license-reconcile(1) reconcile debian/copyright against source


license-reconcile --help|--man

license-reconcile [--copyright-file=file] [--no-check-copyright] [--suggest-stanzas] [--no-format-spec] [--quiet] [--display-mapping] [--directory=directory] [--filters=module1 module2 ...] [--config-file=file] [--changelog-file=file] [files...]


license-reconcile attempts to match license and copyright information in a directory with the information available in "debian/copyright". It gets most of its data from "licensecheck" so should produce something worth looking at out of the box. However for a given package it can be configured to succeed in a known good state, so that if on subsequent upstream updates it fails, it points out what needs looking at. By default the tests run are as follows:
- Does the copyright file have an approved format specification as its first line?
- Can the copyright file be parsed?
- Does every file in the source match at least one clause in the copyright file?
- Can every file, license and copyright datum extracted from the source be contained in the corresponding matching paragraph from the copyright file? The data for this comparison comes from a number filter objects. See "Filters" for more information.
- Is every file in the source assigned copyright and a license by some part of the "debian/copyright" file.


out of the box

From the top level of the source directory of Debian packaged software, just run "license-reconcile".

setting a config file

Normally to make any progress it will be necessary to have a config file. The default file is "debian/license-reconcile.yml". A different config file can be set with the --config-file=file. The config file is interpreted using Config::Any but for the purposes of this documentation# we assume the format is YAML.

overriding incorrect results

Suppose you are really lucky. For just one file, "a/b", the default filters which are wrappers around "licensecheck", have got it wrong. They have for some reason decided that the file has a GPL-3 license, when inspection shows it is in the public domain. This is causing a false positive break against your carefully crafted "debian/copyright" file. You can fix this with the following config fragment:

    Glob: a/b
    License: public-domain
    Copyright: 1556, Nostrodamus

See Debian::LicenseReconcile::Filter::Rules for more information on how to configure this filter.

providing a catch all license and copyright

You can make the filters provide a default license, but providing a suitable rule in the Default section of the config file:

    License: All software is property of the proletariat license
    Copyright: 1984, Ministry of Algorithms

The Default filter uses exactly the same code as the Rules filter, but by default runs last. So it has all the same functionality but the lowest precedence.

controlling the sequence of filters.

By default the filters run are: Rules, Std, Shebang, ChangeLog and Default. You can vary the filters using the --filters=module option. Setting "--filters Rules" would mean that only the Debian::LicenseReconcile::Filter::Rules filter would be used. Once you specify one filter you must specify them all.

filter aliasing

The Default filter is an alias for Rules. This means it runs the same code but has a separate config. Default is defined as ``Default~Rules''. In general ``X~Y'' means use the code from Y but get the config from X.

writing your own filter.

You can write your own filters by inheriting from Debian::LicenseReconcile::Filter. You need to define the "get_info" method.



Specify an alternative copyright file. Defaults to "debian/copyright".


Don't check the first line of the copyright file against permitted format specifications.


Don't check the copyright clauses.


Don't give any explanations, simply a success or a fail via the exit status.


Display mapping from the directory onto the copyright clauses.


The directory whose copyright and licenses will be verified. This defaults to ``.''.

--filters=module1 --filters=module2 ....

A sequence of filters which will inspect the source package and return license and copyright information. Each module name must sit below the Debian::LicenseReconcile::Filter and inherit from it. The default value is ``Rules Std Shebang ChangeLog Default''.


A file used to provide filter specific configuration data. The file is read by Config::Any and the relevant section is passed to each filter constructor via the "config" parameter.


The Debian changelog file which defaults to "debian/changelog". The Rules filter uses this to get the current version and the ChangeLog filter gets its data from it.


If set print out the license and copyright data in DEP-5 format.


By default the filters are processed in the order below. Once a file has been returned by a filter, subsequent filters will ignore it.
- Rules
- ChangeLog
- Std
- Shebang
- Default

Each filter constructor will be passed the following parameters:

- directory - the directory from which to find license and copyright data.
- files_remaining - an array ref of files which have not been analyzed.
- config - a data structure representing the portion of the config file relevant to this filter.
- changelog - a Parse::DebianChangelog object.
- licensecheck - a Debian::LicenseReconcile::LicenseCheck object.


Any arguments after the arguments are assumed to be files. If specified only these files will be reconciled.


The DEP-5 specification is subtly different from the file glob specification. Since the File::FnMatch module is the only practical implementation there is little that can be done. The consequence is that attempting to specify that a file name should contain '[' and later a ']' in "debian/copyright" is unlikely to work correctly.

In copyright parsing years cannot be expressed in an abbreviated two digit form. This is probably a good thing, but it it will surely cause an issue at some point.


Two Debian projects are currently using license-reconcile, to verify the "debian/copyright" file.
license-reconcile| must obviously be clean by its own standards. At some point this check will be added to the build tests.
ksh| is using license-reconcile since version 93u+20120801-2.


Nicholas Bamber, "<nicholas at>"


Copyright 2012, 2015, Nicholas Bamber.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of either: the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; or the Artistic License.

See for more information.