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Re: [Fsfe-uk] GPLv3 last days for comment, and other news links

From: rob
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] GPLv3 last days for comment, and other news links
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2007 10:44:07 +0100
User-agent: Internet Messaging Program (IMP) H3 (4.1.3)

Quoting MJ Ray <address@hidden>:

"Jon Grant" <address@hidden> wrote:
On 11 Jun 2007 19:17:25 +0100, Ciaran O'Riordan <address@hidden> wrote:
> I think the reason GPLv3 isn't tackling trademarks is that they haven't
> become a big problem, and there aren't clear signs that they will.

That's good then. It seemed possible trademarks could be used to exert
some "control".. [...]
Imagine if a toolkit vendor said all the "Zt" had to be removed, and
all the classes have the trademark "Z" name prefix removed on anyone's
redistributed copies. [...]

More than possible - it's already happened.  As one example, to get
trademark permission to call a Firefox-based browser Firefox, IIRC you
have to:
- include proprietary graphics, which is a problem for debian;
- use their approved configuration that points at a site which offers
to install proprietary plugins for you, which is a problem for GNU; and
- obey some MozCorp release policies, which is a problem for both.

This is different from the case that was being discussed.

Debian's refusal to distribute Firefox because of trademark issues is different from if they were being prevented from distributing unmodified versions of Firefox by trademark misuse.

I'm surprised if GPLv3's authors are ignorant of the problems this has
caused for the GNU and debian projects, or think it's not worth
addressing when the more limited (at present) problem of swpat is.

Trademarks exist to protect consumers by marking products as having come from an identified source. Debian taking Firefox and hacking on the code but still releasing it under the Firefox trademark clearly breaks this. And it breaks it for the consumer, not for the Mozilla Foundation.

You cannot use trademarks to prevent modification of software in the same way as copyright or as patents. Trademarks are therefore not the same potential or actual threat as patents. You can remove them, although it may be very inconvenient to do so.

Given that trademarks can be a considerable inconvenience when releasing modified code I agree with Debian's position if not with their reasoning. But the nature of trademarks means that this isn't a licence issue.

- Rob.

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