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Re: Firefox/Thunderbird trademarks: a proposal

I must admit I'm finding this a bit frustrating. I came to debian-legal, listened to what people (including, I believe, the Thunderbird package maintainer) were saying, and drew up a document[0] which I hoped would meet Debian's requirements, further modifying it based on feedback[1]. This modified version has been approved of by at least one list member[2]. However, I am now hearing a completely different viewpoint from Eric about what sort of things are acceptable and considered DFSG-free.

This is not a criticism of Eric - as Firefox package maintainer, his opinion is clearly important. But is this sort of thing merely something one has to accept when dealing with Debian, or is there anyone in authority who can actually give me a consistent story here? Who eventually decides what sort of licence is acceptable? What if the Firefox and Thunderbird maintainers have totally opposing viewpoints? What if we come up with something, and later project-wide discussion on the general issue of trademarks decides that it's in fact non-free?

[0] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2005/01/msg00503.html
[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2005/01/msg00780.html
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2005/01/msg00795.html

Eric Dorland wrote:
Interesting. What about the case of Fedora? They've applied even more
patches than Debian has to their package (at least it looked that way
from what I saw). They certainly don't fall under the current
trademark license. Have you approached them with an agreement?

There's only one of me, and this isn't my full-time job. Debian approached us to make sure that they are doing the right thing, and this is what we are working out here. Or would you rather I did everyone else first, and left the Debian package in legal limbo?

They are certainly practically very difficult, but they need not be
that exhaustively precise. I certainly believe the Mozilla Foundation
is acting in good faith. If the Mozilla Foundation puts the general
things down it wants in the Trademark License and they apply equally
to everyone, I don't see any reason we need to get too bogged down in
details and semantics.

Let's take just one example. The Mozilla Foundation is very keen that nothing ships as "Firefox" which contains spyware. How would you define "spyware" in a watertight way for the trademark license document? Remember, you have to get it perfectly right first time, otherwise the person exploiting the loophole you left would just say "well, I'm taking my permissions under version 1.0 of the agreement, not 1.1".

Well with due respect the Community Edition clause is going to be
completely useless to any distro. I mean you can't even backport a
security fix under it.

Indeed. The Community Edition stuff is not designed for Linux distributions.

Perhaps you can see where I'm coming from if you think of the most complex piece of software you've written, pretend that when it starts up, it puts up a big "written by Eric Dorland" message, and try and write down all the things you would like people not to do to it and still have your name on the front.

I understand what you're saying, and that's why you've sought
protection for your mark. In general we don't concern ourselves with
trademarks since they're generally easy to circumvent (ie, rename
things) if the mark holder objects to our using the name.

And we will do our best to make it as easy to circumvent as possible, should anyone wish to.

you've formalized things with your Trademark Policy. And we will do
our best to abide by your wishes in that document. As the document
stands we can't use your marks. If you'd like us to, (and I would like
that very much), then you need to put the provisions in the trademark
license, where anyone can use them.

But the trademark should only be used on quality products. And defining "quality" for something as complex as software is an extremely difficult task. Say we wrote a test suite. What happens if Debian's change to fix multi-user stuff broke the suite? Such a thing would easily become a restriction on how you could change the code. The currently suggested mechanism imposes no such restrictions - you can make whatever changes you like.

If I did have a trademark on "Eric Dorland", and I didn't like what
someone was doing with it, I could ask them (legally) to stop. I don't
need a Trademark License to enforce that.

You would rather Debian was in the situation where the Mozilla Foundation could ask them to stop using the Firefox trademark immediately and totally at any time?

One of the things I thought we'd established earlier in this discussion (which you may not have seen) is that such uncertainty is not acceptable to Debian.


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