I may have found that Debian, Ubuntu, and Homebrew are not properly honoring licenses for dependencies of statically-linked compiled binaries — but it's also possible that I'm misunderstanding the rules for licensing of binaries in the first place. I wish to ask about this on the main site, but I'm not sure of the best way to go about presenting the question.

  • Option 1: Ask "Does open source licensing require ...?", present my understanding of the relevant rules, and then present the behavior observed by the distributors as a counterpoint to my understanding, asking which one is correct.

  • Option 2: Ask "Does open source licensing require ...?", but do not bring up the distributors' behavior. If the answer to this question is "Yes," follow up with a separate question asking whether or how the distributors' behavior fulfills the relevant requirements. (Would the second question even be on-topic?)

  • Option 3: Ask "Are Debian, Ubuntu, and Homebrew violating licensing requirements?", in which I present my understanding of the relevant licensing requirements, describe the distributors' behavior, and ask how the latter can satify the former, all the while raking in those sweet, sweet, HNQ views for the inflammatory title.

1 Answer 1


I would say they're all bad, but (3) is the least-bad. The basic problem with them all is that they're not concrete, and trying to answer most of these questions in the abstract is somewhere between frustrating and impossible, because the devil is in the details. (3) is more concrete, but it's also several questions in one, since each licensing combination and situation must be handled individually; we don't like multiple substantive questions in a single post.

So I would say pick one example. Be very specific about it. Link to the project, to the package in the distro's repo, to the dependency(ies) you think you have identified, to the licence(s) of that/those. Lay out your whole argument so that each fact is one click away. One paragraph explaining why you think this might be a licensing violation would be super-helpful, but please don't get caught up in lengthy explanations why you think licensing should work in some particular way.

That, to my mind, would be a fantastic question, which should quickly garner well-constructed, and hopefully acceptable, answers.

  • While I'm willing to ask about just one example as you say, would (1) and/or (2) be acceptable if, rather than asking about "open source licensing," I asked about a specific license or licenses?
    – jwodder
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 12:36
  • I'd say yes, we have a lot of theoretical questions about specific licence combinations. It really does help if they're specific, though, so the more focussed to a single licence or combination thereof, and a single outcome question, the more likely you are to get good answers. Do check first, though, to be sure we haven't already answered it!
    – MadHatter Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 6:19

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