Important changes to software license information in Fedora packages (SPDX and more!)

J Lovejoy

Hot off the press!

Link to blog post of this here:

Thanks for the support on this from SPDX-legal. There is more work to come, for sure, but being able to use SPDX license identifiers in a full distro is a great challenge for our project to meet!



-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: [Fedora-legal-list] Important changes to software license information in Fedora packages (SPDX and more!)
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2022 11:19:48 -0400
From: Matthew Miller <mattdm@...>
Reply-To: legal@...
To: devel-announce@...
CC: packaging@..., legal@..., devel@...

On behalf of all of the folks working on Fedora licensing improvements,
I have a few things to announce!

New docs site for licensing and other legal topics

All documentation related to Fedora licensing has moved to a new
section in Fedora Docs, which you can find at:

Other legal documentation will follow. This follows the overall Fedora
goal of moving active user and contributor documentation away from the

Fedora license information in a structured format

The “good” (allowed) and “bad” (not-allowed) licenses for Fedora are
now stored in a repository, using a simple structured file format for
each license (it’s TOML). You can find this at:

This data is then presented in easy tabular format in the
documentation, at:

New policy for the License field in packages — SPDX identifiers!

We’re changing the policy for the "License" field in package spec files
to use SPDX license identifiers. Historically, Fedora has represented
licenses using short abbreviations specific to Fedora. In the meantime,
SPDX license identifiers have emerged as a standard, and other
projects, vendors, and developers have started using them. Adopting
SPDX license identifiers provides greater accuracy as to what license
applies, and will make it easier for us to collaborate with other

Updated licensing policies and processes

Fedora licensing policies and processes have been updated to reflect
the above changes. In some cases, this forced deeper thought as to how
these things are decided and why, which led to various discussion on
Fedora mailing lists. In other cases, it prompted better articulation
of guidance that was implicitly understood but not necessarily
explicitly stated.

New guidance on “effective license” analysis

Many software packages consist of code with different free and open
source licenses. Previous practice often involved “simplification” of
the package license field when the packager believed that one license
subsumed the other — for example, using just “GPL” when the source code
includes parts licensed under a BSD-style license as well. Going
forward, packagers and reviewers should not make this kind of analysis,
and rather use (for example) “GPL-2.0-or-later AND MIT”. This approach
is easier for packagers to apply in a consistent way.

When do these changes take effect?

The resulting changes in practice will be applied to new packages and
licenses going forward. It is not necessary to revise existing packages
at this time, although we have provided some guidance for package
maintainers who want to get started. We’re in the process of planning a
path for updating existing packages at a larger scale — stay tuned for
more on that!

Thank you everyone!

A huge thanks to some key people who have worked tirelessly to make
this happen: David Cantrell, Richard Fontana, Jilayne Lovejoy, Miroslav
Suchý. Behind the scenes support was also provided by David Levine,
Bryan Sutula, and Beatriz Couto. Thank you as well for the valuable
feedback from Fedora community members in various Fedora forums.

Please have a look at the updated information. If you have questions,
please post them to the Fedora Legal mailing list:

Matthew Miller
Fedora Project Leader
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