I'm helping a medicine student to build a Linux distribution which should include some imaging processing tools. The aim is give to the other students a bootable USB stick to be used for their researches. Nothing new.

Each processing tool comes with a specific license, and we will contact the authors if an authorization is required.

My question is: with which kind of license should we release the distribution? Should the license be the more restrictive between the ones of the included packages or the distribution maintains its original license and each package refers to its own license?


Every program is "independent" (or it communicate with other programs with standard methods). So it is considered a mere aggregation, and the license of one piece is independent of the license of the other piece.

Debian solved the problem creating the *Debian Free Software Guidelines https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian_Free_Software_Guidelines , which guarantee a minimum freedom. Every license must be compatible with it, to be included in the main part of Debian, and so people who copy Debian should care only about it.

Note: linking, dynamic libraries, compiling (compiler generated code) are things to take into account.

  • In my case I can't use Debian because some libraries don't reach its minimum requirements (Debian eliminates the problem not allowing certain kinds of licenses). Are you aware of a more generic way to approach this problem? Could be sufficient a disclaimer with the references to the licenses of all the not-so-purely-open packages? – Paolo Gibellini May 25 '16 at 15:55
  • You don't need to use DFSG, but you could define the minimal requirements, so people know if they can copy the distribution, if they can sell the distribution, if they (and what) they can modify the distribution (this last point could require to read package specific license) – Giacomo Catenazzi May 25 '16 at 16:00
  • I see. Your suggestion is somehow similar to my idea of a disclaimer. – Paolo Gibellini May 25 '16 at 21:08

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