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Re: trademark licenses and DFSG: a summary

Uoti Urpala <uoti.urpala@pp1.inet.fi> writes:

> 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.

Ideally, trust would not require restrictions and monopolies – yet
that's what trademark law uses.

> 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.

That statement implies a contradiction: that the trademark holder trusts
the Debian project's processes, and does not trust the Debian project's

This highlights that a trademark is not about trust, I think.

> 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.

If so, then the Debian project would accept a critical freedom in the
work that is not transferred to Debian recipients. That's unacceptable,
by my understanding of the social contract.

> IMO attempts to apply the DFSG requirements to trademarks are
> fundamentally flawed.

It's an important feature of the DFSG that it discusses freedoms, as
distinct from whatever law may restrict them. The important software
freedoms of Debian recipients can be restricted in many ways, and the
DFSG are violated by any of them.

A restriction is still a restriction whether implemented by copyright,
trademark, contract, threats of violence, or back-room deals. Attempts
to accept restrictions solely because of how they are implemented are
fundamentally flawed, IMO.

> The DFSG require the freedom to modify the software in any manner,
> including changes that are harmful (in someone's opinion) to its
> users.

Yes. Software freedom includes the freedom to differ in opinion from the
vendor about what is or is not a harmful modification.

> 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 modifications.

I don't think so. Trademarks indicate the provenance of an item, and
distinguish that item from others with a distinct provenance.

That's regardless of what's good for recipients. It's up to the
recipient to make an informed choice about what's good for them; the
trademark merely provides information about whether the item is from the
expected source.

 \      “I knew things were changing when my Fraternity Brothers threw |
  `\           a guy out of the house for mocking me because I'm gay.” |
_o__)                                      —postsecret.com, 2010-01-19 |
Ben Finney

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