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Re: Debian trademark [was: Debian GNU/w32, may ready to be started?]

On Mon, Dec 03, 2001 at 03:43:09PM -0500, Dale Scheetz wrote:
> While I agree with what you say, as it has already been mentioned GNU is
> not a trademark.

Granted.  I assumed that a name as prominent as 'GNU' would have been
trademarked, but it seems I was mistaken.

> We make no restriction that Debian GNU/Linux packages can not be installed
> on a Sun OS, do we? Why should we have anything to say about packages
> installable on M$?

> How is Sun's "field of endeavor" different from M$'s?

If you think I intend to prevent anyone from installing Debian tools on
a Microsoft OS, please reread my posts.  No one can take that freedom
away from any user, and I have myself acknowledged that cygwin benefits
users who don't have the authority to decide for themselves what OS
they'll run.

>> The policy statement on http://www.debian.org/News/1998/19980306a says:

>>   We allow all businesses to make reasonable use of the "Debian"
>>   trademark. For example, if you make a CD of our Debian GNU/Linux
>>   distribution, you can call that product "Debian". If you want to use
>>   the name in some other way, you should ask us first.

>> IANAL, but to me, this seems to be only a statement of policy, not a
>> license.  There is no explanation of what Debian considers "reasonable"
>> use, and the only license granted by this statement is that of using the
>> Debian trademark when reselling the Debian GNU/Linux distribution on CD.
>> A port of the OS to the cygwin environment represents a new product, not
>> a reselling of our existing product, and without an explicit license,
>> it's against trademark law tou se the Debian trademark on such a
>> product; indeed, under trademark law, SPI could lose the trademark to
>> dilution unless they pursue infringing uses of the trademark, even by
>> Debian developers (!).

> Debian developers are not some outside business. What goes into the Debian
> project is limited by the DFSG only!

Ah... except that there has not yet been an indication in the
affirmative that this win32 port will be integrated into the Debian
archive network.  If there is no binary-cygwin/ directory on any of the
Debian mirrors, if attempts to upload packages compiled for cygwin are
rejected, then in what sense is this part of the Debian project?  This
seems to be the situation we have today, where work is being done on
this cygwin port outside the framework of the Debian project; unless and
until it is integrated into the Debian project, this port should not be
using the Debian trademark without explicit approval.

Being an employee of Internet Express does not automatically empower me
to use their trademarks as I see fit.  The same principle applies to
the Debian trademark.

> This is just as much a Debian project as debhelp, apt-get, and other
> utility projects. How is this different from them, asside from the obvious
> fact that it is intended to run on a proprietary OS?

You ask this question as if you believe it's self-evident that running
on a propietary OS should be a non-issue when it comes to using the
Debian trademark, or at the very least that any objections are
surmountable.  I think you will learn -- if you have not already -- that
this is not an opinion that enjoys anything even close to universal
acceptance within the Debian community.  And even if it were, there are
legal reasons why we should not allow the trademark to be used for
projects not directly attached to Debian without an explicit license.

>> If the coordinators of this cygwin port intend to use the Debian
>> trademark, it's important to get official clarification early on for the
>> sake of everyone involved.  There's nothing wrong with granting a
>> license to use the Debian name for this port, if that's the decision of
>> SPI/Debian; but using the trademark in this manner without an explicit
>> license is bound to cause hard feelings, whatever the eventual outcome.

> So, where is the license for the arm, sparc, alpha, or for that matter the
> i386 port? These are all Debian projects that are supported to one degree
> or another by actual Debian developers who do the work. To argue that this
> port is somehow different for it's target OS non-freeness is just silly.

These ports are all operated under the oversight of the DPL, the ftp
masters, and the Debian system administrators; as far as activities of
the Debian project are concerned, they're about as official as you can
get.  Has there been any indication so far that the cygwin port will be
integrated into the Debian archive?  Frankly, I don't see how I could've
missed /that/ decision: I would expect a thread at least as long as this
one to result from such a controversial ruling.  Rather, the cygwin port
seems to be a self-hosting effort at the moment and for the foreseeable

Debian[1] doesn't need to give itself a license to use its own
trademark.  An individual or group of individuals acting /outside/ the
scope of Debian /do/ need a license, even if they are Debian developers.

> If I construct a Debian Sparc CD designed and support to install on Sun
> OS I would expect to be able to call it Debian.

And unless you are aware of an existing license other than the one
that's been referenced so far in this thread, you would equally be
overstepping your authority to do so.

> The current port under dispute is a set of Debian packages designed and
> compiled to run on M$ OS. Do we support the proprietary nature of Sun OS
> by supplying software that runs on that OS?

No, because except where binary compatibility between Linux and SunOS
make this an implicit result of porting software to Linux on this
operating system, Debian does *not* supply software that runs on SunOS.
We provide source code that could be *compiled* for SunOS, but the use
of the trademark is not automatically transferrable from one to the

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

[1] More properly, SPI

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