[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"…

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)

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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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