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The Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) are a part of the Debian Social Contract. An incomplete list of DFSG-compatible licenses is available on the DFSG Licenses page.

Core Principles

The guidelines consist of the following ten constituent precepts:

  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 sale.
  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 software.
  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 not to 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 persons.
  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 research.
  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 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 GNU General Public License, Berkeley Software Distribution, and Artistic licenses are examples of licenses that we consider free.

Packaging Implications

Debian Policy § Repackaged upstream source describes when and why Debian package maintainers are sometimes required to make changes to published source code to comply with the DFSG, in abeyance of our practice of shipping a pristine upstream source tarball.

The uscan and gbp-import-orig utilities (from the Debian devscripts and git-buildpackage packages, respectively) may be used to simplify and/or automate the process of creating DFSG-compliant source tarballs.