Licencing disagreement causes broken systems

fonts-ubuntu is shipped by default on Ubuntu systems. It has significant reverse dependencies and cannot be uninstalled easily.

Debian considers fonts-ubuntu to be “non-free”, while Canonical disagrees. But the package vrms, available in both Debian and Ubuntu, lists fonts-ubuntu as non-free.

Recently I have seen two Ask Ubuntu questions where users have run vrms, found fonts-ubuntu to be non-free, and tried to uninstall the package:

This situation is unfortunate. Should we patch vrms in Ubuntu to white list fonts-ubuntu? Or is there some other way to stop encouraging users to break their systems?


The subject is a touch sensationalist. It’s users who are blindly removing software without considering the impact of their actions which is causing the broken systems, not a licensing disagreement from a decade (!) ago.

I suspect people are blindly following guides which recommend using vrms, and then purging everything it lists. I further believe that if people realised what they were doing, they might think twice.

So I think we should educate users. Let them know that the vrms package comes from debian, where they have opinions about the freedom of fonts-ubuntu. Further, we could educate them that we don’t believe it’s non-free. Empower people with knowledge.

Given vrms is intentionally opinionated, and opinions differ, I feel we should also in parallel consider patching vrms, yes.


True. But it caught your attention, right? :wink:

The Ubuntu archive is considered an authoritative source of info, so educating users about this matter is easier said than done.

Ok, I submitted a bug report and a merge request to Debian. Contrary to the view of the person who quickly responded to (and prematurely closed) the bug, that’s the most reasonable place to handle it. Dealing with it on the Ubuntu side only would prevent us from sync’ing the source going forward, and would probably not be worth it.

Let’s see what happens.

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Fixed in hirsute by modifying the fonts-ubuntu package.