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License Metadata

Software we package is always licensed and there are two places where the licenses are recorded in a package:

  • The license array field in the package metadata, as specified in the PKGBUILD file
  • Copies of the license text contained in the package, usually under <prefix>/share/licenses/<real-package-name>/*. In some cases packages install their license files in different places though.

Guidelines for Specifying License Metadata

The license array field

  • Values starting with spdx: are SPDX license expressions. Example: ('spdx:GPL-2.0-or-later')
  • Multiple values starting with spdx: are treated as if they are combined with OR. Example: ('spdx:LGPL-2.1-only', 'spdx:MPL-1.1') is the same as ('LGPL-2.1-only OR MPL-1.1')
  • Mixing of spdx values and other values is undefined
  • Values not starting with spdx: or starting with custom: follow the Arch Linux rules.
  • In case of a split package each package can have a different license field depending on the package content. The global license field is inherited by each split package but can be overridden there.

The license text files

In case the package provides one or more license text files, they can be installed to <prefix>/share/licenses/<real-package-name>/*. real-package-name is the package name without the environment specific prefix, so in case of mingw-w64-x86_64-meson it is just meson. Example: /mingw64/share/licenses/meson/COPYING

These guidelines are inspired by

Differences compared to Arch Linux

See https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/PKGBUILD#license

  • Arch Linux doesn't use SPDX identifiers, but manages its own license list in a licenses package. This list is not very exhaustive and is missing various variants of common licenses such as GPL-2.0-or-later vs GPL-2.0-only.
  • Everything else is prefixed with custom:, e.g. custom:name of license.
  • It's unclear (does anyone know?) if multiple licenses mean that the package is available under either license or you must comply with both licenses.

Given the above shortcomings we use our own rules inspired by other packaging systems.

FAQ

The package includes different components with different licenses, what should I do?

Let's say the package source is licensed under Apache-2.0, there is a vendored library that is licenses under MIT, and there is documentation that is licensed under CC-BY-4.0.

You can set the license field to spdx:Apache-2.0 AND MIT AND CC-BY-4.0.

In case the documentation is split out into a separate package then you can use spdx:Apache-2.0 AND MIT for the main package and spdx:CC-BY-4.0 for the documentation package.

How can I specify a custom license in an SPDX expression that is not on the SPDX license list?

You can define your own license ID with the following format LicenseRef-<idstring> where idstring is allowed to contain [A-Za-z0-9.-]. For example: LicenseRef-my-special-license

The projects is licensed under GPL-2.0-or-later and only advertises that but contains MIT and BSD code as well. Should I include them all?

We can't be expected to hunt down every license in every file of every project. In case the project says it's GPL-2.0-or-later then it's fine to just use that.