Does anyone know about the legal usage of Ubuntu in US-embargoed countries like Iran? I have tried looking in the Ubuntu site but was not able to find such information. Thanks.


3 Answers 3


According to the Free Software Foundation's definition

Freedom to distribute means you are free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission to do so.


Sometimes government export control regulations and trade sanctions can constrain your freedom to distribute copies of programs internationally.

Canonical is a UK company so subject to UK export law. Fortunately, UK export restrictions exclude 'information that is freely and legally available on public website[s]'

Here's an extract from the UK government page on Export of Technology

What does ‘in the public domain’ mean?

In the public domain means the information is made available without any restrictions, other than copyright, being placed on further dissemination. For instance, information you place on your website that anyone can download or that you publish in a sales brochure would be ‘in the public domain’.

This means the exporter doesn't need a license, but more widely, software defined as 'in the public domain' isn't subject to any export restrictions. (I found the same definition and exclusion in documents on restrictions relating to military technology)

Since anyone can download and use Ubuntu, it is 'in the public domain' as defined by the export restrictions

Canonical have a LoCo team in Iran, a Persian translation team (thanks Gunnar for pointing out) and an official Ubuntu.ir site (and one of the main sections is Download Ubuntu)

Here's my favourite quote from the Export of Technology legal page:

Do I require an export licence for information which is in my head?


Long live free software ;)

  • 1
    There is also a Persian translation team. Jun 28, 2016 at 7:35
  • @GunnarHjalmarsson thanks! I edited to add your link
    – Zanna
    Jun 28, 2016 at 7:40
  • That gov.uk page is just wrong. By definitions on ipo.gov.uk, "in the public domain" means exactly those that aren't restricted by copyright. Ubuntu isn't in the public domain - it is mostly licensed under the GPL.
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 28, 2016 at 9:38
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    @OrangeDog but that's how it is defined for export restrictions which are relevant here: 'To make sure export controls aren’t unnecessarily restrictive there are some important exclusions. These cover: information that is already in the public domain - for example a user manual that’s freely and legally available on a public website'
    – Zanna
    Jun 28, 2016 at 10:05
  • 1
    @OrangeDog: The same term can mean different things in different contexts. If the UK law on export restrictions has a different definition of "in the public domain" (as cited here) than copyright law, so be it. As long as one uses the applicable definition for the current context everything is fine. Sep 12, 2016 at 20:28

NO. I am myself from Iran and downloaded Ubuntu from it's official site without a single problem. BUT someone said to me why don't you use Clear Linux instead? it has a much better and dedicated performance with INTEL processors . so I tried to download it from its official site but when I clicked on the download button it redirected me to United States Sanctions page on Wikipedia.

so my hunch is (which is actually a conclusion ): If Ubuntu was a subject of United States sanctions they would simply prohibit Iran's IP from downloading it.


whois canonical.com shows, in part:

Registrant Organization: Canonical, Ltd.
Registrant Street: One Circular Road, 
Registrant City: Douglas
Registrant State/Province: Isle of Man
Registrant Postal Code: IM1 1AF
Registrant Country: GB

So I wonder if US laws apply.

  • Thanks for the reply waltinator. I am not sure if Canonical covers the overall usage of Ubuntu in such countries as Ubuntu is having a huge list of packages installed (at least for main and restricted).
    – H.Sow
    Jun 28, 2016 at 6:16
  • "So I wonder if US laws apply." Do you mean British laws ? That output show that Ubuntu is based in the UK (GB). Jun 28, 2016 at 10:00
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    @JonasCz That's his point. The OP asked about "the legal usage of Ubuntu in US-embargoed countries." Since Canonical is a UK-based company, should it matter if one uses Ubuntu in a US-embargoed country? Jun 28, 2016 at 15:56

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