Canonical’s IPRights Policy incompatible with Ubuntu licence policy

Paul Tansom paul at
Sun May 3 22:34:36 UTC 2015

** Jonathan Riddell <jr at> [2015-05-01 23:05]:
> This is a very significant issue for the Ubuntu community which I have
> brought up with the Ubuntu community council for a number of years now with
> no success.
> This Canonical IPRights Policy is for some reason on the
> website.
> It says "Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be
> approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate
> it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the
> Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own
> binaries."
> It confuses the issues of Trademark and distribution, which are unrelated
> issues. Nobody has a problem with restricting trading with the Ubuntu
> name.  But it claims that the binary packages are not freely
> redistributable which is incorrect with any definition of free software
> including Ubuntu's own.

I may be missing something here, but how is this a problem? It sounds similar,
but more flexible, to the way Red Hat work, and the licensing that resulted in
Centos, White Box Linux, etc.. Nothing impacting the GPL or ability to
redistribute GPL code at all.

As I read it, and I'm not a lawyer, it is only asking for approval "if you are
going to associate it with the Trademarks". You are perfectly able to do
anything the GPL allows if you "remove and replace the Trademarks", which will
in turn require you to recompile the source code and create your own binaries
as part of the process of removing the trademarks. Those packages that have no
trademarks in will, therefore, not be impacted.

So if you want to use the Canonical branding and trademarks then either get
approval or remove them, which seems fair enough. Of course if you are
redistributing a version of Ubuntu that is not modified then you have no
problems in the first place.

A grey area may be spinning an updated version of a ISO, in which case is it a
modified version of Ubuntu because you've messed with the ISO, or not since it
is all official, unmodified, Ubuntu packages? That is most likely a technical
legalese issue rather than something that anyone is likely to worry about

> From Ubuntu's licence policy:
> "Must allow modification and distribution of modified copies under the same
> licence. Just having the source code does not convey the same freedom as
> having the right to change it. Without the ability to modify software, the
> Ubuntu community cannot support software, fix bugs, translate it, or
> improve it."  which is not compatible with the restriction claimed on
> binary packages
> From the About Ubuntu page on
> "Ubuntu applications are all free and open source — so you can share them
> with anyone you like, as often as you like."  which is different from the
> restriction claimed by Canonical's policy.
> Canonical does not hold the copyright on binary packages any more than it
> does on the source packages.  Rumours that somehow running a compiler on a
> computer you own makes you a copyright holder are incorrect.  Claiming
> binaries can not be freely redistributed is an insult to the thousands of
> upstream developers who do own the copyright to the works we package and
> distribute. And of course the claim is incompatible with the GPL, a licence
> upon which we depend heavily and which we can not afford to breach.  This
> incorrect claim does affect both upstreams and their willingness to work
> with us and downstreams and their willingness to use us.  Claims that
> somehow we don't care about derivative distributions and are happy to
> restrict them are frankly scary.
> I'm at a loss on how to proceed on this matter as the community council
> seems unconcerned at the problem and Canonical is happy to carry on
> perpetrating the myth.  I'd welcome any suggestions.
> Jonathan

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** end quote [Jonathan Riddell]

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