[personal profile] mjg59
Mark Shuttleworth just blogged about their stance against unofficial Ubuntu images. The assertion is that a cloud hoster is providing unofficial and modified Ubuntu images, and that these images are meaningfully different from upstream Ubuntu in terms of their functionality and security. Users are attempting to make use of these images, are finding that they don't work properly and are assuming that Ubuntu is a shoddy product. This is an entirely legitimate concern, and if Canonical are acting to reduce user confusion then they should be commended for that.

The appropriate means to handle this kind of issue is trademark law. If someone claims that something is Ubuntu when it isn't, that's probably an infringement of the trademark and it's entirely reasonable for the trademark owner to take action to protect the value associated with their trademark. But Canonical's IP policy goes much further than that - it can be interpreted as meaning[1] that you can't distribute works based on Ubuntu without paying Canonical for the privilege, even if you call it something other than Ubuntu.

This remains incompatible with the principles of free software. The freedom to take someone else's work and redistribute it is a vital part of the four freedoms. It's legitimate for Canonical to insist that you not pass it off as their work when doing so, but their IP policy continues to insist that you remove all references to Canonical's trademarks even if their use would not infringe trademark law.

If you ask a copyright holder if you can give a copy of their work to someone else (assuming it doesn't infringe trademark law), and they say no or insist you need an additional contract, it's not free software. If they insist that you recompile source code before you can give copies to someone else, it's not free software. Asking that you remove trademarks that would otherwise infringe trademark law is fine, but if you can't use their trademarks in non-infringing ways, that's still not free software.

Canonical's IP policy continues to impose restrictions on all of these things, and therefore Ubuntu is not free software.

[1] And by "interpreted as meaning" I mean that's what it says and Canonical refuse to say otherwise

Date: 2016-12-02 12:11 pm (UTC)
bens_dad: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bens_dad
Scientific Linux remove logos, the name "Red Hat" and rebuild binaries when making their releases derived from Red Hat software.*

I believe that SL started doing this after Oracle shipped a modified version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (possibly an alpha or beta release) with the Red Hat branding and Red Hat got annoyed about all the support calls.

I don't know how much of this is required by the Red Hat licence, but it does sound rather similar to what you say Ubuntu requires. But then Red Hat Enterprise Linux does not claim to be free software; is that the point, that what Canonical is requiring makes Ubuntu like RHEL rather than SL ?


* As an example here is the latest entry in the change log for the httpd binary package on SL6
(TUV = "The Upstream Vendor"):

* Tue Nov 15 2016 Scientific Linux Auto Patch Process <scientific-linux-devel@listserv.fnal.gov>
- Added Source: httpd-spec_sl_index.html.sl.patch
--> The index.html file is outside of the source tarball, so we need to patch it in the install step
- Ran Regex: vstring Red Hat => vstring Scientific Linux
--> This package must not feature TUVs branding
- Ran Regex: distro Red Hat => distro Scientific Linux
--> This package must not feature TUVs branding
- Added Source: httpd-sl_index.html.sl.patch
--> This patch removes TUV branding from the default index.html
- Added Source: httpd.ini
--> Config file for automated patch script
- Ran Regex: (Release: .*)%{\?dist}(.*) => \1.sl6\2
--> Modify release string to note changes

Date: 2016-12-02 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Scientific Linux are able to mention Red Hat in their %changelog, because the fact that their packages are based on those from Red Hat is a non-misleading statement, and trademarks do not forbid non-misleading statements that use the trademark.

When Matthew pointed out that the Canonical IP policy as written would require redistributors to censor all mentions of Ubuntu in files like debian/changelog (including -1ubuntu2 version numbers!) and asked for clarification, Canonical appear to have been careful not to say that this was a misinterpretation.


Matthew Garrett

About Matthew

Power management, mobile and firmware developer on Linux. Security developer at Google. Ex-biologist. @mjg59 on Twitter. Content here should not be interpreted as the opinion of my employer.

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