Re: Some questions about trademark, copyright and dfsg
"email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> I'm a free software developer and I have several questions about dfsg,
> trademarks and copyright.
Thank you for seriously considering the freedom of recipients of your
> 1) If I have an free software/open source project and I register its
> logo and name as a trademark. It seems legit for several reasons
Yes, trademark law has a legitimate motivation: consumer protection from
confusion and deceit.
The problem, of how to reconcile those needs with the needs of freedom
in the work, is a thorny one that continues to be explored.
It is also important to remember that the permissions must also be
granted automatically to every recipient of Debian, for them to exercise
to the same extent. So it's not only the Debian Project's actions and
freedoms you need to consider.
A useful point of reference is the Debian Project's policy for the
Debian trademark <URL:https://www.debian.org/trademark>, which is the
product of a lot of discussion of these issues.
> -> I want to promote and protect my brand.
That's not something you can expect recipients of your work (such as the
Debian project, or Debian recipients) to have incentive to do. It's also
not, IMO, a legitimate purpose of trademark restrictions.
A more legitimate purpose is what you describe next:
> If someone modify the code it's fine but he or she should change the
> name of the project to avoid any confusion between the original
> project and fork
To the extent that the restriction is in the interest of preventing
confusion in the mind of the recipient, yes.
But the interest of “promote and protect my brand” is not the same
thing, and in some cases it can conflict with software freedom. In which
case, IMO, software freedom should win such conflict.
> -> can for instance debian distribute a modified version of my
> software with the original name ?
That's a difficult area, yes. The motivation to prevent confusion in the
mind of the consumer might conflict with the freedom to redistribute the
work with or without modifications. Both are legitimate motivations.
For the Debian trademark, the Debian Project's solution is to define
which uses of the mark are permitted and which are not.
The overriding principle is that use of the trademark to imply claims
that are false or misleadinf, is not permitted; other uses are
> -> imagine if someone modify debian and introduce bugs and doesn't
> change the name. It's your project that will have a bad reputation.
This is a matter of education; you can't rely on a trademark alone to
inform people what is and is not your product.
The policy on the Debian trademark does not prevent any recipient from
making modifications and redistributing the result with the name
“Debian”. I think it's clear the Debian Project does not suffer unduly
as a result.
> 2) As a way to get funding and money.
It's fine for you to have this motivation. But no recipient (whether the
Debian Project or any recipient of Debian) can be expected to share or
work toward that motivation. So, I don't think this is a legitimate
justification for any restriction in the trademark license.
> Their logo and name are obviously trademarked and copyrighted.
Yes, a digital version of a trademark is software, and thereby is
subject to copyright. The work can only be in Debian if the work has a
copyright license whose conditions meed the DFSG.
If the copyright license, or trademark license or any other relevant set
of permissions and restrictions, does not meet the DFSG, one solution is
that the trademark is removed before entering Debian. A better solution
is that the conditions are improved so they do meet the DFSG.
> There is no way a company will "openly" allow their logo to be
> modified. In fact even debian protect its own logo.
The question at issue is whether the restrictions still meet the DFSG.
> 3) if a debian packager modify my software for any reason. Will they
> warn me about modifications ? Will they change the name to avoid any
> confusion between my original project and the "fork" made by debian ?
> Will they remove sponsor logo for instance without warning us ?
There's no guarantee we can give of “warning” you, whatever that might
mean. Part of the requirements are that we need all permissions to act
be included in the license in the work; we cannot be held back by
needing to communicate with a party who might have changed their mind or
be out of contact.
As for modifications, we do require that distribution of modified works
can be done, with unilateral permission granted by the licenses in the
> I hope my questions aren't already answered.
I hope this answers your questions, and sets out where the issues lie.
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