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Encyclopedia > Debian Free Software Guidelines

The Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) are a set of guidelines that the Debian Project uses to determine whether a software license is free software license, which in turn is used to determine whether a piece of software can be included in the main, free software distribution of Debian. Debian had by 2003 collected over seven and a half thousand software packages compliant with the following requirements: Debian, organized by the Debian Project, is a widely used distribution of free software developed through the collaboration of volunteers from around the world. ... Generally speaking, free software license is a phrase used by the free software movement to mean any software license that meets the free software definition of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). ... The GNU free software logo Free software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation, is software which can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... A software package is a bundle of one or several files that either are necessary for the distribution and installation of a computer program, or which will upgrade and install additional features for an existing program already installed on a computer. ...

  • Free redistribution.
  • Inclusion of source code.
  • Allowing for modifications and derived works to be made under the same license.
  • Integrity of the author's source code (as a compromise for the likes of TeX)
  • No discrimination against persons or groups.
  • No discrimination against fields of endeavor, like commercial use.
  • Distribution of license, it needs to apply to all to whom the program is redistributed.
  • License must not be specific to Debian, basically a reiteration of the last point.
  • License must not contaminate other software.

Example licenses are GPL, BSD, and Artistic. The TeX mascot, by Duane Bibby , written as TeX in plain text, is a typesetting system created by Donald Knuth. ... The GNU logo Wikisource has original text related to this article: GNU General Public License The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a widely used free software license, originally written by Richard Stallman for the GNU project. ... The BSD license is a permissive license and is one of the most widely used free software licenses. ... The Artistic License is a software license used for certain free software packages, most notably the standard Perl implementation, most of CPAN modules and Parrot, which are dual-licensed under the Artistic License and the GNU General Public License (GPL). ...


The Open Source Definition was created from the DFSG. The Open Source Definition is used by the Open Source Initiative to determine whether or not a software license can be considered open source. ...


Most discussion about the DFSG happens on the debian-legal mailing list. When the maintainers of the individual packages first upload packages into the Debian archive, the Debian ftpmaster team evaluates the software licenses and decides whether they are in accordance with the DFSG. The ftpmasters tend to confer with the debian-legal list with controversial cases.


debian-legal tests for DFSG compliance

The debian-legal mailing list subscribers have created some tests to check whether a license passes the DFSG. The common tests (as described in the FAQ) are the following:

  • "The Desert Island test". Imagine a castaway on a desert island with a solar-powered computer with an Internet connection that can't upload. This would make it impossible to fulfill any requirement to make changes publicly available or to send patches to some particular place. This holds even if such requirements are only upon request, as the castaway might be able to receive messages but be unable to send them. To be free, software must be modifiable by this unfortunate castaway, who must also be able to legally share modifications with friends on the island.
  • "The Dissident test". Consider a dissident in a totalitarian state who wishes to share a modified bit of software with fellow dissidents, but does not wish to reveal the identity of the modifier, or directly reveal the modifications themselves, or even possession of the program, to the government. Any requirement for sending source modifications to anyone other than the recipient of the modified binary — in fact any forced distribution at all, beyond giving source to those who receive a copy of the binary — would put the dissident in danger. For Debian to consider software Free it must not require any such excess distribution.
  • "The Tentacles of Evil test". Imagine that the author is hired by a large evil corporation and, now in their thrall, attempts to do the worst to the users of the program: to make their lives miserable, to make them stop using the program, to expose them to legal liability, to make the program non-Free, to discover their secrets, etc. The same can happen to a corporation bought out by a larger corporation bent on destroying Free software in order to maintain its monopoly and extend its evil empire. The license cannot allow even the author to take away the required freedoms!

The group also examines practical problems, such as GPL incompatibility. A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively opposes an established opinion, policy, or structure. ...


Debian developers also argue that the same principles should apply not only to programs, but to software documentation and multimedia data as well. Much documentation written by the Linux Documentation Project, and many documents licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (the documents with invariant sections), fail to comply with all of the above guidelines. There are, however, controversies on what constitutes free multimedia files, such as whether an image file before flattening is regarded as source code of the flattened image and whether the 3D model before ray tracing is the source code for the resulting image. Software Documentation or Source Code Documentation is written text that accompanies computer software. ... The Linux Documentation Project (TLDP) is an all-volunteer project that maintains a large collection of Linux (and Linux-related) documentation and publishes the collection online. ... GNU logo (similar in appearance to a gnu) The GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL or simply GFDL) is a copyleft license for free content, designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU project. ...


External links

Free software Portal

  Results from FactBites:
 
Free software - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2778 words)
The usual way for software to be distributed as free software is for the software to be licensed to the recipient with a free software license (or be in the public domain), and the source code of the software to be made available (for a compiled language).
Software that is not free software is known as proprietary software.
Free software is generally available at little to no cost and can result in permanently lower costs compared to proprietary software, evidence by free software becoming popular in third world countries.
Debian Free Software Guidelines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (599 words)
The Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) are a set of guidelines that the Debian Project uses to determine whether a software license is free software license, which in turn is used to determine whether a piece of software can be included in the main, free software distribution of Debian.
To be free, software must be modifiable by this unfortunate castaway, who must also be able to legally share modifications with friends on the island.
Debian developers also argue that the same principles should apply not only to programs, but to software documentation and multimedia data as well.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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