[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?

Date: 2015-11-20 03:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I have no objections to your producing a derivative of Fedora at all. Have a blast.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
If this is somehow about different interpretations of cross-jurisdictional trademark law then it could really do with spelling it out.

Otherwise, rejecting an existing solution for stripping trademarks cleanly comes across as petty NIH syndrome.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-20 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] glyf
Mark (if this is indeed Mark); I was willing to entertain the notion that Matthew had misrepresented some nuance here, albeit unintentionally, which might have made Canonical's position more reasonable than it sounded. But this embarrassing tantrum of a response (and your pointed refusal to answer the specific concerns he has raised in any part of it, like the glib "sure, make derivative works of fedora" when the question was incredibly clearly about how to do an analogous thing) has driven home the point for me that Ubuntu is being deliberately vague. I've been slowly migrating my own personal Docker images to Debian since Matthew started raising these issues a few months back, and these responses here have convinced me to really hurry that process up and get rid of any derivative works of Ubuntu in any of my personal infrastructure.

Honestly my biggest hope is that someone with an authenticated Dreamwidth account named "Mark Shuttleworth" and not "Anonymous" posts a reply repudiating what has been said here.

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?

Date: 2015-11-20 05:40 am (UTC)
marahmarie: (M In M Forever) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Are you seriously suggesting that if I replaced the word Ubuntu with the word Fedora in the above paragraph that the excuse you just made would stand for Red Hat, too? Why isn't Red Hat jumping up and down about this, then? Why is RH granting the very freedoms you will not allow, with you deciding everything on a case by case, ask me first basis (literally: like you are God - Gubuntu!) or else forcing people to laboriously hunt and peck, hand edit and recompile? Wth?

You know what this sounds like?

Even before I read your responses (assuming, as another commenter already said, that you even are who you say you are) I decided you most sound like someone who is afraid to lose control of The Creation. You sound insecure. You sound like a kid. You sound like the person I figured made Ubuntu, in other words, as I have about zero respect for the operating system; back when I last tried it, it looked like it was made for a child and had none of Linux's chops. I too noticed all the Debian source code carryover (and I'm recalling this from my last installation of Ubuntu almost 10 years ago! And it wasn't just Debian, either, it was like a freakin' smorgasbord of free operating system code) so you sound like a hypocrite, on top of everything else.

You'll find all the happiness you deserve, too, I'm sure, but probably not on your current trajectory. :/

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-21 12:49 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jewelfox
Dear goddess. Whatever happened to free software?

I want to say I hope this is a troll, but it's so characteristic of Mark to wilfully misunderstand and accuse people of ingratitude.

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-22 04:55 am (UTC)
marahmarie: so gangsta (Win XP Gangsta Edition)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
"Whatever happened to free software?"

People like Mark are why I got out. I don't talk much about it because a lot of my DW RL is either involved in the FOSS community or else enthusiastically supports it and I'm not against doing either, but the FOSS communities I was a part of were so full of unhelpful, unsupportive, snotty, downright mean people who think they're God and need serious attitude adjustments that after a year or two of futzing around on Ubuntu/Linux variants of many stripes I couldn't take it anymore (and I'm not talking about what I went through, as I endured very little abuse: I'm talking about what others went through). Sometimes it's like a solid wall of cliquishness and sarcasm and I'm not even sure which part of that is worse, but Mark has the sarcasm part down pat, and as usual, it's not helpful.

I can more than understand - even empathize - with why the general public sticks with Windows on their computers and Android on their phones. No one deserves to be treated as poorly as some open source groups (or at the least, some of the people within those groups) will treat you.
Edited (typos) Date: 2015-11-22 05:02 am (UTC)

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-22 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jewelfox
Yeah >_>; I wasn't criticizing you for not using or believing in free software of something ... I was asking it about Mark and Canonical / Ubuntu.

I personally encountered insensitivity in GNOME (including a depressive episode after something a Red Hat employee said at a conference), but Ubuntu ... dear goddess. Geek Feminism's wiki needs to have an article for every time a certain former community manager posted about "community" or "respect," and that's just for starters.

I think [personal profile] mjg59 said it best when he pointed out that Linux legally gives you the freedom to make arbitrary changes to your setup, but that's not the same thing as actually being free. And I think the people with God complexes, like you mention, are that way because of the power that FOSS lets them hold over others. As petty as it may sometimes be.

(Out of curiosity, what do you use on your phone if not Android or presumably iOS? I switched to using a Windows Phone and I love it, but Microsoft can be really fickle and seems determined to be at least as creepy as Ubuntu. With the way it gathers information and stuff in Windows 10.)

Re: Would like some help picking those toys up?

Date: 2015-11-23 05:38 am (UTC)
marahmarie: (M In M Forever) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Yes, I knew you weren't criticizing me. :)

My response was sort of a head nod to the question you asked ("Whatever happened to free software"?). Imagine me head nodding, then launching into that story: in other words, agreeing with you that something has indeed happened to it (or else was wrong with it from the get-go; not sure which) and that was why I got out. And after reading comments like the ones witnessed above, am still glad I did.

As one of the more sarcastic people on the planet it might seem odd for me, of all people, to complain about others being sarcastic, but in any serious community where serious people ask serious questions and want to have serious, enlightening, respectful discussions only to get sarcasm and dismissive attitudes in return, it seems important to mention that the negative vibe is unwelcoming and one of the things that "happened" to FOSS that slowly but surely is killing it. People like Mark are literally the ringleaders of such attitudes, which turns more multitudes away than him and others will ever know, and I thought I should mention that, since he came in dripping sarcasm and turned a serious discussion into a three ring circus rife with trolls and name-calling.

With that out of the way, I've used a Nokia Lumia running Win 8 for almost a year now. Before that I used an Android Fuel for a while. Before that I used a bigger, better Android flavor (I forget which; the phone was pretty great for a low-end model but for some reason I hated it, so I sold it on eBay last winter for a few bucks). Before that I used an Android Optimus Q. I'm planning on using Win 10 Mobile once it rolls out in December, and I've been flirting with the idea of running 10 Preview before then, but maybe not. I've had bad luck with all the Win 10 phone builds, so far.

I've never used iOS. The last Apple-anything I used was back in high school. I don't like Win 10's disregard for privacy, but once the final retail versions roll out I plan on hardening off phone and laptop against every possible privacy leak (I know I'll never get it exactly right because MS will always stay a step ahead of us on that, but I'll deal with it, somehow). 'Til then, I'm just rolling with things pretty much as they are.
Edited (clarity) Date: 2015-11-23 05:55 am (UTC)

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!?

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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