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Re: Proposed MBF - mentions of the word "Ubuntu"

Steve Langasek <vorlon@debian.org> wrote:
>On Sat, Nov 09, 2013 at 11:25:03AM -0500, Scott Kitterman wrote:
>> On Saturday, November 09, 2013 15:00:24 Colin Watson wrote:
>> > On Fri, Nov 08, 2013 at 05:35:36PM +0000, Ian Jackson wrote:
>> > > (Posted to -project because I'm writing with my tongue in my
>> > > Actually renaming and rewording things would be making our own
>> > > difficult to spite Canonical.  Much better to stick up two
>> > > But nevertheless, I would like to suggest that the DPL contact
>> > > Shuttleworth and tell him that this kind of shit is very damaging
>> > > our good relationship.)
>> > I was fairly unhappy too when I heard about this.
>> > I happened to notice via Twitter this morning that Mark responded
>> > this, and nobody appears to have linked to it yet in this thread:
>> >   https://plus.google.com/116812394236590806058/posts/5jdibY5iR9b
>> It appears there's still some misunderstanding there.  Under US law
>> the site is hosted and the poster is based) it's protected speech. 
>> stop.  No permission needed.  IANAL, but I have studied this a bit.
>Nominative use doesn't require any permission under US law, but US
>jurisdiction is not the only one that matters for Canonical, which is
>not a
>US-based company.  So as a US website, fixubuntu.com doesn't need
>permission, but it's less clear to me what Canonical's obligations
>might be
>on the policing side.  In Debian we have tended to focus on the US
>rules for
>trademarks because they are more liberal than in other jurisdictions
>because we can rely on this providing sufficient cover for Debian, our
>and our downstreams even when they're based in other jurisdictions with
>other rules.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that Canonical, in
>*policing* its trademark, should be following the US standards; nor
>trying to follow a different standard imply either that Canonical's
>team misunderstands the law, or that Canonical is trying to suppress
>protected speech.  As I hope Mark's post makes clear, the trademark
>on the Ubuntu marks is intended to strike that very same balance that
>take for granted on the Internet between freedom of speech and
>protection of
>trademarks, it just arrives at it by a somewhat different route than it
>would from a strictly US-centric POV.
>FWIW, the site owner also claimed that the use of the Ubuntu logo on
>front page of the site was protected as nominative use.  It's not at
>clear to me that this was the case under US law; there's no obvious
>need to
>make use of the logo mark when referring to Ubuntu instead of just the
>which is what nominative use is intended to protect.  I think the use
>of the
>logo does introduce confusion, and it was reasonable to ask
>fixubuntu.com to
>discontinue use of it.  So despite the ham-handed approach, I think the
>ultimate outcome here is a good one.

Both the original letter and Mark Shuttleworth's comments make trademark ownership claims that overreach.  In this case the letter was targeted at someone we the resources to understand that and react appropriately. I've no idea how many other letters were sent out or what impact they had on the recipients.

I understand the need to defend against infringing uses, but that doesn't create a requirement to harass non-infringing users (even if the use of the logo was not protected, not saying it wasn't, but if it wasn't, the original notice covered clearly protected use).  I think it's entirely appropriate for Debian to work preemptively to protect itself from future bursts of enthusiasm from the Canonical legal department. 

Scott K

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