Chapter 2. The Debian Archive
2.3 Copyright considerations
Every package must be accompanied by a verbatim copy of its copyright and distribution
license in the file
(see `Copyright information' on
for further details).
We reserve the right to restrict files from being included anywhere in our archives if
their use or distribution would break a law,
there is an ethical conflict in their distribution or use,
we would have to sign a license for them, or
their distribution would conflict with other project policies.
Programs whose authors encourage the user to make donations are fine for the main distribu
tion, provided that the authors do not claim that not donating is immoral, unethical, illegal or
something similar; in such a case they must go in non free.
Packages whose copyright permission notices (or patent problems) do not even allow redistri
bution of binaries only, and where no special permission has been obtained, must not 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 distri
bution 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 a 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 con
tacting such authors diplomatically to ask them to modify their license terms. However, this
can be a politically difficult thing to do and you should ask for advice on the
mailing list first, as explained below.
When in doubt about a copyright, send mail to
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 restricted .
The packages in the sections main, contrib and non free are grouped further into subsections to
The section and subsection for each package should be specified in the package's
control record (see `
' on page
). However, the maintainer of the Debian archive
may override this selection to ensure the consistency of the Debian distribution. The
field should be of the form:
subsection if the package is in the main section,
section/subsection if the package is in the contrib or non free section, and