On 21/07/13 13:02, Ben Finney wrote:
> But those either ignore or punt the issue to trademark. The question
> still remains: what restrictions on the freedom of any recipient are
> acceptable in exchange for preventing the societal harms trademark law
> is designed to address?
I'm not convinced that trademarks are being used to restrict software
freedoms in any significant way.
The trademark does not primarily concern the substance of the software,
only the branding of it. While it can be inconvenient to change the
branding, trademark alone does not prevent either redistribution or
I realize it is not entirely black and white, because the trademark will
be embedded in the code, not merely a name-change. But for most
software, this is more of an inconvenience than it is a substantive
restriction of software freedoms.
The issue in the Debian branding of Firefox and Thunderbird was not
fundamentally the trademark. It was the use of a non-DFSG licence on the
logo, which Debian could not use. Mozilla decided that if the logo was
not used, then it was not okay to call the software 'Firefox'. I think a
better resolution would have been for Mozilla to provide an alternative
logo that could have been freely licenced, especially since the logo
would still carry trademark protections against misuse. But the issue
was not resolved, so Debian was forced to change the name. This did not
stop it distributing the Mozilla software, even though it no longer was
even able to use the trademark.
The DFSG allows for such restrictions, though here it is perhaps talking
more about a copyright licence. It does not explicitly mention the
trademark issues at all.
"The license may require derived works to carry a different name or
version number from the original software. (This is a compromise. The
Debian group encourages all authors not to restrict any files, source or
binary, from being modified.)"
Note that I'm not arguing that trademarks cannot be misused (eg they can
have a chilling effect on parodies), and I'm not arguing that trademark
licences are unimportant (it can be painful to ensure trademark
compliance, and unconstructive to have to change the name for minor
changes). But I think it is difficult for companies to misuse them
specifically with regard to software freedom, because the trademark can
in some abstract sense be separated from the software.
Ideally the trademark for free software would be licenced in a way that
makes it easier on recipients; but without any licence to use a
trademark, we can still distribute and modify the associated software.
I feel that patent law in particular is more important issue.
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