I have always been under the impression that all Linux distros and Desktop Environments must be free and opensource. Is this correct? If so, how do I go about acquiring a source from one that's nowhere to be seen in a specific project?

Thank you

2 Answers 2


Linux is a specific software project (the kernel) that's distributed under the GPLv2. That licence requires, among other things, that

  1. the source must be provided with it
  2. derivative works created by linking the code must be distributed under the same license
  3. people be free to spread it as they please, provided the above conditions are met

So if you use the Linux kernel, you must point your users to the kernel source code your system uses or make the source available in your distro.

Linux distros bundle the kernel with other software projects. Some are typically (but theoretically don't have to be) GPL-licensed (=source code must be disclosed), others are not. The Linux kernel license doesn't force any licensing restrictions on userspace programs.


Most GNU/Linux distribution include some proprietary software, but there are some that don't do that. Here is a list of 100% free GNU/Linux distributions according to the Free Software Foundation.

Anyway I'm not aware of any proprietary desktop environment that is widely used in the GNU/Linux world.

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