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Re: Ongoing Firefox (and Thunderbird) Trademark problems

* Steve Langasek (vorlon@debian.org) wrote:
> 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
> Debian.

Right, I don't see how the issue is really that separate when it comes
to trademarks. They're making a deal with us so that we will promote
their brand. How is that honest?
> 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.

I'm not trying to say it's non-free. It is free. What I'm trying to
determine is if we should use the marks within Debian. Let me try
another example. If, say, the Apache Foundation came to us and said,
"Sure the code is free, but that's our trademark you're using. It will
cost you $5000 a year to use that trademark in Debian". Now we could
easily afford this as a project, would we do it? I don't think we
would do it, even though we could because a strict interpretation of
the DFSG says trademarks don't matter.

The point I'm trying to make is that clearly not all trademark terms
are reasonable. Their certainly are situations where we would find
using the trademark unacceptable, even if the DFSG "apparently" says
we can. Is this Mozilla situation acceptable? I think it is, I think
the spirit of DFSG #8 is that Debian should not have rights that the
user doesn't have in terms of the software we distribute. Yes, these
are not copyrights rights, but they are still rights.
> 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?

Eric Dorland <eric.dorland@mail.mcgill.ca>
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