[personal profile] mjg59
I've previously written about Canonical's obnoxious IP policy and how Mark Shuttleworth admits it's deliberately vague. After spending some time discussing specific examples with Canonical, I've been explicitly told that while Canonical will gladly give me a cost-free trademark license permitting me to redistribute unmodified Ubuntu binaries, they will not tell me what Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries actually means.

Why does this matter? The free software definition requires that you be able to redistribute software to other people in either unmodified or modified form without needing to ask for permission first. This makes it clear that Ubuntu itself isn't free software - distributing the individual binary packages without permission is forbidden, even if they wouldn't contain any infringing trademarks[1]. This is obnoxious, but not inherently toxic. The source packages for Ubuntu could still be free software, making it fairly straightforward to build a free software equivalent.

Unfortunately, while true in theory, this isn't true in practice. The issue here is the apparently simple phrase you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code. "Trademarks" is defined later as being the words "Ubuntu", "Kubuntu", "Juju", "Landscape", "Edubuntu" and "Xubuntu" in either textual or logo form. The naive interpretation of this is that you have to remove trademarks where they'd be infringing - for instance, shipping the Ubuntu bootsplash as part of a modified product would almost certainly be clear trademark infringement, so you shouldn't do that. But that's not what the policy actually says. It insists that all trademarks be removed, whether they would embody an infringement or not. If a README says "To build this software under Ubuntu, install the following packages", a literal reading of Canonical's policy would require you to remove or replace the word "Ubuntu" even though failing to do so wouldn't be a trademark infringement. If an @ubuntu.com email address is present in a changelog, you'd have to change it. You wouldn't be able to ship the juju-core package without renaming it and the application within. If this is what the policy means, it's so impractical to be able to rebuild Ubuntu that it's not free software in any meaningful way.

This seems like a pretty ludicrous interpretation, but it's one that Canonical refuse to explicitly rule out. Compare this to Red Hat's requirements around Fedora - if you replace the fedora-logos, fedora-release and fedora-release-notes packages with your own content, you're good. A policy like this satisfies the concerns that Dustin raised over people misrepresenting their products, but still makes it easy for users to distribute modified code to other users. There's nothing whatsoever stopping Canonical from adopting a similarly unambiguous policy.

Mark has repeatedly asserted that attempts to raise this issue are mere FUD, but he won't answer you if you ask him direct questions about this policy and will insist that it's necessary to protect Ubuntu's brand. The reality is that if Debian had had an identical policy in 2004, Ubuntu wouldn't exist. The effort required to strip all Debian trademarks from the source packages would have been immense[2], and this would have had to be repeated for every release. While this policy is in place, nobody's going to be able to take Ubuntu and build something better. It's grotesquely hypocritical, especially when the Ubuntu website still talks about their belief that people should be able to distribute modifications without licensing fees.

All that's required for Canonical to deal with this problem is to follow Fedora's lead and isolate their trademarks in a small set of packages, then tell users that those packages must be replaced if distributing a modified version of Ubuntu. If they're serious about this being a branding issue, they'll do it. And if I'm right that the policy is deliberately obfuscated so Canonical can encourage people to buy licenses, they won't. It's easy for them to prove me wrong, and I'll be delighted if they do. Let's see what happens.

[1] The policy is quite clear on this. If you want to distribute something other than an unmodified Ubuntu image, you have two choices:
  1. Gain approval or certification from Canonical
  2. Remove all trademarks and recompile the source code
Note that option 2 requires you to rebuild even if there are no trademarks to remove.

[2] Especially when every source package contains a directory called "debian"…

Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-19 11:43 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Matthew, you asked if you could make and distribute a personal project on Ubuntu, and we gave you all the rights needed to do so, along with our best wishes for the project. We've done the same for HUNDREDS of other people and communities.

And this is your response?

Did you actually have such a project, or was that just a sham to try to trick us into saying something quotable? Are you actually keen to see something fun get done or just trying to be a spectacularly grumpy git?

Mark

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 03:47 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is only a pointless exercise because you're disgracefully distorting the facts.

You know full well you're demanding that we relinquish any ability to say whether something that claims to be Ubuntu is, in fact, Ubuntu. We can't do that and preserve the promise that people actually depend on, that when it says it's Ubuntu it behaves in a predictable way and doesn't have key loggers installed.

You don't get to redefine free software to suit yourself. I'm incredibly proud of what we do in Ubuntu, I'm proud of the way we treated you and your request, and sad you're so comfortable being a total dick about it. You'll find all the happiness you deserve, I'm sure.

Go ahead, publish my last private mail to you on the topic, save me the trouble.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

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Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

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Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

From: [personal profile] glyf - Date: 2015-11-20 04:35 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 12:41 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I guess the point is exactly that you currently needed to give those rights to HUNDREDS people one by one, instead of defining clear rules where it would be obvious what one can and cannot do.

