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Re: Bug#265352: grub: Debian splash images for Grub

Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> writes:

> Brian Thomas Sniffen wrote:
>> Josh Triplett <josh.trip@verizon.net> writes:
>>>Ken Arromdee wrote:
>>>>Why can't Debian do the same thing that is done with US export licenses?
>>>>Don't put restrictions on use of the logo bitmap, but say "note that this
>>>>does not excuse you from obeying the law, which prohibits you from using the
>>>>trademark to identify your product..."
>>>>Just make it clear that the license allows use of the logo in the sense that a
>>>>user of the logo won't be sued for copyright violation, and does not address
>>>>other reasons why someone might not be allowed to use the logo.
>>>This would leave the logo clearly non-free; the DFSG does not only cover
>>>copyright-based restrictions on Freedom.
>> "Cover," "Freedom," "Leave," and any use of the phrase "clear logo"
>> are trademarks of their respective owners, so this mail message cannot
>> be distributed in Debian.
> Fortunately, that's impossible, as you can't trademark generic words
> such as those.

... which is why Apple Music is currently involved in a suit with
Apple Computer over their trademarks on the term Apple in the music
recording business?  And there's a successful company with a trademark
on the common word "Ford"?

You certainly can trademark generic words.  They receive a lesser
level of protection than clearly original, otherwise meaningless
phrases.  But they do have protection, particularly if they have a
history of use in that domain.  So the Ford Motor Company's trademarks
on "Ford" and the script-Ford logo are both very strong.

I can't sell a car under the name "Ford," even if it is made
especially for crossing rivers without bridges.

> Furthermore, I think it has been acknowledged in the past that the
> contents of the mailing-list archive could probably not be included in
> the distribution.

Well, sure.  This was just meant as an example of how your definition
of freedom which excludes any works containing trademarked items, or
which cannot be transformed into works containing trademarked items,
is too narrow.

>> See how silly this gets?  A trademark restriction isn't an aspect of a
>> work, and it's not a good idea to trace chains of works to look for
>> trademarks.  A trademark right is to a pairing of an idea and a domain,
> s/idea/phrase or other identifying mark/ there, I sincerely hope.

No.  I can't sell carbonated corn syrup as Coco-Cola, or in a red can
with a swirl down the side, even if it's distinct from the Coca-cola
swirl logo.  I have to avoid confusion.  I'm being particularly
careful with this definition because I want to convince you that a
trademark right is not a property of a work, or a relation of a work
to its creator, but a property of a business in trade, and of its
relation to consumers.

>> while a copyright is to an expression of an idea.  Debian's decision
>> to maintain its trademark rights in both the Open and restricted logos
>> seems perfectly defensible to me.
> I have no problem with Debian using trademarks as well as copyrights to
> enforce its licenses.  I *do* have a problem with those licenses being
> non-DFSG-free.

That first sentence doesn't make sense to me.  We don't use trademarks
or copyrights to enforce our licenses.  We grant licenses to the
copyrights and trademarks granted us by various governments.  Those
licenses are granted to advance the goal of serving our users and free

In this case, the small harm to freedom from preventing confusing uses
of the Debian marks performs a great service to users.

> I find the idea of a Free copyright license paired with a non-free
> trademark license just as objectionable as a Free copyright license
> paired with a non-free patent license, or as a non-free copyright
> license.  None grant the necessary rights to pass the DFSG.

I don't think the trademarks here, or many patents, have anything to
do with the DFSG.  They're features of a society, not of individual

Look at it this way: even without the Debian Logo being packaged into
Debian, nobody can make a swirl-from-a-bottle and use it to sell an

> Furthermore, one question to clarify your position on this issue: you
> keep saying phrases like "perfectly defensible" and similar; does that
> mean you find the licenses under discussion DFSG-free, or that you find
> them non-DFSG-free but that it is acceptable for that to be the case?

Hm.  I don't remember using that as a particular catchphrase, but I
probably meant that the licenses are morally defensible, and that for
trademark licenses the DFSG really doesn't enter into it.

For example, the word Stanford appears many times in /usr/share/doc.
Stanford is a trademark of Leland Stanford Jr. University.  It's a
violation of their trademark to use it while providing educational or
research services.  Should we remove that software, because it's not free?


Brian Sniffen                                       bts@alum.mit.edu

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