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If I successfully install Gnome 3 on Ubuntu 11.04 and make it available as a fresh install out there, would that be illegal?

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Not at all, both Ubuntu and the GNOME project are free software projects, you are free to modify and redistribute them as you see fit.

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As long as you adhere to the conditions of the licenses, which are mostly GPL. –  Oli Jul 1 '11 at 15:54
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I'm not a lawyer, but likely no. All the software on a Ubuntu Live CD plus Gnome 3 is open source and re-distributable.

But there are a lot of software with lots of different licenses there. Some can give you some extra obligations, like including copyright notes in your distribution or the obligation to distribute the program source code to anyone who ask (and who obtained the programs from you).

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Ubuntu Oneiric (11.10) will use Gnome 3. Don't think I'd bother duplicating that work. It's considerable.

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