DEPLOY: Debian project unable to deploy Sender ID

September 4th, 2004

This message summarises the position of the Debian project, producer of the universal operating system: Debian GNU/Linux. The Debian project abides by a social contract to our users that specifies all software included in the operating system will be Free Software, meaning that it can be freely redistributed, modified, used, etc. as defined under the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG).

The current Microsoft Royalty-Free Sender ID Patent License Agreement terms are a barrier to any Debian package which wants to implement Sender ID or include Sender ID support. We believe the current license and resulting encumbrances are incompatible with the DFSG, unlike other Internet standards that Debian is able to support. Therefore, we cannot implement or deploy Sender ID under the current license terms. Indeed, we would be forced to remove Sender ID support from software we ship that does support Sender ID upstream according to the terms of our social contract.

For the most part, our legal concerns mirror those of the Apache Software Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, as well as the Postfix, Exim, and Courier maintainers.

We are also concerned that no company should be permitted intellectual property rights (IPR) over core Internet infrastructure. We believe the IETF needs to revamp its IPR policies to ensure that the core Internet infrastructure remain unencumbered.

With thanks to the Apache Software Foundation for their statement, which we used as a starting point, though we have arrived at our determination independently.

Additional information