We have developed a new software product on RPi and would like to boot with our own OS or a customized form of Raspbian.

Is it legally allowed to modify and redistribute the image? If not, what are my options? Is there a Debian (or some other Linux) Open Source Linux I can use to create an OS image? By the way, this is for commercial purpose.

  • Can you be more specific about what you want to modify? In general, if you modify existing code (most of the Linux code is under GPL), you can sell it without any problems. However, you must make the source code available under the same license, and give it to whoever asks for it.
    – Radu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 0:30
  • Thanks for the information provided. let me be more specific - 1) Is it allowed to change the way it boots with Raspbian name but use our trademark instead? 2) Is it allowed to remove the oracle java version which comes with the Pi and have another version? 3) Is it allowed to use any of the softwares provided (eg: I am assuming Minecraft which is provided in Pi is a licensed version) modify and redistribute? 4) Is it allowed to remove some of the softwares in Raspbian before we redistribute?
    – mmfl
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:24
  • 1. What do you mean? How can you use both Raspbian and your trademark? You can say something like "Our Linux distro based on Raspbian" and you will be fine. 2. If the version you replace it with is free or you have a license for it, sure. 3. I don't know, you'll have to look at the license for each software. If it's free to use, then yes, otherwise ask for permission. 4. Sure, you can remove any app you want.
    – Radu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 22:52
  • Awesome, sorry for some of the dumb questions. Thanks for all the inputs.
    – mmfl
    Jan 24, 2018 at 2:35

1 Answer 1


Debian (and, by extension, Raspbian) is comprised of free software. One of the core tenets of free, open-source software is that you should be able to modify and distribute changes to the code you have, so it is natural that you're allowed to modify Raspbian and redistribute your changes, under certain conditions.

Debian actually publish some guidelines on what you should do if creating a Debian derivative; notably, you cannot call your distribution "Debian" or in any way infringe on the trademark. I do not believe Raspbian is officially a registered trademark, but it would still be good etiquette to change the distribution name to avoid confusion and any doubt about the legality.

Note that Debian packages are distributed under various licenses such as the GNU GPL, BSD license, and so forth. If you've made modifications to these programs, generally, you will need to disclose your changes in public, or offer source on request. The terms depend for each license, and not all packages use the same license.

If you have simply used packages from the Debian repositories, you will probably not need to do anything additional to attribute the packages beyond the mechanisms already provided by Debian (such as checking licenses with APT).

See also: The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ — Redistributing Debian GNU/Linux in a commercial product.

  • Of course Raspbian is a trademark. It doesn't have to be registered to be a trademark, you just have to use it with your product/service, and it has to be unique and show that you have some commercial interest in it (you use it on your site, in advertising, etc.)
    – Radu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 0:27
  • In the US a trademark must be applied for through the proper federal agency.
    – NomadMaker
    Jan 23, 2018 at 0:56
  • @Radu You're correct that it could be seen as an unregistered trademark; I was referring to whether it was registered or not. Since it isn't, the Raspbian mark would only be protected by the signficantly weaker 'passing off' laws. Regardless, I've edited to clarify that point, and still recommend changing it regardless; it's not excessively difficult anyway.
    – Aurora0001
    Jan 23, 2018 at 16:08

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