Use of Ubuntu trademarks by derivatives (Re: Concerns)

Matt Zimmerman mdz at
Mon Jan 8 20:29:23 GMT 2007

On Wed, Dec 13, 2006 at 11:19:55PM +0100, Krzysztof Lichota wrote:
> Matt Zimmerman napisał(a):
> > The creation of derivative distributions based on Ubuntu, where the
> > trademark is respected according to our policy[1], is not only allowed, it
> > is encouraged.  If your tool makes this process easier, then everyone is
> > happy.  Thanks for your concern.
> > 
> > [1]
> This brings questions what exactly is usage of Ubuntu name. I think it
> needs clarification on this page.
> For example:
> 1. File /etc/lsb-release (from package base-files) contains name of
> distro, which is used by some tools (for example network configuration
> tools) to identify how to handle files. Also the content of this file
> (AFAIK) is displayed in console login. Should the contents of this file
> (i.e. base-files package) be replaced in derivative distro?

This is a tricky one, since the file is used both to tell the user the name
of the distribution and by programs to identify it.  The former should
change, but not the latter.  Perhaps changing DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION but not
DISTRIB_ID is the right thing to do.

> 2. Default user in live cd is "ubuntu" and hostname "ubuntu". Should
> this be changed.

I don't think it's necessary to change this, though it's very easy to do.

> 3. Ubiquity contains logo of Ubuntu/Kubuntu. Should it be removed?

Use of the logo to refer to a derivative distribution requires prior

> 4. Package names contain strings like "1.4.4-0ubuntu1". Should package
> names be changed?

No, this refers to the Ubuntu version of the package (which is the same
package being used in the derivative).

> 5. What are the rules for using "based on Ubuntu xx.xx" or "compatible
> with Ubuntu xx.xx" when advertising distro? This also brings question
> where credits to Ubuntu should be put - on main page, in docs, on CD
> cover, on CD?

"based on Ubuntu ..." requires no prior permission; this is fair use of the
trademark to refer to Ubuntu itself.

Serious inquiries should be directed to trademarks at and/or an
attorney, but informally, the rules can be easily summarized thus:

It is acceptable to use Ubuntu trademarks to refer to official Ubuntu
projects and products under provisions for fair use.  However, using them
for other purposes (for example, to refer to a derivative distribution) does
not qualify.

This is clearly exemplified by the difference between stating that your
project is "Foobar, based on Ubuntu" (fair use) and "Ubuntu Foobar"
(requires permission).

> I would also appreciate clarification if using Ubuntu archives (and
> mirrors) for derivative distros (the non-rebuilt ones, according to your
> classification) is OK or not and what are the rules.

The Ubuntu archives are a public service for anyone to use; mirror policy is
at the discretion of the operator, but these are also public as a rule.

 - mdz

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