(You've replied to a message but quoted content from a different one.
I've changed the Subject accordingly.)

Glenn McIntosh <neonsig...@memepress.org>

> I feel that patent law in particular is more important issue.

Sure. Feel free to start a different thread about that :-)

> 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.

That's an equivocation: you've slipped from broad “restrict” to narrow
“prevent”, which I don't accept. I'm talking about how trademark
restricts software freedom, which entails a much broader spectrum of
problems than the binary options of “prevent” or “inconvenience”.

To speak to your example: changing the brand to something significantly
different from the trademark will, by definition of being a significant
change in the brand, make it much more difficult for a community
expecting the trademarked brand to find the resulting work. This will
*practically* prevent many of them from doing so with the limited time
and knowledge we each have to spend on looking.

> 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.

Any change of brand sufficient to satisfy the “don't let consumers
confuse your product with ours” threshold is by definition going to
cause a significant numer of consumers to *not recognise* the re-branded
product as being what they're looking for.

Many people looking for “Firefox” are not going to recognise that
“Iceweasel” is what they need, and so – to the extent that branding
works, which varies a lot across time and across populations – the
software branded as “Iceweasel” is, even if in principle available to
recipients looking for “Firefox”, effectively unavailable to them.

So it's important for the software freedom of distributors to preserve
their freedom to be truthful in the branding: e.g. “this is Debian's
version of Mozilla Firefox”. If a trademark holder forbids that, as
Mozilla Corporation does, I am saying based on the above that it is a
substantive restriction of software freedoms.

Yet I'm also not sure what alternative policy I would recommend to
Mozilla Corporation. It is important to society that distributors not
mislead recipients by claiming a program is Firefox when that program
does not behave as someone looking for Firefox would expect. That
threshold, “mislead”, is going to be pretty difficult to pin down.

> The issue in the Debian branding of Firefox and Thunderbird was not
> fundamentally the trademark.

I disagree; the trademark issue was fundamental to (if not solely
fundamental to) the issue. But I won't hash it out yet again here, as it
will likely not be of much interest to others what our definitions of
“fundamental to” happen to be here.

Wikipedia has a decent article describing the events

> 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.

My position is that the freedom to accurately describe a work is
important for distributors of modified works, and trademark is commonly
wielded to substantively restrict that important freedom.

But my position is also that I am quite sympathetic to the trademark
holder in many of those instances, since they are working to prevent
societal harm.

It's a dilemma that I'd like to see discussed and resolved by the free
software community.

 \          “Our products just aren't engineered for security.” —Brian |
  `\             Valentine, senior vice-president of Microsoft Windows |
_o__)                                                development, 2002 |
Ben Finney

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