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 Developper 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
- The original sources are downloaded from the upstream web site and contain non-free files.
- The material the debian/copyright files refer to is the original upstream sources, since what is documented is not only the files present in the .orig.tar.gz file, but also the files removed from the original upstream sources.
- The modifications made by Debian are not contributed upstream.
- The binary packages do not contain non-free material
Discussion of the current approach
- The main archive is completely free of non-DFSG material, both in its source and binary aspects. However, since Debian is a binary distribution, it is likely that the vast majority of users who want to install a program from source will get them from the upstream website, not from Debian.
- Users know that any file distributed by Debian in main is freely modifiable. Howerver, they still have to read debian/copyright to know how they are allowed to modify them. In addition, additional restrictions can stem from legal dispositions other than licences. Therefore, the files in Debian main are not blindly mofidiable anyway.
- The Debian main archive represents a fully free operating system at a given time. However, the process of upgrading it includes the manipulation of non-free files on non official machines, which weakens the claim of full freedom.
Discussion of the proposed approach
- Debian would keep using the original upstream sources, which increases clarity about what is used to build the binary packages, and is more respectful to the choices upstream. However, the main archive would contain non-free files in the orig.tar.gz files of the main archive, which weakens the claim that Debian is a completely free OS. Nevertheless the non-free files discussed here are non-programmatic and non-essential to the program function, and it is questionable whether removing them before upload provide additional freedom compared to removing them at build time.
- In the case where the non-free file are not anecdotical non-redundant with already existing packages in non-free, it would be possible to build non-free packages from the main sources packages. However this can be a source of confusion, especially for people using dpgk-buildpackage locally.