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German Free Software License

(c) Ministry of Science and Research, State of 
North-Rhine Westphalia 2004

Developed and created by Axel Metzger and Till 
Jaeger, Institut für Rechtsfragen der Freien und 
Open Source Software (Institute for Legal Issues 
On Free and Open Source Software), 


Software is more than a mere economic asset. It 
is the technical foundation of the information 
society. Therefore, the issue of the public share 
in software is of particular importance. 
Conventionally licensed computer programs are 
distributed in object code form only, and the 
user is not entitled to modify or pass on the 
program to third parties. The license model for 
Free Software (synonym "Open Source Software"), 
however, grants comprehensive rights in the 
handling of the program. The German Free Software 
License is based on this license model. It gives 
you the right to use the program in a 
comprehensive manner. You are allowed to modify 
the computer program according to your 
requirements or to reproduce or distribute it and 
make it publicly available in a modified or 
unmodified form. These rights are granted free of 

However, the German Free Software License 
combines these rights with certain obligations 
that will ensure the free circulation of the 
program and all further developments published. 
If you distribute the program or make it publicly 
available, you have to include a copy of this 
license to anyone receiving the program from you 
and enable access to its source code. Another 
obligation arises from further developments of 
the program. Modifications to the program which 
you distribute or make publicly available shall 
be released in accordance with the conditions of 
this license. 

German Free Software License takes into account 
the special requirements of German and European 
law. It is drafted bilingually and thus intended 
for international distribution. 

Section 0 Definitions

Documentation: Description of composition, 
architecture and/or structure of the programming 
process and/or functionalities of the program, 
irrespective of whether they were done in the 
Source Code or separately.

License: The agreement concluded between the 
licensor and you, with the content of the German 
Free Software License and/or the pertaining 

Licensee: Every natural or legal entity who has 
accepted this License.

Program: Every computer program which has been 
distributed or made publicly available by the 
entitled person in accordance with the terms of 
this License.

Object Code: The machine-readable form of the 

Public/publicly: Not solely directed towards a 
certain group of people who have a personal 
connection to each other or are associated 
through their affiliation with a legal person or 
public organisation.

Making Publicly Available: The public 
distribution of the Program in an immaterial 
form, in particular, by making it available for 
download in data networks.  

Entitled Person(s): The author(s) or other 
holders of the exclusive right to use for the 

Source Code: The form of the Program represented 
in programming language and readable for humans.

Modification: Any extension, shortening and/or 
alteration of the Program, including, but not 
limited to further developments.

Distribution: The public passing on of material 
copies to third parties, in particular, onto 
storage devices or in connection with hardware.  

Complete Source Code: The Source Code in the form 
used for preparation and/or modification together 
with the configuration files and software tools 
required for compilation and installation, 
provided that these are not commonly used in the 
required form (e.g. standard compiler) or can be 
downloaded by any Internet user without license 

Section 1 Rights

(1) You may reproduce and distribute the Program 
and make it publicly available in an unmodified 

(2) You may modify the Program and reproduce and 
distribute modified versions and make them 
publicly available. It is also permitted to 
combine the Program or parts thereof with other 

(3) You obtain the rights free of charge.

Section 2 Obligations for Distribution and Making 
Publicly Available

(1) If you distribute the Program or make it 
publicly available, be it in unmodified or 
modified form, be it in combination with other 
programs or in connection with hardware, you also 
have to provide or include the following:

1. all references to this License in the Source 
Code and/or Object Code;
2. all references in the Source Code and/or 
Object Code containing information about the 
author of the Program;

3. a conspicuous reference to this License and 
the Internet address <>, to 
be displayed in a form that can easily be read by 
the recipient;

4. the complete text of this License in a form 
easy to perceive.

(2) If license and/or contract terms are 
displayed when the Program is installed and/or 
started, the following items must also be 

1. this License;

2. a reference to this License; and

3. a reference to the Entitled Person(s) to the 
initial program components used under this 

(3) You may not make the use of the Program 
contingent upon the compliance with conditions or 
obligations that are not set forth in this 

(4) Provided that you have received Documentation 
for the Program, you have to deliver this 
Documentation with the Program, as well, unless 
free delivery of the Documentation is not 
permitted by the documentation license.

Section 3 Further Obligations regarding the 
Distribution of Modified Versions 

(1) You may only distribute modified versions of 
the Program or make them publicly available in 
accordance with the terms of this License, so 
that any third party is able to make use of the 
modified Program as a whole under this License. 

(2) If the Program or a part thereof is combined 
with another program, this also applies to the 
entire combination as a modified version of the 
Program, unless the other program is independent 
in terms of form and content.  Another program 
shall be regarded as independent if it fulfils 
the following requirements:

1. The Source Code of the combined programs must 
be contained in separate files which do not 
include components of the other part except for 
parts containing the information customary and 
required for the Program combination. The Source 
Code of the other program does not have to be 

2. The part which is combined with the Program 
must also be reasonably usable when not combined 
with the Program, i.e. on a standalone basis or 
with other programs. The meaning of "reasonably 
usable" will be based on the opinion of pertinent 
circles of expert groups in the relevant field. 
Such circles of experts include everyone who 
develops, uses, distributes or makes publicly 
available the Program concerned or programs with 
similar functionality.

