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 modification.

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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