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Re: Ongoing Firefox (and Thunderbird) Trademark problems

On Wed, Jun 15, 2005 at 12:50:44PM -0400, Eric Dorland wrote:
> * Wouter Verhelst (wouter@debian.org) wrote:
> > On Tue, Jun 14, 2005 at 11:20:57AM -0300, Humberto Massa Guimarães wrote:
> > > > Does the opposite make it worse? I think so.

> > > IMHO it makes no difference at all. The "normal", "regular",
> > > "I-dont-read-debian-mailing-lists" folk install the "Gnome Desktop"
> > > or the "KDE Desktop" tasks, see the "Web Browser" icon, double-click
> > > it and voila. As long as it works (and as long as they can install
> > > the Macromedia plugins), they don't care. The rest of the world
> > > knows Debian renamed Firefox as Iceweasel to escape Mozilla
> > > Foundation's arcane trademark license.

> > I don't think it's arcane. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do,
> > which Debian itself has done in the past (TrustedDebian -> Adamantix)

> > You're free to make /any/ modifications to firefox, as long as you
> > either rename it to something else or get permission to call it firefox.
> > Doesn't sound non-free to me.

> Please explain to me why it's alright to get special permission to use
> a trademark but not ok for a software license? 

DFSG#8 has regularly been interpreted as meaning that if a software license
isn't free, it can't be made free just by giving Debian additional rights.
This keeps us honest, by eliminating any incentive proprietary software
authors might have to create a market for themselves by making a deal with

But if the software is already free, then giving additional permissions to
one group over another doesn't make it non-free.  Is firefox Free Software
prior to giving Debian permission to use the trademark?  Yes, it is: even
considering the trademark license, DFSG #4 says that authors may require
people modifying the software to use a distinguishing name or version
number.  (For "name" here I think it's reasonable to read "marks" as well.)
Therefore, without the trademark exemption, firefox is already free; so
granting Debian special permission to *not* change the name/marks/version
doesn't suddenly make it non-free.

There's no freeness issue here, just one of convenience to people who want
to modify the Debian firefox packages and redistribute them.  I imagine
that's a rather small field, all things considered; is it really better to
leave the vast majority of users confused about the absence of firefox in
the distro, just to maintain some sort of branding solidarity with those few
Debian derivatives that aren't even *using* our pristine .debs?

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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