back to article Free software fans land crucial punch in Ubuntu row – but it's not over

Canonical has updated the intellectual property rights policy for Ubuntu Linux to address a brouhaha over how the software is licensed, but free software advocates still aren't satisfied. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) have been bickering with Canonical since 2013 over concerns …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Ubuntu is not the only Linux Distro

    If more people were to try it then perhaps Canonical might take note.

    I gave up on Ubuntu around the 10.4 release. I just didn't like the general direction it was going.

    I now use CentOS as my Distro of choice. Different from Ubuntu? Yeah it sure is but I really prefer the stability.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Ubuntu is not the only Linux Distro

      I gave up on Ubuntu around the 10.4 release. I just didn't like the general direction it was going. I now use CentOS as my Distro of choice. . . . I really prefer the stability.

      I bailed at 8.4 and went to FreeBSD. Yes, stability is nice.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @1980s_coder - They don't restrict software

      they restrict your digital rights! What Stallman's view says is you are not allowed to add restrictions on top of those imposed to you by the GPL license. This is how software remains open AND free (sorry for the caps). I agree with you that there are developers that would love to obtain software for free and then be able to monetize it by adding restrictions when further distributing it. BSD has nothing against it while GPL does.

      No need to muddy the waters here.

  3. thames

    And Red Hat

    Guess why CentOS is called CentOS? Because Red Hat's IP policy wouldn't allow re-distributors to use the Red Hat name.

    From the article: "Redistributors of Ubuntu have little choice but to become expert analysts of Canonical, Ltd.'s policy," the SFC wrote. "They must identify on their own every place where the policy contradicts the GPL ... "

    You mean like where everyone redistributing GPL software also has to identify where what they do contradicts the GPL? Somehow that doesn't seem to be a problem for the SFC.

    From the article: "the FSF points out that the policy change does nothing to remove the binary restriction from software with more permissive, non-copyleft licenses, such as the Apache or BSD licenses. "

    You mean like how when you mix GPL and Apache or BSD software the GPL does nothing to remove its own restrictions from the combined work?

    Overall, it's a tempest in a tea cup. Canonical is protecting its trademarks, like every other commercial Linux distro does. There's no problem for people who are using or redistributing Ubuntu, creating authorized derivatives such as Xubuntu or Lubuntu, or who are using the source code to create their own systems or just fold the Canonical code back into Debian. The source code is still under the original licenses.

    The people who might have a problem are the commercial distros whom I won't name but who want to build a profitable business by using Canonical's servers and bandwidth to distribute their own products without paying for it. My heart bleeds for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: And Red Hat

      > Guess why CentOS is called CentOS? Because Red Hat's IP policy wouldn't allow re-distributors to use the Red Hat name.

      That is a trademark issue not a software licensing issue. It has nothing to with GPL or any other free or non-free open source license.

      The reason no-one can use the name RedHat for a Linux distribution is the same as why no-one can use the name Colgate for a toothpaste brand: both names are registered trademarks of their respective owners.

      The Colgate name can be used in other commercial contexts. For example: Colgate University.

      You could probably start your own brand of toothpaste, and name it RedHat Toothpaste. That would likely not be considered a trademark violation.

      But this has nothing to do with software licensing.

      1. thames

        Re: And Red Hat

        @ST - "That is a trademark issue not a software licensing issue.'

        As is the case for Canonical. The copyright of the non-Canonical software belongs to those authors, and as stated in the article, the Canonical terms don't affect the copyrights. However, as with Red Hat, Canonical has trademarks which are their "IP".

        The current pillow fight started due to a small company wanting to sell commercial support using the brand name of one of Canonical's well known trademarks. Canonical, whose business is selling commercial support for their own products said "no" to that.

        Here by the way is Red Hat's equivalent Ts and Cs:

        "Intellectual Property Rights (...) This EULA does not permit you to distribute the Programs or their components using Red Hat's trademarks, regardless of whether the copy has been modified. You may make a commercial redistribution of the Programs only if (a) permitted under a separate written agreement with Red Hat authorizing such commercial redistribution, or (b) you remove and replace all occurrences of Red Hat trademarks. Modifications to the software may corrupt the Programs."

        They then direct you to a link on their web site for the hoops you have to jump through before redistributing Red Hat binaries. That link is rather unhelpfully dead, so I guess you would have to contact their legal department directly.

        Centos (before they got taken over by Red Hat), Scientific Linux, Oracle Linux, etc. had to recompile the binaries after removing the trademarks due to the legal interpretation of Red Hat's IP licensing terms.

        As to why Red Hat went down this road is simple. Third party VARs were selling "Red Hat Licenses" and pocketing all the money. When the customers called for support they found they didn't actually have support contracts with Red Hat. Since Red Hat couldn't use copyright to shut down the third party "resellers" they resorted to trade mark law. Canonical has ended up doing more or less the same here for fairly similar reasons.

        You can create an Ubuntu derivative, just like you can create a Red Hat derivative, but you first have to remove the trademarks (and presumably insert your own) and then recompile.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And Red Hat

          > As is the case for Canonical.

          No, it is not, because of this gem:


          You can use our copyright, patent and design materials in accordance with this IPRights Policy.


          It is unclear what Canonical's copyright, patent and design materials IP policies apply to.

          Canonical playing games again. Or trying to, and failing miserably.

          A Trademark is a product branding IP exclusively. It does not assert or convey any IP rights on the product itself, but only on its commercial marketing name, and nothing more.

          For example: acetylsalicylic acid, commonly known as Aspirin. Up until the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Aspirin was a trademarked name worldwide. The trademark was owned by Bayer.

          Bayer lost the trademark for Aspirin, as part of WWI reparations, in the US, UK, France, and a number of other countries. In Germany, Canada, and other countries, Aspirin is still a Bayer trademarked name.

          The product itself is still acetylsalicylic acid, which has no patents. and no IP. The chemical compound itself has been known and used as a medicinal drug since Hippocrates.

          Canonical makes no distinction between their trademark, copyright, patent and design materials IP rights, and the IP rights of the actual product - namely the Ubuntu software. Which is why they had to add this "for the avoidance of doubt" blurb. Canonical also does not define what some of these terms mean.

          What is Canonical's definition of "design materials", as it applies to their Ubuntu Linux distribution?

          Unlike RedHat, which does make this distinction, and quite clearly. The RedHat EULA applies to the RedHat trademark, and to their binaries. Not to the software itself, which is distributed in source code form. There is no mention of patents or design materials or IP rights anywhere that I can see in the RedHat EULA.

  4. Salts

    Not one ...

    "And this is why I use Linux Mint comment" I am so disappointed(posted from a Ubuntu Mate system)

  5. saif

    PANIC...someone trying to make money out of free software...

    This is a company that tries to make money supporting their distro. To do so it HAS TO attach its own "stamp"...its trademark. This is often incorporated within the distributed binaries. It also has to protect itself from liability from issues arising when someone else uses their derivative works.

    The distro, by the rules of open source, is distributed with all the sources available.

    Anyone can take advantage of the packaging, configuration etc that Ubuntu has done through developers it has paid, and thereby create their own distro, based on Ubuntu...but for Canonical to make any money out of this, it HAS TO ask that those that repackage Ubuntu into their flavours to remove that "stamp" that Ubuntu has applied. This constitutes a licensing agreement that is not contained within GPL and has to be by definition added later.

    Nowhere does it remove rights of redistribution of the sources. Let's not forget that without Canonical, Linux would not have even the 1.5% penetration Linux has amongst the desktop user...

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