Debian's "Social Contract" with the Free Software Community
DEBIAN'S "SOCIAL CONTRACT" WITH THE FREE SOFTWARE COMMUNITY
We are Software In The Public Interest, producers of the Debian
GNU/Linux system. This is the "social contract" we offer to the
free software community.
1. Debian Will Remain 100% Free Software
We promise to keep the Debian GNU/Linux Distribution entirely free
software. As there are many definitions of free software, we
include the guidelines we use to determine if software is "free" below.
We will support our users who develop and run non-free software on
Debian, but we will never make the system depend on an item of non-free
2. We Will Give Back to the Free Software Community
When we write new components of the Debian system, we will license them
as free software. We will make the best system we can, so that free
software will be widely distributed and used. We will feed back
bug-fixes, improvements, user requests, etc. to the "upstream" authors
of software included in our system.
3. We Won't Hide Problems
We will keep our entire bug-report database open for public view at
all times. Reports that users file on-line will immediately become
visible to others.
4. Our Priorities are Our Users and Free Software
We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free-software
community. We will place their interests first in our priorities. We
will support the needs of our users for operation in many different
kinds of computing environment. We won't object to commercial software
that is intended to run on Debian systems, and we'll allow others to
create value-added distributions containing both Debian and commercial
software, without any fee from us. To support these goals, we will
provide an integrated system of high-quality, 100% free software, with
no legal restrictions that would prevent these kinds of use.
5. Programs That Don't Meet Our Free-Software Standards
We acknowledge that some of our users require the use of programs
that don't conform to the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
We have created "contrib" and "non-free" areas in our FTP archive
for this software. The software in these directories is not part of
the Debian system, although it has been configured for use with Debian.
We encourage CD manufacturers to read the licenses of software packages
in these directories and determine if they can distribute that software
on their CDs. Thus, although non-free software isn't a part of Debian,
we support its use, and we provide infrastructure (such as
our bug-tracking system and mailing lists) for non-free software
THE DEBIAN FREE SOFTWARE GUIDELINES
1. Free Redistribution
The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from
selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate
software distribution containing programs from several different
sources. The license may not require a royalty or other fee for such
2. Source Code
The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in
source code as well as compiled form.
3. Derived Works
The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow
them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original
4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code
The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified
form _only_ if the license allows the distribution of "patch files"
with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build
time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built
from modified source code. The license may require derived works to
carry a different name or version number from the original software.
(This is a compromise. The Debian group encourages all authors to not
restrict any files, source or binary, from being modified.)
5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program
in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the
program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic
7. Distribution of License
The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the
program is redistributed without the need for execution of an
additional license by those parties.
8. License Must Not Be Specific to Debian
The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's
being part of a Debian system. If the program is extracted from Debian
and used or distributed without Debian but otherwise within the terms
of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed
should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with
the Debian system.
9. License Must Not Contaminate Other Software
The license must not place restrictions on other software that is
distributed along with with the licensed software. For example, the
license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the
same medium must be free software.
10. Example Licenses
The "GPL", "BSD", and "Artistic" licenses are examples of licenses
that we consider "free".
The concept of a Linux distribution stating its "social contract with
the free software community" was suggested to me by Ean Schussler. I
composed a draft, and then it was refined by the Debian developers in
e-mail confernce during most of June. They then voted to approve it as
our publicly stated policy. We hope that other software projects,
including other Linux distributions, will use this document as a model.
We will gladly grant permission for any such use.
Debian Project Leader
Bruce Perens K6BP firstname.lastname@example.org 510-215-3502
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