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Re: trademark licenses and DFSG: a summary

On 19/02/12 16:57, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
At the same time, even when we are *allowed* to keep something trademark
encumbered in the archive without rebranding (either because we
distribute it unchanged, or because the associated trademark policy is
fine with the kind of changes we're interested), we might still have
interest in rebranding. In particular, we should very carefully evaluate
the risk of having to do the rebranding later on during the support time
frame of a stable release (which is a painful thing to do), and decide
what to do accordingly.

I think it would be great for Debian to develop some guidelines as to what sort of things are OK, and not OK, in a trademark license in order for Debian to be happy with shipping it. That could include such provisions as:

1) The trademark owner specifies the process whereby all trademarks are removed (e.g by setting a particular compile-time flag)

(This, by promissory estoppel, might give Debian protection from "but you didn't fully remove the trademark" claims, and gives Debian Developers a good insight into how complicated or disruptive a future rebranding might be.)

2) The removal of the trademark has no effect on the function or running of the software.

(This prevents sneaky things like software checksumming images before choosing to run. Of course, you could patch that out too, but why should you have to bother?)

3) ... <fill in more here>

- 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".)

Can you clarify this? Any trademark license is specific in some way, because (as has been discussed) a trademark license that is available to anyone for any purpose just voids the mark.

So if you are saying that Debian will not accept licenses which are specific to Debian (specific person), then are you saying that all trademark licenses must be for specific purposes/uses? That is to say, the mark owner must lay down policies about what sorts of changes are and are not acceptable?

You should be careful what you wish for here. I would have thought there's a good argument for Debian preferring a "we trust Debian" trademark licence to a "you can only do these N things with the software before you have to rebrand it, and (perhaps) we want to review your patches" type license. The latter seems much less palatable than the former.


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