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Re: Question about GNOME Trademark and GNOME project packages in Debian

Hello world,

[ We got asked how the Debian project (and especially us as delegates
handling the archive)  has handled trademarks in the past, and our
opinion on how restrictive Trademark licenses can (or not) lead to DFSG
freeness issues. This topic cooked up with the special example of the
current GNOME trademark license, so we base our answer on that.]

We feel that it is infeasible for Debian to be in complete compliance
with the current GNOME trademark license.  In our strict reading of this
license, the only way to be in full compliance would require us to
perform actions such as renaming packages in the form of
GNOME™-control-center.  This extreme example would conflict directly
with Debian policy on the use of non-ascii lowercase characters in
package names as well as being technically inadvisable.  Therefore, as
long as we are using GNOME marks, we are likely to be in some way
violating their current trademark license agreement. The safest thing
for us to do would seem to be to terminate all use of the GNOME marks,
and essentially rebranding the software, as was done in the case for
firefox/iceweasel.  This, however, would be a huge amount of work for
Debian with very little real payoff.  We should be able to avoid doing
all this work, as it seems that the trademark owners want to work with
us in order to find some agreeable compromise.  We therefore think that
the best way forward would be to make a best effort to correct any
specific cases which they point out to us as problematic misuse of their
marks. But we have to be careful not to end up with a Debian specific
solution (due to DFSG #8).

The case of the image which was created combining the GNOME foot and the
Debian swirl seem unquestionably in violation of their trademark,
especially when you realize that the creator of this image was using the
foot in this case with the specific intention of referencing GNOME.
Until we can come up with some agreement with the trademark owners about
using such a mark, Debian should stop distributing similar material.

As a general comment, we feel like this problem is an unfortunate
one. This situation is one where we have people trying to limit user
freedom via software which is in Debian, going against Debian's core
tenets. We understand they are doing so to defend Free Software related
marks, but that doesn't solve the underlying problem. It may also be the
case that from Debian's point of view, the developer body as a whole
needs to take a formal stand by means of a GR on the general issue of
how to resolve the tension among DFSG principles and trademark
licenses. This would clearly resolve this issue once and for all,
especially given that this is the second major instance of a similar
issue. We therefore ask the DPL to consider raising the issue with the
project as a whole, most likely after any initial discussions with the
GNOME foundation have concluded.

bye, Joerg, for the FTP Team
Trying is the first step towards failure.

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