Removing non-free documentation from main

(based on a mail to debian-devel-announce)

Since one of our release goals for etch is to remove any documentation from main that doesn't follow the DFSG (for brevity called "non-free documentation" below), here some comments from the release team on the issue.

Status page in the BTS


  1. Things to do
  2. Dealing with non-free documentation in one of your packages
  3. Filing bugs about non-free documentation
  4. Changes to this document

1. Things to do

2. Dealing with non-free documentation in one of your packages

So what should you do if you find non-free documentation in one of your packages?

  1. Don't panic!

    Take your time to deal with the issue. Now you still have it! But you will have to start now. The fact that we haven't yet removed packages from testing for RC bugs about non-free documentation doesn't mean we wont doing it soon.

    So if you haven't discussed the problem with your upstream yet, if you plan to rewrite the documentation and haven't started yet, if you want to ask for help with convincing your upstream or with rewriting the documentation and haven't done it yet, do it now!

  2. Identify the amount and sort of affected documentation and choose a solution

    If the affected documentation is really small (e.g. a very minimal man page) you might consider rewriting it completely. In some cases this might actually be faster than to try to contact the original author and asking for a relicensing.

    If the affected documentation is closely related to a piece of software (and probably packaged with it), e.g. a man page for a executable binary or a reference manual for a library, try ask upstream to relicense it (or at least dual-license it) under the same terms as the software itself. This is probably a good idea in any case because it allows easier copying of material back-and-forth between the source code and documentation

    In any other case you might ask the author for a relicensing (or at least dual-licensing). There is no known license out there though that was specifically designed for documentation and follows the DFSG. Something like a BSD-style license should be fine but the lack of "copyleft" might be disliked by the author.

    We hope that we will get some more free documentation licenses in time for etch (both on the side of the GFDL and the CC licenses) but we can't depend on that.

    If the author objects to relicensing the documentation you have essentially three choices: 1) removing the documentation completely, 2) moving the documentation to non-free, 3) rewriting it.

    In any case document your chosen solution in the bug report. If there doesn't exist a bug report about your case consider filing it.

3. Filing bugs about non-free documentation

I began to retitle bugs about non-free documentation to use a common meta-tag in the subject. After the introduction of the usertags I was urged to look into that as an alternative way of doing it and it proved to be very useful.

So here the new way: After filing a bug about non-free documentation please add an usertag nonfree-doc and one usertag that describes the license, like gfdl, cc, opl for the common licenses or something more descriptive like non-commercial or unmodifiable for custom licenses.

Please add these usertags under the user

You can do this with a mail to (or like this:


usertag 123456 + nonfree-doc gfdl

If you want to add something to your bug's subject like [NONFREE-DOC] to make it easier recognisable, just do it, it isn't mandatory though.


$Log: removing-non-free-documentation.html,v $
Revision 1.8  2005/09/14 15:53:19  djpig
Fix log formatting

Revision 1.7  2005/09/14 15:52:34  djpig
Using CVS keywords in commit messages is not a good idea. Fix the log

Revision 1.6  2005/09/14 15:50:54  djpig
Link Changes section in toc

Revision 1.5  2005/09/14 15:49:29  djpig
Add more information about the document's history and updates (Id
and Log)

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Last modified: Wed Sep 14 17:46:17 CEST 2005
$Id: removing-non-free-documentation.html,v 1.8 2005/09/14 15:53:19 djpig Exp $