Canonical’s IPRights Policy incompatible with Ubuntu licence policy
ambassador at fourthworld.com
Mon May 4 15:56:55 UTC 2015
This thread has taken on quite a broad scope; the original core issue
was stated by Mr. Riddell as:
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
They would be unrelated if the binaries contained no Ubuntu trademarks,
but as we know the name "Ubuntu" and the registered logo occur
frequently throughout many components of the distro.
Moreover, that clause explicitly invites everyone to use the sources to
make any build they want as long as it contains no registered
trademarks, which seems consistent with the sort of proactive support of
GPL principles we've seen from Mr. Shuttleworth, Ms. Silber, and the
others at Canonical.
Many large FOSS projects embrace the GPL while also enforcing their
trademarks, and for good reason: If I were to redistribute a modified
Ubuntu, it simply wouldn't be Ubuntu.
At best my custom build could cause confusion among people seeking to
enjoy Ubuntu, and at worst my distribution may contain malware or other
components completely at odds with the goals of the project, causing
irreparable harm to the brand everyone on the project has worked so hard
I'm obliged to note that I'm not an attorney, just an active supporter
of the Ubuntu platform like the other participants here. Given that, I
recognize that there may be some nuance here which might be meaningful
to an attorney, but frankly to this layperson the existing wording seems
FWIW, as a community supporter of Ubuntu I've written Canonical's legal
department several years ago requesting permission to use their
trademarks periodically on web sites and event promotional materials
where it may be relevant, noting that in all cases I would make a
reasonable good faith effort to present their trademarks in a positive
light. They replied within just a couple days granting permission for
use as I had described it.
I would imagine the good folks at System 76 have requested and received
similar permission, more relevant here since as I understand it they
actually distribute a slightly modified Ubuntu, including some custom
drivers and/or other components not found in the build obtainable at
Similar arrangements have likely been made with Intel, ZaReason, Asus,
Dell, and others who distribute Ubuntu in a form which may be different
from the official downloadable version.
Given the large and thankfully ever-growing number of OEMs shipping
devices with Ubuntu preinstalled, it would seem the legal team at
Canonical has been doing a good job keeping up with granting trademark
But if the request is for blanket permission to use Canonical's
trademarks in contexts not yet defined, it shouldn't be surprising that
such an unusual request would take more time to consider.
In the meantime, anyone who wants to make their own fork of any
GPL-governed project remains completely free to do so. Just pick a new
name for the new project, and there would seem no conflict at all.
Fourth World Systems
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