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Re: Ongoing Firefox (and Thunderbird) Trademark problems

The thread is petering out and as much as I had hoped Matthew Garrett
and MJ Ray would go 12 rounds of bare-knuckle boxing, it's time to
make some decisions.

Some very smart developers have come forward to say that trademarks
don't matter with respect to free software. Unfortunately, I'm still
unconvinced that we should be willing to make certain compromises to
use a projects trademarks. Certainly it is clear the name associated
with a project is important, considering how many objected to renaming
Firefox. There is also very little guidance in what would be
acceptable trademark restrictions for a free software project. I hope
there can still be some dialog within Debian and hopefully come up
with some guidelines that developers can accept. I also hope to put
the trademark question to RMS when he's here in Montreal next week.

So, I don't feel I can accept the agreement offered by the Mozilla
Foundation, because of my objections to it and because I don't feel
empowered to make an agreement like this on behalf of Debian. If
however, the DPL wished to step forward and broker such a deal I would
not oppose (he is our elected representative for the project after

If the DPL does not step forward to make some sort of agreement, what
will I do? Renaming seems to be a very unpopular option. So I believe
my best option is to ignore the trademark policy altogether and have
the Mozilla Foundation tell us when they want us to stop using their
marks. Now I originally said we shouldn't do this, but it does have
certain advantages. First of all, I think we can ignore the trademark
policy because it is only a policy, is not distributed with the
software (although having said that, that might change) and it is my
understanding that in most jurisdictions the trademark holder has to
police use of their trademark anyway. 

Now the advantage of doing this is foremost to not have to rename
Firefox unless the MoFo ask us to. There is also protects us from
looking like the bad guy in the case of a rename (eg the /. headline
will read "MoFo tells Debian not to use 'Firefox'" rather than "Free
software nuts stop using 'Firefox'"). Of course the other advantage is
not having to make an agreement that I think compromises our

Of course the disadvantage would be that by ignoring the issue we're
implicitly agreeing to the MoFo's proposal. The MoFo may apply their
trademark policy to entities just as deserving as Debian, and they
will be told they can't use the marks because they are not as popular
as us. I will be on the lookout for any such instance, and will bring
the issue up again if I see it happening. 

Hopefully this will make everyone happy (or at least equally unhappy),
but I think it is the best compromise for the time being, until at
least better policies are worked out with regard to trademarks. 

Eric Dorland <eric.dorland@mail.mcgill.ca>
ICQ: #61138586, Jabber: hooty@jabber.com
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