In January this year, a bit upset about that, I wrote an email to Mark Shuttleworth titled "Copyright violations in Ubuntu, nobody cares" and was happy to get two very positive emails in less than 24 hours.
First one was asking someone, with me in Cc, to have a look at it and either drop or ask the appropriate people to get an agreement for redistribution.
The second one was the forwarded answer from Matt Zimmerman, with Technical Board in Cc, saying:
The kernel team has been doing copyright archeology on this already, with a goal of fixing this for 9.04. I don't think he was aware of this particular bug report, and will get it updated to reflect the current status of that work. We know that there are areas where we don't have proper documentation for the origin and copyright of some of these files, and that we need to either clear them or remove them.
Mark added Pascal, I trust that this resolves the issue, please raise it again if 9.04 beta doesn't reflect this goal.
What happened since ? The bug was not updated to reflect the current status of that work. And I didn't have time last few months to look at the betas, so I was quite pessimistic when I found today time to look at it.
Well, things improved a bit, some licenses where added, and new one was added only after checking the license.
But many with unknown licenses are just still there, none was removed.
Worse, some where the license says it's not redistributable, like dvb-fe-tda10046.fw which states The user may not make additional copies of the software. The documentation may not be reproduced. as pointed in another report , are still there too...
So, hosting an Ubuntu mirror or giving away Ubuntu CDs is still violating copyright, and illegal in most countries.
If several bug reports on Launchpad, Mark and Technical Board have not enough power to make packagers follow the packaging rules and the law, and have Ubuntu legally distributable, who can?