You could even give permission to *everyone* who ask you, but by the very fact that they *need* to ask you and cannot know beforehand the criticism seems really deserved.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 03:53 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Right. So you think it would be helpful for us to pre-emptively grant rights to anybody who would like to publish an Ubuntu image which helpfully steals their passwords and sends them to straight to criminal syndicates? Because if we did what you're asking, that would be a-ok.

Nice of you to be so appreciative of the work we do to ensure you don't have to worry about that.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

From: [personal profile] marahmarie - Date: 2015-11-20 05:40 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

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Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 07:45 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Mark,

when people reply to a blog post they do it after actually reading it. This post raises some interesting concerns and you choose to not give any specific answer to these concerns. As a matter of fact your reply validates what Matthew wrote about you: "he won't answer you if you ask him direct questions about this policy and will insist that it's necessary to protect Ubuntu's brand."

At the same time you attack Matthew with some name-calling. Your response is very immature. I would say you only do bad to your company's reputation by such poor replies. I read on the comments someone saying that he's switching to Debian as fast as he can because of this reply!

Unfortunately you still haven't replied why can't Ubuntu have the same marketing policy Fedora has which makes it quite easy for forks to exist and keep being free software in practice while protecting Fedora's brand. Or as stated in the blog post "isolate their trademarks in a small set of packages, then tell users that those packages must be replaced if distributing a modified version of Ubuntu".

This suggests that this isn't a branding issue but more of an attempt to impose restrictions on distributing forks, which isn't free software at this point.

Kind regards,
palasso

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 09:48 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
QED
From: [identity profile] bignose.whitetree.org
> Matthew, you asked if you could make and distribute a personal project on Ubuntu, and we gave you all the rights needed to do so, along with our best wishes for the project.

This makes it crystal clear that Ubuntu is not free software. To distribute a derived work, anyone should have full permission in the universal grant of license to any recipient.

Yet you think it's not only appropriate that “HUNDREDS of people” should have to seek out special permission to redistribute derived works – presumably permission that can be refused at your sole option, because there's no grant of license that already exists – you incredibly think it's somehow a gracious act of exceptional magnanimity.

As the main article states plainly: if the works from which Ubuntu is derived had the same policy, Ubuntu would not exist. You are making the world less free, and crying tears about how mistreated *you* are!?

Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

Date: 2015-11-20 12:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Here you've compared the Canonical/Ubuntu IP policy to that of Fedora, but wouldn't comparing Canonical/Ubuntu to Red Hat be more of an apples-to-apples comparison? I assume that the Fedora and Red Hat policies are different, at least in practice. AFAIK, Red Hat only supplies the SRPMS (which I don't even believe are digitally signed . . . you have no way of knowing that the SRPMS have not been tampered with), and that these SRPMs are only provided by way of the CentOS github account.

Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong.

This may still be better than what Canonical is doing with Ubuntu, and I do not disagree with what you've written above. I think it's better to make the more level-set comparison of Canonical/Ubuntu to Red Hat vs. Canonical/Ubuntu to Fedora, though.

FWIW, I am a former Ubuntu contributor, and now occasional GNOME contributor / regular Fedora user.

Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

Date: 2015-11-20 12:42 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The above explanation seems to be illogical because Red Hat brand has more to "offer" than merely what would Fedora have - e. g. all their other applications or products based on license models.

The subscription does not refer to being able to redistribute content.

On the other hand, the claim that emails that include the word "ubuntu" would also have to be removed, is not logical. These emails are just factual targets, a brand name is not part of an email - who came up with this idea other than the author claiming this here?

Censorship does not apply to email addresses.

Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

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Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

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Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

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Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

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Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

Date: 2015-11-20 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The Red Hat EULA says:

"You may make a commercial redistribution of the Programs only if (a) permitted under a separate written agreement with Red Hat authorizing such commercial redistribution, or (b) you remove and replace all occurrences of Red Hat trademarks. Modifications to the software may corrupt the Programs."

Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

Date: 2015-11-20 03:50 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't understand why you think comparing Fedora to Ubuntu is any less of an apples-to-apples comparison. What makes Ubuntu so different that it can't take Fedora's approach?

Re: Comparing to Fedora / Comparing to Red Hat

Date: 2015-11-20 11:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ubuntu is a commercial product in addition to free software project. It needs to have brand recognition and protection, vague marketing and lawyer nonsense often despised by engineers in order to succeed and be a trustworthy commercial partner to normal companies in the world. Fedora is just a free software project, a free gift from Red Hat. It does not have the burden of needing to satisfy paying customers and make promises.

It may be wise from Red Hat to have their free software project separate from their billion dollar commercial activity, but the reason for that should not be "anti-commercialism" that is somewhat popular in free software community. There's enough confusion that "free" means gratis anyway, and it's not helped by people that hate money making and/or don't understand it. Commercial work always comes with some restrictions related to how the money is made, and some of it may be aimed to make the commercial entity stronger in order to survive, but the free software is always free software and can be forked and built upon elsewhere if wanted.

