• Chris Beard is VP of Marketing and Product Management for Mozilla Corporation.


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Mozilla, Trademarks and Debian

Recently there have been a number of discussion group postings, etc., about disagreements between Mozilla and Debian over the issue of the Firefox trademark and how it can be used. I wanted to address the issues that people have raised, and explain why we've taken the approach we have.

First, let’s state the topic clearly.  The question is:  how much can Debian, or anyone else, change Firefox and still call it Firefox? The question is not how much Debian or anyone else can change the application – Debian and others can modify, delete and add features as they choose.  The question is whether that different program can be distributed as “Firefox.”

Our approach to answering this question is based on several factors. One is empowering community and distribution activities. Another is having the Firefox name and logos be reliable indicators of what the program is and does for you, regardless of where you obtained it. Another is being able to stop bad actors who use the Firefox name for their own malicious purposes.

Our balance has been to allow a small set of changes to Firefox, particularly in the areas of packaging and default settings. For example, Linux distributions in particular have a set of requirements in order for them to properly integrate software like Firefox into their distributions and therefore need to make a fair number of changes to the underlying source code.  In practice, we generally approve those changes to Firefox that are minimally required to support the operating environment and that do not change the user experience, security and/or Web compatibility profile. We have been actively working to ensure that all licensed and authorized derivations bearing the Firefox name and logo maintain these characteristics. We presently have working relationships with most of the major Linux distributions, including Red Hat, Novell, and Ubuntu.

We do not allow the use of the Firefox names and logos with different product features, functions, or with different security patches.   We do this so that everyone – both the people using Firefox and the community creating, updating and supporting Firefox – know what people get when they install “Firefox.”  We also do this so that the ongoing development and testing process work for all Firefox distributions; this is not possible if different distributions have significantly different code.  We also blanace community interests through a wide range of ways to express support for Firefox.

We share a lot in common with in how Debian currently manages their own reputation through trademark law, and we recognize the Debian concern that neither party's current approach is completely compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

So we regret that it appears Debian won't be shipping something called "Firefox"; however given the particular circumstances around Firefox (as noted above) we don't believe that abandoning our current policy is an option for us. At the same time we're always open to suggestions as to how we might improve our current practices in ways that are still consistent with our overall goals.

The full text of Mozilla's trademark and licensing policy is posted at http://www.mozilla.org/licensing/

My comments to clarify some common misunderstandings. (10/11/06)


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I'd like to add that Firefox is not the first program getting into arguments with linux distributions.

The cdrecord package got so whacked by distros that the author declined to support it further, see his side of the world (or fragments of that) on http://cdrecord.berlios.de/old/private/cdrecord.html. Went through the press in Germany quite a bit, not sure how it's on the other side of the ocean.

Anyway, with the growing spread of FOSS, linux distros are increasingly forced to get their act together, and either fork a project, or not. Instead of forking happily and dropping the support requests on the original authors.

The right to keep the name of a derivative program is almost as important as the right to make a derivation in the first place.

The point of being able to making a derivation of a program is to make it fit your needs and the needs of other users better.

"grep" is a useful tool by itself, as are most of the basic Unix tools enshrined in the POSIX standard. From the command line, these tools allow you accomplish a huge variety of tasks which I'm sure I don't need to go into here. The right to modify grep, to fix bugs, to add new features, and to share these improvements with your neighbour, is freedom 3 as defined by the Free Software Definition.

However, individual programs do not exist in a vacuum. "grep" - as you are probably aware - is not only invoked directly from the command line; it is also a vital component of the shell script toolbox, one of things that makes Unix OSs so powerful.

Now imagine if, when improving grep, you had to make your program under another name. Say, "mygrep". Yes, you could fix bugs, and share these with your neighbour, as GPL is intended to let you do. What would be the point? You've got tens, hundreds (maybe thousands?) of shell scripts on your system that use grep, but none of them can take advantage of your bug fixes as they all call "grep", and not "mygrep".

