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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 14 - Redistributing Debian GNU/Linux in a commercial product

14.1 Can I make and sell Debian CDs?

Go ahead. You do not need permission to distribute anything we have released, so that you can master your CD as soon as the beta-test ends. You do not have to pay us anything. Of course, all CD manufacturers must honor the licenses of the programs in Debian. For example, many of the programs are licensed under the GPL, which requires you to distribute their source code.

Also, we will publish a list of CD manufacturers who donate money, software, and time to the Debian project, and we will encourage users to buy from manufacturers who donate, so it is good advertising to make donations.

14.2 Can Debian be packaged with non-free software?

Yes. While all the main components of Debian are free software, we provide a non-free directory for programs that are not freely redistributable.

CD manufacturers may be able to distribute the programs we have placed in that directory, depending on the license terms or their private arrangements with the authors of those software packages. CD manufacturers can also distribute the non-free software they get from other sources on the same CD. This is nothing new: free and commercial software are distributed on the same CD by many manufacturers now. Of course we still encourage software authors to release the programs they write as free software.

14.3 I am making a special Linux distribution for a "vertical market". Can I use Debian GNU/Linux for the guts of a Linux system and add my own applications on top of it?

Yes. Debian-derived distributions are being created both in close cooperation with the Debian project itself and by external parties. One can use the Debian Pure Blends framework to work together with Debian; DebianEdu/Skolelinux is one such project.

There are several other Debian-derived distributions already on the market, such as grml, LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition), Knoppix and Ubuntu, that are targeted at a different kind of audience than the original Debian GNU/Linux is, but use most of our components in their product.

Debian also provides a mechanism to allow developers and system administrators to install local versions of selected files in such a way that they will not be overwritten when other packages are upgraded. This is discussed further in the question on How do I override a file installed by a package, so that a different version can be used instead?, Section 11.9.

14.4 Can I put my commercial program in a Debian "package" so that it installs effortlessly on any Debian system?

Go right ahead. The package tool is free software; the packages may or may not be free software, it can install them all.

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 9.0, 17 November 2018

Authors are listed at Debian FAQ Authors