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Re: Changes in formal naming for NetBSD porting effort(s)

On Wed, Dec 17, 2003 at 11:10:24AM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> [I am not subscribed to debian-bsd.]
> On Mon, Dec 15, 2003 at 08:15:04AM -0700, Joel Baker wrote:
> > Actually, given that I'm a long-time and deep-seated Tolkien geek, I rather
> > like the notion of using the Valar - they're fictional, and Tolkien's work
> > isn't yet out from under copyright, but they *are* reasonably well-known
> > (Okay, not as well as Pratchett, but better than Christian demonology),
> > and if we're liable to get in trouble over using just the names, we should
> > probably strongly reconsider our use of Toy Story character names for
> > tagging distributions...
> > 
> > Suppose it's time to dig out my reference books and see if I can come up
> > with a suitable set of names out of that mythos.
> > 
> > Besides, using Tolkien names is a long geek tradition.
> You seem to have already noted this, but I should re-emphasize that
> since the Tolkien novels are still under copyright, then legally the
> names from them are just as much risky choices as names from Pratchett
> are.

Indeed, noted.

> From a practical standpoint, they may be worse.  If Pratchett is aware
> of Ogg Vorbis, then he presumably tolerates that usage.  The Tolkien
> estate is already known to have threatened people for using names (not
> even proper names!) from the works of Tolkien, when they threatened TSR
> with a lawsuit in the 1970s over the use of words like "ent", "hobbit"
> and "balrog" in early editions of the _Dungeons and Dragons_ game.
> Finally, the recent movie productions and consequent blitz of
> commercialization has probably got the Tolkien estate in a mood to
> squash anything that looks even vaguely like "unlicensed usage", even if
> you have to squint and cock your head just right to see it.

Hmmm. I know that there was a lot of nasty infighting around TSR and the
early D&D games - going in *all* directions. Of course, that lawsuit would
appear to have much more to do with the *concepts* of 'ent', 'hobbit',
'balrog', and the like, than the mere names. Since concepts are potentially
copyrightable, and names aren't, it may not really be the same situation.

As for the latter; if they were going to do it, I'd have expected to see it
well before now. The first movie has been out for two years now, and the
marketing blitz was going on well before that. And they don't appear to
have gone after the huge number of folks using the names out there already.

I suppose this one may simply have to be a point of disagreement, though,
since I certainly can't claim to have researched everything the estate has
done in court over the past 10 years or so.

The other thing to keep in mind, about the origional lawsuit, is that my
(hazy) recollection of it was that it involved a desire for licensing, and
thus, royalties, for profiting from the concepts, and the fact that they
formed an immediate association with a fantasy world.

Apart from Nethack, Debian really isn't in the same field of endeavour,
isn't making a profit, and isn't using the concepts, only the names. To me,
that's enough to cast a significant doubt on whether their past actions are
indicative of any desire to file lawsuits in our situation.

> Remember, outside the Free Software community, copyright is used only as
> a destructive weapon, not a tool for promoting cooperation and harmony.

All too true.

> I therefore think using names from Tolkien is imprudent, *even if* we're
> on a good legal footing.

Then we're back to "ancient names", of which the only ones even remotely
associated are objected to by at least some of the principal participants.
Or asphalt, which the Amish don't like, but then, they'll probably never
see Debian in the first place...
Joel Baker <fenton@debian.org>                                        ,''`.
Debian GNU/NetBSD(i386) porter                                       : :' :
                                                                     `. `'

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