"grep", and the rest of the POSIX toolbox, might be a contrived example. POSIX tools have to be given a particular name, that's defined by the standard, they are generic names already. OK, what about libxml? libkdecore? What's the point of having the ability to fix and share fixes to the core of kde if no-one else can use them with the rest of their KDE system, as the rest of their system is not going to work with libmykdecore? Those are libraries - that also might be too contrived. What about another web browser, like "links". "links -dump" is pretty useful - what if you had other programs relying on that, either in shell scripts, or even something like a filter for a GUI text editor that takes a URL, does "links -dump" and inserts the result into your text document?

What's the point of being able to fix bugs and share those fixes if no-one can use your modifications without having to track down every place in the rest of their system where that program might have been used, and all the places in each new bit of software they get that might use the program, before those changes can take effect?

Heck, what about Firefox? One of the great things about Firefox is the extension mechanism. I'm using over 10 extensions in FF now, and they all rule, and I wouldn't want to use FF without them.

FF extensions are FF-version specific. 1.0 extensions needed updating for 1.5, and I'm pretty sure 1.5 extensions won't work with 1.0 or the upcoming 2.0. So, all extensions do version checks. If Debian are forced to change the name of FF to apply integration fixes, but extensions do, say, a version check to match the regex "^Firefox 1\.5\..*" and Iceweasel returns "Iceweasel", then the extension might refuse to work. So although the extension might be otherwise completely compatible with Iceweasel, the requirement to change the name of the program could make other programs that depend on that program stop working.

What about X programs that look through windows lists and do things based on window titles? Suddenly that KWin "Disable focus stealing prevention for Firefox" option might not work so well.

How useful are your bugfixes now? Are they worth all the other stuff you've just broken? Do you *know* everything you've broken yet?

Program names are important because they're meaninful to more than just people. Without being able to keep them constant, the power of the right to make changes and share them with your neighbour is so greatly reduced, in some cases it becomes pointless.

Adam, you don't understand. Mozilla Corporation gained lots of trust by providing a high-quality application. It took years. Now people come to expect this quality from Firefox. And there are processes in place to make sure that this level of quality can be provided by MoCo. But what about Debian? Can they guarantee the same quality level? Maybe. Or maybe not. Who can't tell? Fact is, if Debian developers or even downstream developers screw up - who will get the blame? Who will loose the trust that was so difficult to earn? Right, Mozilla Corporation. And I can fully understand the decision that Mozilla Corporation cannot be responsible for the changes performed by Debian. If Debian needs to do the changes it should rename the product and remove the trademarks - so that it is a Debian product, Debian is doing support and Debian is responsible for anything that fails.

As to your examples of how the name is essential - they are all flawed. Firefox is not grep, it isn't a common library either. Any application that depends on the name deserves to be broken - since the same application will not work correctly with Bon Echo, Minefield or Flock, even though these aren't essentially different from Firefox. There is even a browser called lolifox if want to go exotic.

That's also the reason why no extension will break if the name of the application changes. Most extensions have been tested in either Bon Echo or Minefield (nightly builds) and don't rely on names. Version checking is done by the extension manager that identifies the application by its GUID, no names.

Adam, your example of extensions is demonstrating the problem very well: what happens if some code changes by Debian are altering the way extensions work and the compatibility of extensions? People would try to install extensions from addons.mozilla.org (seeing this is the "official" extension website for Firefox) and they would rightfully be annoyed if it doesn't work with the Debian-version of Firefox - you could ask whether Firefox without working extensions would still be Firefox...
Besides this, trademark law _requires_ Mozilla Corporation to take some measures in order to protect their tratdemarks. Yes, that's annoying, but hardly anything you can avoid without changing the law (good luck!) or not using trademarks at all. If you have no trademark to define your product, it's really hard to build a successfull brand, like Mozilla has done with Firefox.

