Debian Position on Software Patents

Version: 1.0
Published: 19 February 2012


This document describes Debian's position on patents. Debian recognizes the threat that patents pose to Free Software, and continues to work with others in the Free Software community on patent defense.

The policy included below intends to provide clear and useful guidance for community members confronted with patent issues, so that the Debian community can coordinate its patent defense free from fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Policy Statement

  1. Debian will not knowingly distribute software encumbered by patents; Debian contributors should not package or distribute software they know to infringe a patent.

  2. Debian will not accept a patent license that is inconsistent with the Debian Social Contract or Debian Free Software Guidelines.

  3. Unless communications related to patents are subject to attorney-client privilege, community members may be forced to produce them in a lawsuit. Also, patent concerns expressed publicly may turn out to be unfounded but create a good deal of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the meantime. Therefore, please refrain from posting patent concerns publicly or discussing patents outside of communication with legal counsel, where they are subject to attorney-client privilege.

  4. Patent risks affect the entire community. If you are concerned about a specific patent, please do not keep it to yourself — notify legal counsel.

  5. All communication related to specific patent risk should be directed to, which is maintained under the rules of attorney-client privilege. The risk will be evaluated and any necessary response will be made directly to affected parties.

Contact Information

In case you want to contact us about specific patent risks in the Debian archive, please mail mentioning:

Further Information

For further information on patents and how they interact with community Free Software distributions we recommend reading our Community Distribution Patent Policy FAQ, a document meant to educate Free Software developers, and especially distribution editors, about software patent risks.

The Debian Project thanks the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) for their legal advice on these matters.