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Re: trademark licenses and DFSG: a summary

Stefano Zacchiroli <leader <at> debian.org> writes:
> - Debian should neither seek nor accept trademark licenses that are
>   specific to the Debian Project.
>   (Suggested by Steve Langasek. In addition to Steve's reasoning, I
>   think that doing otherwise would go against the underlying principle
>   of DFSG §8 "License Must Not Be Specific to Debian".)

I think this one is questionable. Ideally, a trademark is about trust - it tells
the user that the product meets the quality requirements of the trademark owner.
A trademark owner may trust the processes used by the Debian project to produce
results that meet their quality criteria, and may be able to monitor the
versions actually released by Debian and withdraw the right to use the trademark
should Debian change in a direction that harms users. There's no way a trademark
owner would trust random people or organizations they don't even know about, nor
is it possible to maintain quality control over those. Thus, I think it would
make sense to have arrangements allowing Debian specifically to modify the
software in ways deemed necessary by the project without asking permission for
each individual change. Downstreams would have to either distribute the code
unchanged, seek a similar arrangement with the trademark owner, or rebrand.

IMO attempts to apply the DFSG requirements to trademarks are fundamentally
flawed. The DFSG require the freedom to modify the software in any manner,
including changes that are harmful (in someone's opinion) to its users.
Trademarks have the opposite purpose - indicating that a given version meets a
certain party's idea of what is good for users, and does NOT have such harmful

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