"it's really hard to build a successfull brand, like Mozilla has done with Firefox."

Careful. It is indeed really hard to build a successful brand. While you guys might argue internally that MoCo was the cause, and fan activity a mere effect, you would be well advised to keep that view to yourselves. In contrast, I think a good case could be made that it's the fans that did most of the brand building; that the key factor in that fan force was its open source spirit; and that MoCo is in debt to the open source community. Treat the brand as a MoCo asset, "spiritually" speaking, at your (and our) deep peril.

Yeah, I guess that building a good brand, releasing a high-quality product, protecting a trademark and making sure that downstream changes don't overburden you with irrelevant bug reports are incompatible with Free Software.

Which is why KDE, Gnome, the Linux kernel, MySQL, Python, etc... all have the same problems. Oh, no, they don't.

Hey, maybe it is just them. Maybe you guys are the only people with competent legal counsel, and all the legal experts belonging to all those other projects have got it wrong, and releasing 99+% of the exact same code with a few minor changes will turn "Firefox" into a generic term for "Web browser".

Look, if you don't want people to change the name of the product, then you could put that in the License. You wouldn't be the first - the Latex Project Public License has such a clause. It's even a Free Software license according to the FSF.

If you don't want to release Free Software, that's fine too. No-one's making you. But you've put Mozilla and Firefox under the GPL, the whole *point* of which is to give it's users certain Freedoms, such as the ability to make their own bugfixes and enhancements, and to make those bugfixes and enhancements available to anyone else *as a drop-in replacement for the original*.

(Yes, Iceweasel *might* screw up extensions. My alterations to grep *might* screw it, and a bunch of scripts that rely on it, up. But that shouldn't stop me being *able* to make those alterations available)

You decided to release Mozilla and Firefox under the GPL of your own free will. No-one forced you. But you guys are the ones adding extra restrictions here that almost no other Free Software project - trademarked or no - is. *You* are the odd ones out. Don't get surprised if people who know the GPL expect certain rights from software licensed under it, and have a hard time figuring out why they can't treat this particular GPLd product the same as all the others.

Maybe you should stop releasing under the GPL/LGPL. That would clear up a lot of confusion.

> Which is why KDE, Gnome, the Linux kernel, MySQL, Python, etc... all have the same problems. Oh, no, they don't.

Hmm, of all users http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp 27.3% use Firefox compared to 3.5% which use Linux (I would assume that Gnome/KDE share 90% of these), so it is obvious that they must protect their Trademark more than others .

It should be kept in mind that none of these entities allow usage of their trademark for anything harming their reputation, something the Debian browser incorrectly dupped Firefox does...

> That would clear up a lot of confusion.
There is no confusion except for those people that can't read: http://lxr.mozilla.org/mozilla/source/configure#123

Odd, I thought that you had to protect *every* abuse of trademarks that you were aware of, not just selective ones if you didn't think you had enough market share to be important.

And although 60+% of web /servers/ run Linux, and a not insignificant proportion of those will be running MySQL, your argument still doesn't address those organisations.

Still, I'm sure you're right and "Linux" is on its way to becoming a generic term for "operating system kernel" and "MySQL" is similarly becoming synonymous with "DBMS".

IMO, it's a pity that the Free version is going to be called Iceweasel. My vote was for Freefox.

I'm not a guy at MoCo and I'm fully aware that support from fans has a huge part in the success of Firefox. It wasn't my intent to paint this as a MoCo only succeess:-)

You are still free to enjoy all the freedoms the GPL provides. All MoCo asks you (as I understand it) is to not use their trademarked name and artwork if you make substantial changes. This sounds completely reasonable to me. The fact that you can fork it and give it a new name shows that the fundamentals of free software are not affected.

So... why is it in Ubuntu you don't see the firefox logo...just the globe part? I have the real one on Windows and on Mac... even SuSe has one I think...

