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Re: trademark licenses and DFSG: a summary

Stefano Zacchiroli <leader@debian.org> writes:
> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 02:43:22PM +0900, Charles Plessy wrote:

>> Compared to other organisations (Linux Foundation, Python Software
>> Foundation, GNOME Foundation, etc…), we do not have a clear trademark
>> license or policy.

> (Which alone shows that defending reputation is a common concern of Free
> Software projects. I fail to see why we should act differently, and I do
> think that reputation defense is compatible with Debian values, as
> exemplified by DFSG §4.)

Some of the trademark policies are much less objectionable than others,
because some of their definitions of reputation are much less restrictive
than others.

Personally, I believe their is a role for trademark in free software, but
a very limited one: a defensive position preventing people from either
harassing people with a trademark (the original purpose of the Linux
Foundation's trademark policy) or using the trademark for something that
has nothing to do with the mark or that actively works against the point
of the mark.  Variations in approach or opinion should not rise to that

Thankfully, with Debian, most of the issues that other free software
projects use their trademark for don't come up, since Debian is by and
large not a software product that people want to customize but still call
Debian.  Our derivatives frequently go out of their way to create new
names even if they didn't have to since they want to create their own
identity; that's standard practice in the distribution space (as opposed
to the software product space).  There isn't much free software motivation
for releasing something substantially different than Debian and calling it
Debian, so our enforcement of our trademark doesn't prevent useful work
(as compared to, say, Firefox).  That makes developing our trademark
policy much easier than it would if we had a software product that people
would want to customize in ways that may bother us.

In other words, it's easy for our trademark policy to be purely defensive.
We keep people from using Debian in actively deceptive and harmful ways,
and that's the appropriate use of trademark.  And we're taking a stance
against policies that go beyond that and use trademark policy to police
acceptable modifications of their software, using the trademark like a
proprietary license with the difficult of renaming available as the stick.
I think those two things are entirely consistent.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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