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As of 2008-04-04 the list of remaining packages (in unstable!) that contains IETF documents are: As of 2008-05-09 the list of remaining packages (in unstable!) that contains IETF documents are:
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pkg lsh-utils ver 2.0.2-1.1
      lsh-utils http://bugs.debian.org/408490
pkg openswan ver 1:2.4.9+dfsg-3.1
      openswan http://bugs.debian.org/451110 old 393406 390656
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pkg xrn ver 9.02-7.1
      xrn http://bugs.debian.org/393421
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This page provides information on IETF RFC/I-Ds within Debian.


The majority of IETF documents, such as RFCs, are not licensed under DFSG-free terms, and should thus not be included in Debian's main. However, RFC documents are frequently included in many packages that would otherwise be free software. Some care is required to remove the documents when packaging software for Debian.

Some links to discussion of the license problems:

Some general background:

In particular, the latter document above says:

  1. DFSG-freeness
    • All content in main and contrib must meet the DFSG, both in .debs and in the source (including the .orig.tar.gz)


All non-free RFC files in source packages are believed to be reported, see:

After the initial report against a lot of packages without manual checking, there were claims of false positives in the list. To this date, the only at least likely false positive was http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=393411

On 2006-10-24 I modified the script to recursively look into archives-within-archives in the source packages, to find deeply nested documents. Since that date, I run the debian-run script (see below) from time to time and report any changes. Since the amount of changes is now small, I try to check each package manually before reporting. As of 2008-01-08, this is still the current status.

As of 2008-05-09 the list of remaining packages (in unstable!) that contains IETF documents are:

pkg busybox ver 1:1.9.2-1
      busybox http://bugs.debian.org/472700
pkg courier ver 0.59.0-1
pkg dibbler ver 0.6.1-1
pkg kdepimlibs ver 4:4.0.2-1
      kdepimlibs http://bugs.debian.org/463936
pkg keynote ver 2.3-11
      keynote http://bugs.debian.org/393379
pkg libmail-verp-perl ver 0.06-1
pkg libsmi ver 0.4.7-1
      libsmi http://bugs.debian.org/470384
pkg pike7.6 ver 7.6.112-1
      pike7.6 http://bugs.debian.org/459705
pkg systemimager ver 3.6.3dfsg1-3
      systemimager http://bugs.debian.org/402646
pkg vflib3 ver 3.6.14-1
      vflib3 http://bugs.debian.org/464433 old 393418
pkg xfmail ver 1.5.5-4.2
      xfmail http://bugs.debian.org/393420
pkg zeroconf ver 0.9-1
      zeroconf http://bugs.debian.org/393425

Known exceptions

These documents have been made available under a free license:

The following may hold but is questionable:

  • US-authored RFCs earlier than RFC around RFC 1000-1100.
    • These did not carry a copyright notice, and since the US did not sign the Berne convention until 1989, they are in the public domain.

      See bug http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=365201 for some discussion.

      The RFC editor has something else to say on this

      From: RFC Editor <rfc-editor@rfc-editor.org>
      Subject: Re: Copyright and copying conditions for RFC 1510?
      To: Simon Josefsson <jas@extundo.com>
      Cc: RFC Editor <rfc-editor@rfc-editor.org>
      Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 11:07:28 -0800
      The copyright statement applies retroactively.  Please follow the
      instructions as stated at:
      Thank you.
      RFC Editor
      On Sun, Dec 15, 2002 at 10:38:30AM +0100, Simon Josefsson wrote:
      > rfc1510.txt does not mention copyright or copying condition. Does the
      > copyright notice in
      > ftp://ftp.rfc-editor.org/in-notes/rfc-editor/rfc-copyright-story
      > apply retroactively?  If not, do you know who owns the copyright of
      > the document and what the copying conditions are?
      > Thanks.

Bug report template

This will be used for the reports on non-free RFCs in source packages.

{{{ Subject: Source package contains non-free IETF RFC/I-D Severity: serious Package: [package] Version: [version] User: debian-release@lists.debian.org Usertags: nonfree-doc rfc


This source package contains the following files from the IETF under non-free license terms:

FILES The license on RFC/I-Ds is not DFSG-free, see:

The lenny release policy says binary and source packages must each be free:

The severity is serious, because this violates the Debian policy:

There are (at least) three ways to fix this problem. In order of preference:

1. Ask the author of the RFC to re-license the RFC under a free

2. Remove the non-free material from the source, e.g., by re-packaging

  • the upstream archive and adding 'dfsg' to the Debian package version name.

3. Move the package to non-free.

General discussions are kindly requested to take place on debian-legal or debian-devel in the thread with Subject: "Non-free IETF RFC/I-Ds in source packages".

Thanks, Simon }}}

Template for RFC authors to release additional rights

If you as a RFC editor wish to grant additional rights within the document directly, to avoid having the Debian community ask you for additional rights later on, you may include the following text in the document. Similar text has been approved in RFCs before (e.g., RFC 3492, RFC 4501) and the IETF do not appear to object to this practice.

x. Copying conditions

        The author(s) agree to grant third parties the irrevocable
        right to copy, use and distribute the work, with
        or without modification, in any medium, without royalty,
        provided that, unless separate permission is granted,
        redistributed modified works do not contain misleading
        author, version, name of work, or endorsement information.

The text is derived from draft-josefsson-ipr-notice-update.

Template requesting additional rights from RFC authors

This is based on RFC 4663 and draft-josefsson-ipr-rules-update (see <http://josefsson.org/bcp78broken/>).

Subject: Requesting additional rights to RFC xxxx

Dear Author,

The Debian GNU/Linux distribution wishes to incorporate the
IETF RFC xxxx as part of its distribution, and to allow
users to develop, modify and evolve the document.

Under IETF policies that were in effect during the development of
RFC xxxx, the authors of contributions to the IETF standards retain
copyright with respect to such contributions. Because you are an
author of said document, the Debian community hereby requests that
you kindly agree to release your contributions in RFC xxxx under
the license below, for inclusion in Debian.

        I agree to grant third parties the irrevocable
        right to copy, use and distribute the work, with
        or without modification, in any medium, without royalty,
        provided that, unless separate permission is granted,
        redistributed modified works:

             (a) do not contain misleading author, version, name
                 of work, or endorsement information, and

             (b) do not claim endorsement of the modified work by
                 the Contributor, or any organization the
                 Contributor belongs to, the Internet Engineering
                 Task Force (IETF), Internet Research Task Force
                 (IRTF), Internet Engineering Steering Group
                 (IESG), Internet Architecture Board (IAB),
                 Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA),
                 Internet Society (ISOC), Request For Comments
                 (RFC) Editor, or any combination or variation of
                 such terms (including without limitation the
                 IETF "4 diamonds" logo), or any terms that are
                 confusingly similar thereto, and

             (c) remove any claims of status as an Internet
                 Standard, including without limitation removing
                 the RFC boilerplate.

        The IETF suggests that any citation or excerpt of
        unmodified text reference the RFC or other document from
        which the text is derived.

To indicate that you agree to these terms, please reply to this e-mail
and quote the license above and indicate that you agree to this.

If you prefer another widely recognized free license instead, the
following ones are also fine:
 * the 3-clause BSD license
 * the GNU GPL version 2
 * the Expat license

 Sincerely yours,
   Simon Josefsson

Theory of operation

The source code to search for RFCs inside Debian can be found at http://git.josefsson.org/?p=debian-rfc-search.git;a=tree