(3) If you distribute or make publicly available 
the Program or parts thereof - modified or 
unmodified - in combination with another program 
licensed under the GNU General Public License 
(GPL), the Program may also be used under 
conditions of the GPL, provided it constitutes a 
"derivative work" together with the other program 
in the sense of the GPL. In this case, any 
reference to this License should be removed and 
replaced by a reference to the GPL. Whether a 
"derivative work" in the sense of the GPL arises 
from this combination is primarily defined in 
section 2 b) of the GPL. This provision reads: 
"You must cause any work that you distribute or 
publish, that in whole or in part contains or is 
derived from the Program or any part thereof, to 
be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third 
parties under the terms of this License." The GPL 
can be obtained under 

(4) If you distribute the Program or make it 
publicly available in a modified form, you must 
include a reference to the modifications and the 
date of the modification in the Source Code. This 
reference must reveal which modifications were 
carried out and include existing references 
containing information on the author of the 
Program. This applies to whether or not you add 
your own copyright notice. Instead of a reference 
in the Source Code you may also use or carry on a 
version control system, provided this is also 
distributed or made publicly available. 

(5) You may not charge any third party for the 
granting of the non-exclusive rights of use for 
the Program.

(6) If you acquire any other intellectual or 
industrial property right to this Program apart 
from a copyright, in particular a patent or 
utility model, you license this intellectual or 
industrial property right for modified or 
unmodified versions of the Program to the extent 
that is necessary to make due use of the rights 
arising from this License. 

Section 4 Further Obligations for the 
Distribution of the Object Code

(1) If you distribute the Program in Object Code 
form only, apart from the obligations defined in 
Sections 2 and 3, you have to either:

1. make the Complete Source Code publicly 
available in the Internet and - when distributing 
the Object Code - make a clear reference to the 
complete Internet address from which the Source 
Code can be downloaded; or

2.  distribute the Complete Source Code on a 
customary data carrier, taking into consideration 
Sections 2 and 3.

(2) If you make the Program publicly available in 
Object Code form, apart from the obligations 
defined in Sections 2 and 3 you must also make 
the Complete Source Code publicly available in 
the Internet and make a clear reference to the 
complete Internet address.

(3) Provided that you have received the 
Documentation for the Program, you have to 
deliver this Documentation together with the 
Program in accordance with Subsections 1 and 2, 
as well, unless free delivery of the 
Documentation is not permitted by the 
documentation license.

Section 5 Conclusion of the Contract

(1) With this License you and any other person 
are offered the conclusion of a contract for the 
use of this Program under the conditions of this 

(2) You may use the Program in accordance with 
the applicable statutory provisions for the 
intended purpose without having to accept this 
License. In the European Union and in most other 
legal systems, this right in particular includes 
the following authorizations: 

1. Running of the Program as well as reproducing 
on hard-drive and RAM  required for this;

2. Making of a back-up copy;

3. Correcting errors;

4. Distributing a lawfully acquired physical copy 
of the Program.
(3) You declare your acceptance of this License 
by distributing the Program, making it publicly 
available, modifying or reproducing it in a way 
that goes beyond the intended use in the sense of 
Subsection 2. From this time on, this License 
shall be deemed as a legally binding agreement 
between the Entitled Persons and you, without the 
need for the Entitled Persons to obtain a 
declaration of acceptance.

(4) You and any other licensee acquire the rights 
arising from this License directly from the 
Entitled Persons. Any sub-licensing or transfer 
of rights is not permitted.

Section 6 Termination of Rights in the Event of 

(1) Any violation of your obligations under this 
License automatically leads to the termination of 
your rights under this License. 

(2) Any rights of third parties having obtained 
the Program or rights to the Program from you 
shall remain unaffected. 

Section 7 Liability and Warranty

(1) The Entitled Persons are only liable for 
conflicting third-party rights if they were aware 
of such rights without informing you.

(2) Liability for errors and/or other defects in 
the Program shall be governed by agreements 
concluded between you and the Entitled Person 
beyond the scope of this License or, if no such 
agreement exists, by the pertinent statutory 

Section 8 Agreements with Third Parties

(1) This License only governs the relationship 
between you and the Entitled Persons. It is not 
part of agreements between you and third parties. 

(2) This License does not limit your freedom to 
conclude agreements of any content whatsoever 
with third parties obtaining copies of the 
Program from you or purchasing services from you 
in connection with the Program, provided that you 
fulfil your obligations under this License and 
third-party rights under this License are not 
infringed. In particular, you may charge a fee as 
consideration for the transfer of the Program or 
other services.  

(3) This License does not commit you to forward 
the Program to a third party. You are free to 
decide to whom you wish to make the Program 
available. However, you may not prevent or 
complicate further use by third parties through 
the use of technical protective measures, in 
particular, the use of copy protection of any 
kind. Password-protected access restriction or 
use in an Intranet shall not be regarded as 
technical protective measures.

Section 9 Text of the License

(1) This License is written in German and 
English. Both versions are equally binding. It is 
assumed that terminology used in the License has 
the same meaning in both versions. Should, 
however, differences arise, such meaning is 
authoritative which best brings into line both 
versions, taking into consideration the aim and 
purpose of the License. 

(2) The license board of the German Free Software 
License may put into force binding new versions 
of this License inasmuch as this is required and 
reasonable. New versions of the License will be 
published on the Internet site <http://www.d-> with a unique version number. The new 
version of the License becomes binding for you as 
soon as you become aware of its publication. 
Legal remedies against the modification of the 
License are not restricted by the regulations 
described above. 

(3) You may reproduce and distribute this License 
and make it publicly available in an unmodified 

Section 10 Applicable Law

The License is governed by German law.

Appendix: How to submit a Program to the German 
Free Software License.

In order to make it possible for anyone to 
conclude this License, it is recommended to 
include the following reference to the License in 
the Program:

"Copyright (C) 20[yy] [Name of the Entitled 

This Program may be used by anyone in accordance 
with the terms of the German Free Software 

The License may be obtained under <http://www.d->."

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