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

Cc:ing to debian-legal for additional reality-checking on my comments
below.  If the thread descends into legal minutiae from here, it should
of course be dropped from debian-devel altogether.

On Mon, Dec 03, 2001 at 11:08:41AM -0500, Dale Scheetz wrote:
> On Mon, 3 Dec 2001, Steve Langasek wrote:

>> On Mon, Dec 03, 2001 at 09:49:03AM -0500, Dale Scheetz wrote:
>>> Please consider that RMS created the LGPL specificly to allow glibc to be
>>> installed on, and used by, non-free OS's like Sun. The whole purpose was
>>> to allow more free software to be run on these machines.

>> This is true; however, the LGPL is now 'deprecated' by the FSF, as from
>> their point of view there is no longer a need to run GNU software on top
>> of non-free kernels, and therefore the LGPL is no longer a key part of
>> their strategy.

> So the fact that gmp and several other non-glibc libraries are currently
> being release under the LGPL is of no import?

> RMS has his own ideas about where the LGPL is useful and where it isn't.
> The fact is that the LGPL exists, and is a viable license, recognized by
> Debian and most other distributors. It _does_ serve to put free software
> in propietary environs, so whether you identify this as a "purpose" of the
> license or not, it is the defacto use of this license.

I believe I've shown that the existence of the LGPL, and its continued
use on a (limited) number of GNU projects, does in no way guarantee that
RMS or the FSF would sanction the use of the GNU trademark to describe a
product consisting of a collection of free software running on a
non-free OS.  If you disagree with this point, that's your prerogative;
but the only person who can definitively answer the question of whether
this use of the trademark would be allowed is an empowered
representative of the FSF itself.

>>> This implies that RMS _is_ in favor of having free software run on a
>>> non-free OS. (Although he is perfectly able to act in an inconsistant
>>> fashion.)

>> He is in favor of running free software only.  Anything else along the
>> way is a stepping stone to reaching that goal. :)

> Well, no proprietary software is included in this port, is it? The fact
> that the "only" place that it will be useful is on an M$ OS is the actual
> point of this exercise, isn't it?

Yes.  Does that mean that RMS will automatically give his blessing to
such a port?  No.

>>> If I understand, this port allows most/all Debian software to be run on an
>>> M$ OS. This sounds like just what the Doctor ordered ;-)

>> And no one has said that the porting cannot continue; that would be
>> rather hypocritical coming from a group who stands so strongly behind
>> the DFSG, since the DFSG also protects the user's right to run the
>> software on Windows (and many other foolish things ;).  The only issue
>> is whether such a port should bear the Debian trademark.  Since this
>> port is not currently operating under the Debian mantle, the Debian
>> trademark should not be used without official permission.

> As I understood the "license" on the Debian trademark, the only
> requirement was that the trademark be used only for Debian software
> products. Seems to me that this project completely satisfies these
> requirements.

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 (!).

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.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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