1. I don't think renaming our distribution would get us any benefits. Let
me quote Bruce about splitting up "non-free" into several new
> The problem is that this puts us in the position of interpreting
> licenses for the CD-ROM manufacturers. I would much prefer they read the
> licenses in non-free and decide what they can include, rather than us
> doing it for them. There's an element of legal risk involved.
I second this. (And I know what I'm talking about, since I'm one of the
CD-ROM manufacturers and I had a look at all non-free licenses. It's not
easy to determine which license is "non-distrib", etc.)
There is another problem: New distributions mean more administrative
overhead (archive maintainance, upload procedure, etc.).
Please let make things easier where possible--not more complicated. I'm
sure we would get more upload errors if the maintainers would have to
choose not between 3 but between 10 distributions.
2. Someone pointed out that the Policy 188.8.131.52 is unclear about non-free
and contrib since we have the Free Software Guidelines. I tried to fix
this. Please have a look at the current draft at
or check the text version appended below.
I tried to define this policy:
main: - has to follow Debian Free Software Guidelines
- no dependencies/recommends outside of main
non-us: - everything with US export restrictions
(no matter if non-free or no source is available)
non-free: - must allow distribution via FTP
- must allow modified binaries
contrib: - must follow Debian Free Software Guidlines, except
availability of source code or restrictions on source code
The old statements about non-free and contrib are kept as "examples". I
think they are not contradicting to the new rules.
Please have a look at the new version and tell me and hints how to make it
clearer. The separation of the distributions is very important for Debian
and everyone should be able to understand the rules!
PS: Please shorten the long mail if you are replying only to a section.
The Debian GNU/Linux system consists of several distributions which
are discussed below. The distributions differ in copyright rules the
programs in these sections must comply.
Please study the copyright of your submission *carefully* and
understand it before proceeding. If you have doubts or questions,
The aims of the policy described in detail below are:
* We want to make as much software available as we can.
* We want to encourage everyone to write free software.
* We want to make it easy for people to produce CD-ROMs of our
system without violating any licenses, import/export
restrictions, or any other laws.
2.1.1. The main distribution
Every package included in the main distribution must have a license
complying with the following rules:
1. The program must include source code, and must allow
in source as well as binary form.
2. The software must be redistributable by anyone. The license may
restrict a source file from being distributed in modified form,
as long as it allows modified binary files, and files that are
distributed along with the source for the express purpose of
modifying the source.
(It is OK for there to be a requirement that modified versions
carry a warning, or that they be released with a different name
or version number, or something similar, because we can comply
with this requirement if necessary.)
3. The license may not restrict any party from selling or giving
away the software, nor may it require a royalty or license fee.
4. The license must not discriminate against any person or group of
persons unless their use would violate a law.
5. The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the
program in a specific field of endeavor where such use would not
violate any law. For example, it may not restrict the program
from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic
6. 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.
7. The rights attached to the program must not depend on the
being part of the Debian system. If a person extracts the
from Debian and uses it or distributes it without Debian, that
person and any people to whom the program is redistributed
have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction
with the Debian system.
8. The license must not place restrictions on other software
packages that are distributed on the same software medium. For
example, the license must not insist that all other programs
distributed with it must be free software.
2.1.2. The non-us distribution
Due to export restrictions in the United States some programs may not
be included in the main distribution. These programs are made
available in the *non-us* distribution, which is located on an
Internet server outside of the US.
Since the uploading process would violate against these export
restrictions too, these packages will have to be maintained by
developers that live in a country were the export of these programs
2.1.3. The non-free distribution
* whose copyright permission notices (or patent problems) do not
allow distribution and copying for profit, no matter how large
small the amount is, or
* where distribution is restricted according to the medium used,
* where the distributor must ask any kind of special permission of
the authors, or
* with other onerous conditions,
may only be placed in the semi-supported *non-free* distribution.
This is important so that CD-ROM manufacturers can distribute Debian
without having to check the copyright of each package individually,
simply by leaving out the contents of the *non-free* area. CDROM
distributors are encouraged, though, to check the copyrights on the
programs in *non-free* individually and include as many as they can.
2.1.4. The contrib distribution
* whose copyright permission notices (or patent problems) allow
only distribution of compiled binaries (and thus of which only
binaries are available), or
* where the source code which may be distributed is not the
complete source code required to compile the program (i.e., the
program cannot be compiled using only packages in the main
* which depend for their use on *non-us*, *non-free*, or *contrib*
packages (this includes all packages which declare a dependency
on a *non-us*, *non-free*, or *contrib* package, and almost all
packages which declare a recommendation), or
* which allow free use only for a trial period (shareware), or
* which are demonstration programs lacking vital functionality
* which are only installer-packages which require the user to
supply a separate file to be installed, or
* which are buggy and no longer maintained, but are preserved for
backward compatibility, or
* which fail to meet some other policy requirements,
may only be placed in the semi-supported *contrib* section of the
Debian archive, unless they need to be in the *non-free* distribution
2.1.5. Further copyright considerations
Programs whose authors encourage the user to make donations are fine
for the main distribution, provided that the authors do not claim
not donating is immoral, unethical, illegal or something similar;
otherwise they must go in contrib (or non-free, if even distribution
is restricted by such statements).
Packages whose copyright permission notices (or patent problems) do
not allow redistribution even of only binaries, and where no special
permission has been obtained, cannot be placed on the Debian FTP site
and its mirrors at all.
Note, that under international copyright law (this applies in the
United States, too) *no* distribution or modification of a work is
allowed without an explicit notice saying so. Therefore a program
without a copyright notice *is* copyrighted and you may not do
anything to it without risking being sued! Likewise if a program has
copyright notice but no statement saying what is permitted then
nothing is permitted.
Many authors are unaware of the problems that restrictive copyrights
(or lack of copyright notices) can cause for the users of their
supposedly-free software. It is often worthwhile contacting such
authors diplomatically to ask them to modify their license terms.
However, this is a politically difficult thing to do and you should
ask for advice on `debian-devel' first.
When in doubt, send mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Be
prepared to provide us with the copyright statement. Software covered
by the GPL, public domain software and BSD-like copyrights are safe;
be wary of the phrases `commercial use prohibited' and `distribution
Programs with cryptographic program code have to be stored in the
*non-us* distribution because of export restrictions of the US.
are some exceptions though, for example when the crypto keys are very
small.) Note, that this applies only to packages which contain
cryptographic code. A package containing a program with an interface
to a cryptographic program or a program that's dynamically linked
against a cryptographic library are not covered by this law. Thus,
such packages can be placed in the main distribution, unless they
to be in *non-free* or *contrib* (see above).
Every package submission *must* be accompanied by verbatim copy of
copyright (with the exceptions of public domain packages and those
covered by the UCB BSD licence, the Artistic License, the GNU GPL, or
LGPL; in these cases simply indicate which is appropriate). This
information must be included in a file installed by the binary
package--see section 5.6, `Copyright information'.
-- Christian Schwarz
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