The puropose of this page is to summarise a discussion which started as a subthread of a long discussion about non-free files present in a package in the main archive.

The question is wether it would be acceptable to accept orig.tar.gz files containing some non-DFSG files if the resulting binary package prepared for main would only contain free files.


Some free software are accompanied by non-programmatic files whose licenses are not free according to the DFSG. In many cases it is non-modifiable documentation or logos. The current approach is that the Debian Developer downloads the archive file containing the sources privately, removes the non-free files, and uploads a Debian source package with a modified original source (.orig.tar.gz) file.

It has been proposed to keep the original sources instead, and to exclude the non-free material at build time instead of upload time.

Similarities between the approaches

Discussion of the current approach

Discussion of the proposed approach


Package maintainers who dislike removing files from the upstream sources can also simply upload the whole package to non-free instead of main. However, since central components of the Debian OS, such as the GNU compiler, contain non-free documents, this alternative is not always available.

Is the proposed approach possible ?

What is proposed is for the moment disallowed by the FTP team (

However, the Social Contract states "We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is free in the document entitled The Debian Free Software Guidelines. We promise that the Debian system and all its components will be free according to these guidelines. We will support people who create or use both free and non-free works on Debian. We will never make the system require the use of a non-free component.", therefore, if the function of the OS do not depend on the non-free files discussed here, and if the orig.tar.gz conform to the DFSG, it should be possible.

According to the DFSG: "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.". So the possibility of ignoring the non-free, non-programmatic documents at build time instead of upload time ultimately depends on how the Debian developers agree on the meaning of the word "software".