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Re: Firefox/Thunderbird trademarks: a proposal

* Gervase Markham (gerv@mozilla.org) wrote:
> 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.

Unfortunately we're largely in uncharted waters here. I think in the
strictest interpretation of the DFSG we should really just drop the
trademark. But the DFSG wasn't really written with trademarks in mind,
so there is certainly some flexibility here, and we don't want to be
too heavy handed. 
> 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?

Welcome to Debian :) debian-legal is really just a forum to discuss
the legal issues and try to reach some consensus over whether some
licenses are problematic or not. It doesn't have any authority in and
of itself. I am probably the one who will have to be convinced that
trademark policy is alright (along with Mike Hommey, the co-maintainer
along with me, who has yet to really make his opinion known.). I can
be vetoed by one of the ftp masters (since they can block me from
uploading new version), and Project Leader could step in to mediate,
but by and large the buck stops at me (and Mike). You could appeal to
the rest of the Debian community, but so far everyone I've talked to
has supported my position. 
> [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?

Well wouldn't your job be easier if the rules were laid out in the
policy document rather than having to make contact with individual
distros and reading lengthy threads on debian-devel?

I was not making a personal attack, I was just curious how others have
handled the issues so we can benefit from any insight they had. But
I'm curious what your opinion is of the fedora packages. Would they
still qualify to use the trademark, even with their rather large
amount of gtk integration patches? What if John Doe did the same thing
with a version of Firefox on his website? If the answer to former is
yes, and the latter is no, I would certainly find that unacceptable. 

> >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".

Do you feel your current trademark license is watertight? It certainly
makes pretty vague references to quality. And that's fine, I believe
you're acting in good faith. You can police your trademarks based on
your policy, and you can interpret it however you want. If we see
you're applying your policy unfairly we can remove our support of
Well if you screwed up the trademark license for version 1.0, then
when 1.1 comes out you fix the license. Sure, it would still be broken
for 1.0 but you couldn't use the 1.0 license with 1.1, so what's the

> >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.

Well we need something like it for more permissive uses. Or you can
expand on the Community Edition provisions, I don't care.
> >>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.
> >However,
> >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.

Indeed, software quality is hard to define. But you make reference to
it in the current document anyway, and don't make any attempt to
define it clearly. So why is that a problem? As I stated above, we
will trust you to apply the rules fairly and if you don't we will
withdraw our support. So you don't need to define things with absolute
legal rigor. 

That's a bit disingenuous, we can't make any sort of changes under
your agreement. You would revoke us in a second if we made any number
of radical changes.
> >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.

Uncertainty is more acceptable than making deals that are specific to
Debian. We already beholden to many software developers who own the
copyrights on there software and could decide to change to a non-DFSG
license. Is that uncertainty? It's in your (and our) best interest to
use the name Firefox, so I think that makes things a great deal more
certain. I'm just not willing to do anything to get it. 

And I don't think you can revoke our use of the mark totally. You
can't go back and tell us to remove the mark from previous releases
where you had previously given consent (or turned a blind eye). And
since you are having this conversation, you can't claim you didn't
know what we were doing. IANAL but I doubt Trademark law gives you
such unilateral control. 

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