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Re: Mozilla and Trademarks

I'm going to reply, in some sense, to Gervase Markham's message, but it is
in more of a general vein, rather than a point by point discussion. Still
my thoughts on the same basic topics, though.

While I appreciate Mr. Markham's efforts, and in fact I don't disagree
with what I believe are his views overall (that it would be possible, and
even a good thing from the Mozilla project's point of view, for Debian to
use something along the general lines of the Community Edition standards,
possibly with some additional flexibility), and I have no deep and abiding
interest in either doing so, or going the iceweasel route, I suspect that
the latter may be the only practical answer for a couple of reasons.

First, having such a trademark license establishes the Mozilla project
as an arbiter of package quality for a Debian package. Any failure to
meet these standards, in their sole review, opens the door to allow them
to require us to rename the package and strip all trademarks. I am not
implying that they would do so lightly, or wouldn't talk to us first to try
to resolve it, here; if I thought that was likely, I wouldn't be bothering
with all of this, I'd just say iceweasel it. However, the fact that it is
even possible is of some concern to me. It leads to some nasty pitfalls,
such as "Is it within the trademark license to use the same package name
for something that is completely *not* the software, and deliberately
attempts to 'trick' users into installing other software when they ask for
the Debian Thunderbird Community Edition (DTCE)?" (aka, "a transitional

We do have one potential pre-existing case (albeit not a strongly formed
one, nor one in active public sight, yet) - the use of the NetBSD trademark
under specifically transmittable permissions (IE, to our users), for Debian
systems built on top of a kNetBSD kernel. The difference is that the
NetBSD folks haven't asked for review powers beyond the right to prevent
us from distributing something that would deface their trademark; their
only requirement is that it be made clear that we aren't distributing "the
NetBSD system", but rather, a Debian system with a NetBSD kernel/core.
Even this is rather murky, and got run through SPI's counsel as far as I
am aware.

Second, with all due respect to the current Mozilla project, even if we
trust that they are reasonable enough, today, to not worry about the first
point, do we trust that *the holder of the trademark* will be reasonable
enough *for as long as we want to distribute the package*? If it somehow
got sold, well, the new TM holder could be make life very unpleasant
(OK, so this is true for any trademark, but given Mozilla's heritage and
the commercial interest in web browsers, I have to consider it more of
a risk that this might happen for them, than for JoeBob's AlienKiller
game). Even if it remains with the Mozilla project... who would have
thought that RMS would have decided documentation doesn't need the same
freedoms that software does, putting the FSF and Debian at odds over the
question? Or that UWash would have come up with an extremely strange
license interpretation years (IIRC) after the initial publication of
Pine, in what appears to have been a desire to take the software into a
restricted-modification state (oddly similar, in some ways, to what the
Mozilla project wants to do, today)?

Third, to be honest, while I appreciate (and, in fact, am flattered by)
the implication that Mr. Markham, and presumably some significant portion
of the rest of the Mozilla project, feel that Debian's QA track record is
sufficiently good to allow us some amount of extra leeway in the question
of quality packages, it smacks of a Debian-specific license, something
which is explicitly forbidden by the DFSG. After all, "our users" can and
do include people making other distributions (just look at the CDD stuff).
If we, as Debian, can do something that our users can't, with the software
in our archive, then it can go, at best, into non-free. Now, again, I don't
think that this really needs to happen; I think we should either abide
by the available licenses (possibly including one not yet written, but
publically useable, if that was what Mr. Markham was implying could be done
and I misunderstood it), or go the iceweasel route, rather than sticking
things into non-free, which would just be silly when there are two free
alternatives (even if we end up deciding that one of them doesn't meet our

Minor nit that may not even be true: if (and only if) we really can't
name plugins, etc, "thunderbird-plugins-alienkiller", then it seems like
one more reason to go the iceweasel route. Debian has a variety of
naming policies among package suites, and almost all of them include the
core package name *somewhere* (often at the front - libperl-*,
netsaint-plugins-* a while back, etc).
Joel Aelwyn <fenton@debian.org>                                       ,''`.
                                                                     : :' :
                                                                     `. `'

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