Re-stating the obvious / Mozilla's trademark
First of all: I have been asked why do I post my blog in English. I know it is syndicated in Planeta Linux en México, a mostly-Spanish-speaking planet (I am though not the only one posting in English, but there are few of us). It is also syndicated in Planet Debian, which is strictly in English. I don’t have time to maintain two blogs. I want my Mexican friends to know what am I up to… So well, now you know. ;-)
Visor posted his opinions regarding Mozilla’s and Firefox’s trademarks. This is answering to a posting by Damog which I cannot find, but which referred to Gervase’s mailing to debian-legal. Before anything else, Visor, please take a look at Mozilla’s trademark policy as well. The problem, you are right, is not about patents - I am sure Damog slipped to the wrong term when making his post. The problem is about trademarks (marcas registradas). Mozilla’s licensing is quite twisted, but generally conceived as free as well (and I will not go to that dark area). The problem is, the Mozilla Foundation wants to retain quality assurance control over any product which has their name on it. It is fair, yes. Is it compatible to the way most Linux distributions work? No, sorry. And specially no for the distributions that most care about freedom. I had not previously read Gervase’s message, in which he does offer an important advance over what we previously had… But lets limit our analysis first to Mozilla’s official policy. A responsible distribution must take care of fixing as promptly as possible any important bug in its software. However, only software authorized by the Mozilla foundation can be called Mozilla Firefox and carry its logo (first case of the policy). Even if a distribution decided to call it Firefox Community Edition, there are many limitations imposed on them - The code itself is free, but you are still not free to add your modifications to it. Of course, you can take the code and rename it (as section 3 of its policy, Iceweasel, suggests). Of course, every distribution will make its best for the QA levels to be as high as possible, but we are always liable of including something the Mozilla Foundation does not approve. Even with Gervase’s interesting mail, distributions that hold freedom as such a high value as Debian does would not be able to include the Mozilla trademark - Debian Free Software Guidelines define what we perceive as being Free Software. The eigth condition states that License Must Not Be Specific to Debian - And in Gervase mail, we can read:
7) The Foundation requests that Debian document, in a place where it might be seen by package modifiers, the potential need to acquire such a trademark licence.
…What is the end of this discussion? It has not been reached yet, as far as I can tell. There is good will on the part of the Mozilla people, but we have to recognize that, being Mozilla a Free Software project, it is one that most behaves as a propietary initiative. I am not for suggesting people to run away from Mozilla or Firefox. They are great products, and they are free… But we must be able to be able to treat them by the same standards that we treat other software.