This article describes the principles underlying our policy on distribution and modification of the files comprising the LaTeX system. It has been produced as a result of detailed discussions of the issues involved in the support and maintenance of a widely distributed document processing system used by diverse people for many applications. These discussions have involved users, maintainers of installations that support LaTeX and various types of organisations that distribute it. The discussions are continuing and we hope that the ideas in this article will make a useful contribution to the debate.
Our aim is that LaTeX should be a system which can be trusted by users of all types to fulfill their needs. Such a system must be stable and well-maintained. This implies that it must be reasonably easy to maintain (otherwise it will simply not get maintained at all). So here is a summary of our basic philosophy:
We believe that the freedom to rely on a widely-used standard for document interchange and formatting is as important as the freedom to experiment with the contents of files.
We are therefore adopting a policy similar to that which Donald Knuth applies to modifications of the underlying TeX system: that certain files, together with their names, are part of the system and therefore the contents of these files should not be changed unless the following conditions are met:
- they are clearly marked as being no longer part of the standard system;
- the name of the file is changed.