I won't comment on the actual blog post, since it's legal stuff and I'm not interested in that as long as license is clear. Trademark protections, CLA:s are all ok, and often a very good thing for commercial free software products.

Why are you confusing trademarks and copyrights?

Date: 2015-11-20 04:56 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The free software definition is about copyrights not trademarks. You are free to fork the codebase and build your own distribution.

Re: Why are you confusing trademarks and copyrights?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2015-11-20 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

Debian force

Date: 2015-11-21 08:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> The reality is that if Debian had had an identical policy in 2004, Ubuntu wouldn't exist.

I heard there are a few Ubuntu-haters in Debian. Can't some of them figure out some smart, GPL-like, viral trick where carrying the Debian trademark limits the conditions for any other trademark put "on top of" Debian?

Ub*ntu

Date: 2015-11-21 09:01 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Canonical does its Ub*ntu thing again!

RE

Date: 2015-11-21 10:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jr [launchpad.net]
Canonical can't add arbitrary restrictions just by virtue of saying they do, especially vaguely saying they have but won't say how. If so I could do the same and I'd get a lot more hugs than I do now http://jriddell.org/2015/09/02/jonathan-riddell-ip-policy/ A policy doesn't have any way of arbitrarily adding restrictions just because it's said in an authoritative language.

Nobody has a problem with trademarked branding needing to be removed but no court will consider an e-mail address to be branding. Remove the splash screen and a few other obvious uses and it's all good.

I do wish people would stop being bullied about by Canonical and imaging problems that could exist, I've never seen any restrictions which stand up to any serious scrutiny in making a derived distribution of Ubuntu. Everything in Ubuntu is licensed as free software very explicitly. It would take some equally explicit and well understood way of restricting it to have a valid problem. Otherwise it's just like believing in a god because someone in an authoritative tone of voice says you should without any evidence.

JRiddell

Re: RE

Date: 2015-11-21 01:06 pm (UTC)
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jewelfox
If it's all as easy as that, why doesn't Canonical's policy explicitly say that? Why was Mark's response "well okay then, I give you permission" instead of just clearing things up by himself?

If we're going with religious analogies here, this comment sorta reminds me of Mormon apologia. In that you don't seem to acknowledge that there's a discrepancy between what you're unofficially saying and what Mark officially said.

Re: RE

From: [identity profile] jr [launchpad.net] - Date: 2015-11-22 10:05 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: RE

From: [personal profile] jewelfox - Date: 2015-11-22 02:26 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: RE

Date: 2015-11-21 06:17 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
> Nobody has a problem with trademarked branding needing to be removed but no court will consider an e-mail address to be branding.

The problem is that the policy purports to demand the removal of instances of trademarks (not merely the removal of branding) in order to be allowed permission to distribute modified versions of copyrighted material.

"Ubuntu" is their trademark whether its placement in a particular location constitutes branding or not.

Re: RE

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From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2015-11-23 06:45 am (UTC) - Expand

Overall agree, but

Date: 2015-11-23 02:22 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't see the "even cases which wouldn't be infringement" at all and the literal reading is more uncertain than you make out. But I agree overall, and it doesn't make it much better.

First, In the same document, it details acceptable uses of it's trademark. So, no, not "all trademarks." And that list is obviously not exhaustive, so I don't think it would be fair to assume that that policy or your quote are meant to cover obviously non trademark infringing cases. And your changelog example is arguably covered by that policy as an "article."

Secondly, beyond that limitation, you can literally read your quote in 2 ways. The other one is that the the amount of trademark removal needed is some undefined threshold of a distro having "association with the trademarks." By example of a similar quote: I own a 50 mile road, theres a store 5 miles in, at the start of the road I have a sign which says "To get to the store, you can pay me to give you a ride. Otherwise, you must walk the road" Your way of literal reading is "I have to walk 50 miles." No, a correct literal reading still uses the context that the walking is in order to get to the store 5 miles in, so it would be 5 miles not 50. Canonical's 2 sentences have the same structure, paraphrasing: "To redistribute modifications, if you associate with our trademark, pay us. Otherwise, you must remove trademarks." Removing trademarks is /how/ to not "associate it with their trademarks", not requirement to walk 50 miles.

Anyways, overall totally agree.

Two solutions

Date: 2015-11-23 02:46 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
1) Stop using Ubuntu. If everyone does this, the problem goes away.

2) Strip out the trademark usages that would truly be infringing. Release everything else as-is (don't recompile anything you don't have to to remove the trademarks). Sue Canonical to pre-emptively have your work declared non-infringing. Distribute to everyone.

Re: Two solutions

Date: 2015-11-23 06:07 am (UTC)
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
2) Ka-ching.

Profile

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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