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Re: Firefox/Thunderbird trademarks: a proposal

On Tue, Feb 01, 2005 at 01:21:32PM +0000, Gervase Markham 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.
> 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?

There's roughly three tests involved. Firstly, we have to determine
whether a license permits *us* to do all the stuff we need in order to
package it. Then we have to determine whether it's free. Lastly, the
maintainer has to determine whether they're willing to work with it.

The first two are dealt with here, on -legal. There's no authority per
se; this is a discussion forum. But when we (eventually) reach
agreement, it's usually accepted by the rest of the project simply
because -legal is by definition the set of people who care about this
stuff, although sometimes we have to fight off saboteurs who do their
best to derail the process.

The last one is up to the maintainer. However, if -legal decides
something is free but the maintainer doesn't find the license
acceptable, the most likely result is a new maintainer (in this case,
it would probably take the form of the iceweasel/firefox split that
was discussed earlier).

> What if the 
> Firefox and Thunderbird maintainers have totally opposing viewpoints? 

Generally? We have a big fight. You can pretty much ignore that part,
we can fight amongst ourselves effectively enough.

> 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?

Well, it's not impossible, but the likelihood of something passing
debian-legal and not the rest of the project is small. That's why
-legal is the point of first contact.

> 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?

Fedora has the advantage of being able to decide this stuff in a week
or two. Debian usually takes rather longer.

> >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".

As a general rule, it is impossible to pin this stuff down in a
legally binding fashion and remain free. We've seen this sort of thing
a lot.

  .''`.  ** Debian GNU/Linux ** | Andrew Suffield
 : :' :  http://www.debian.org/ |
 `. `'                          |
   `-             -><-          |

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