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For my computer class we need Linux. So I recommend to get Virtual Box and Ubuntu. But since there has to be TeX and Emacs installed which is non-trivial for novices, I thought I might set up an appliance to help them.

I realize that it is free software for the most part, but I am not sure how to handle the Ubuntu brand name in this case.

Is it legal to create a Ubuntu VM, install some packages and make the bundle available for download?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

What you want to do is basically creating an Ubuntu derivative (please correct me if I'm wrong).

As long as you choose to distribute free software, the only problem you may encounter is the Ubuntu branding, which has some trademarks. As of writing, the intellectual property policy contains, among others, the following statements:

  • ...
  • You can modify Ubuntu for personal or internal use
  • You can make changes to Ubuntu for your own personal use or for your organisation’s own internal use.
  • ...

  • Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu. If you need us to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will require a licence agreement from Canonical, for which you may be required to pay. For further information, please contact us (as set out below).

  • We do not recommend using modified versions of Ubuntu which are not modified in accordance with this IPRights Policy. Modified versions may be corrupted and users of such modified systems or images may find them to be inconsistent with the updates published by Canonical to its users. If they use the Trademarks, they are in contravention of this IPRights Policy. Canonical cannot guarantee the performance of such modified versions. Canonical’s updates will be consistent with every version of Ubuntu approved, certified or provided by Canonical.
  • ...

So, in short, if the distribution is for personal or internal use, you have fewer restrictions. If instead you want your distribution to be publicly available for download, you must either get rid of trademarks or ask Canonical for permission.

If you are going to distribute non-free software, then you might encounter other possible legal problems, but they are related to the software's license, not to Ubuntu itself.

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Thank you, I wrote them an email stating my exact problem. I think a while distro is overkill, I do not need my own repos and so on. I did not select "install software from 3rd party", so I should be good on that, I guess. – Martin Ueding Oct 12 '11 at 15:45
Did you ever get a response from Canonical about distributing a virtual appliance? – Phyxx Mar 11 '13 at 22:18
The terms on that page have change since then; does that mean this answer doesn't apply anymore? – Clément Nov 17 '14 at 4:45
@Clément: updated answer to remove the concept of 'remix'. – Andrea Corbellini Nov 17 '14 at 8:38

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