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I've recently learned how to modify Linux distros. Now I want to be able to share my modified versions with others. I want to do so in a legally correct way. I see a set of related questions, I put them all here, if they are better be asked separately, please comment about it below.

I've tried to read what web search and links provided, namely: Custom Linux distro Copyright and license notices, https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/308476/can-you-legally-sell-modified-versions-of-linux-distros, https://askubuntu.com/questions/720735/can-one-modify-ubuntu-and-publish-it-as-their-own-linux-distro, https://www.reddit.com/r/linux4noobs/comments/kg6int/what_is_the_difference_between_a_linux/

I see a problem on a general level as: I got intellectual property, it is a set of files that represent many software, art works and names. How am I supposed to find out which parts are covered by which licenses? When I start a distro (Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch) I don't recall a need to read and agree to a legal stuff unlike for e.g. Microsoft Windows.

For software it is mostly GPL and that is covered in the found links to large extent.

  1. Can I leave links to Fedora, Ubuntu repositories or do I need to provide another way to access source code? I've read advice to include all source, but obviously just leaving links to repos is easier. I see Mint distro uses Ubuntu repos, but maybe they got a "license" to do that.

Icons, wallpapers, etc. I've searched the drive for license and found in /usr/share/common-licenses "CC0 1.0 Universal" (which is AFAIK public domain) and some "Artistic License".

  1. How to find out which works are public, which are not?

Names: "Fedora", "Mint".

  1. Do I understand correctly that a flavour need approval for distribution from original distro distributor (that approval for some distros may be granted for all in advance, what distros allow that?)
  2. If I remove original distro name from "my distro", then I'm on a safe side, correct?

Please cover any other issues I have not identified yet.

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  • Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 7 at 10:29
  • @Community, ok, thank you. Jan 7 at 10:43

1 Answer 1

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This is a bit complicated because you want to do something that a lot of people usually work on. Let's define what "distribution" is. A GNU / Linux distribution is a specific set of tools linked by the installer. Remember that this collection of software is AGGREGATION, which means it may (and must) include software under a non-GNU GPL (even incompatible) license, as well as proprietary software. An example is Intel / AMD blobs so that you can run distro on a computer newer than 10 years. Remember that a distro should contain its own repository. Do you have your own repo, are you able to create one? If not, use the ones from the original distro.

  1. Giving the source is ABSOLUTELY FUNDAMENTAL. If you are using Fedora work then tag them whether you have to or not. Under the GPL, you become responsible if you link to the sources. If the authors of the link suddenly remove the page, you are responsible.
  2. What does "public" mean? If you can see them, they're public. But I will assume it was in the public domain. Well, you have to search the internet, not your local drive. See the copyright notice, pages of the given distro. But if you're making your own distro, consider buying / creating your own unique wallpapers. Alternatively, you can find a random photo on your phone that you took a while ago (e.g. in summer) and add a caption on Gimp using some nice font.
  3. If you use Fedora names in your distro as your principal name, you are likely violating trademark law (unless you do so for non-commercial purposes, then use of these names may not violate trademark laws depending on the country). Of course, it's safe to change the name everywhere.

If I had anything to advise you, then:

  • Add all sources, links, copyright notices, license information, etc., regardless of license, wherever possible.
  • Change all names as it goes
  • If you are using GPL software, give all links and (ideally) distribute the source code in zip / 7z / tar archives
  • Search for source copyright information. If you have any questions about a specific problem, feel free to post a comment and I will help you
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  • Thank you for your answer. "Intel / AMD blobs". Are they part of Linux kernel? BTW I even have not thought about kernel licenses. Jan 17 at 4:41
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    Intel/AMD blobs, intel-microcode package and other firmware may be part of Linux Kernel, but you should check it. For example: If you modify Ubuntu, you must check if ubuntu includes blobs (Ubuntu includes). FSF on their gnu.org website wrote about non-free distros. They provide list with the distros' freedom issues. You can read it and check which distro include blobs: gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html . Including blobs also is an issue. You may also read about linux-libre to check with packages are included in original linux: fsfla.org/ikiwiki/selibre/linux-libre
    – Maniues
    Jan 17 at 8:16

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