Debian is dead anyway, at least in desktop terms. It's now the equivalent of a highly sophisticated DOS where Debuntian is now the Windows 95 shell.

I agree with MoFoCo completely. If I want to run Firefox, I should be able to download and run it the same on all platforms.

> Odd, I thought that you had to protect *every* abuse of trademarks that you were aware of, not just selective ones if you didn't think you had enough market share to be important.

Yes, but the point is that there is no one wanting these trademarks, otherwise they would already have lost it.

Adam, I see what you mean. It would be a shame if someone wrote an improved version of such a ubiquitous tool like "more" and decided to call it something else, like "less."

Wait a minute...

Extensions> No, I'm not. I'm not free to make as limited set of changes as I wish, such as changing one bit of code that does auto-updates, and not changing the bit of code that says 'char const * product_name = "Firefox";'.

The name of a product is code. It is entirely defined by code just as much as any other string literal or bit of functionality. If you don't believe me, try changing the name of Firefox without changing any of the code that says "Firefox". Alternatively, try changing every bit of code that says "Firefox" to something else, say "RandomBrowser", and claiming the resulting browser is not called "Firefox".

Mozilla has granted me, via paragraph 2 of the GPL, the right to make whatever changes I choose to Firefox's code, and to redistribute those changes to whoever I choose, subject to a few very limited exceptions. None of those exceptions say anything remotely like "you must, at the request of the author, change some bits of text when you make other completely unrelated changes, if the author decides they don't like those changes". In fact, such a clause would be almost antithetical to the ideas behind the GPL.

That Mozilla choose to use an unrelated set of laws (i.e. Trademark) to remove this right/add this restriction (that a non-author would be forbidden from doing under section 6) that is otherwise granted by the GPL is, well, ... self-contradictory? Hypocritical? Certainly weird.

And I can't use a forked version as a drop-in replacement for FF, as many of the extensions which make FF rock so goddamn much may not work if they do a compatibility check that includes the product name as well as version. I figure that to make sure that they're either running on Mozilla 1.8.0+ or Firefox 1.5.0+, they pretty much have to do this. So, guess what, I'm also pretty sure they won't work with Iceweasel.

In which case I lose AdBlock, the Web Developer toolbar, Cookie Button, Named anchors, Tab preview, Resizeable textarea, Link Widgets, etc..., and may as well just use Konqueror instead.

Kelson> No, it would have been a shame if they didn't have the *option* of calling it "more".


You have some serious misunderstanding here. You can change any portion of the source code (as long as it is legal) and even redistribute it, mozilla for example has still many source references to Phoenix ( http://lxr.mozilla.org/mozilla/search?string=phoenix ) and Firebird.

What you are not allowed to, is to claim that it, nor the resulting product, is Firefox (neither would you be allowed to call it Debian Browser or Internet Explorer, unless you are the Trademark holder). The same applies to Konqueror or any other application...

> "you must, at the request of the author, change some bits of text when you make other completely unrelated changes, if the author decides they don't like those changes"
No one has asked for such. By default compiling firefox produces a trademark-free unbranded browser (Debian itself doesn't have such a mechanism). Debian has chosen to modify the code in such a way that the resulting application makes trademark infringements and Mozilla asked them to stop doing it.

> much may not work if they do a compatibility check that includes the product name as well as version.
There isn't such a check as you've been told already, and even if it were you could simply modify the application to allow those anyway.

*double checks*

Sorry - I misread the explanation of how extensions check for product versions first time through. Must have been in too much of a rush to reply to the other parts of that post. Thanks for the clarification.

As for whether other producers allow derivative works of the same name - I'm pretty sure I'm right about that, but I'm doing some digging into it. Will post findings if I get any...

I don't think it would be much of a problem to tell Extensions they're loaded up on "Firefox x.y" while displaying the string "Iceweasel x.y-zz" on screen. IANAL but I don't think you have much of a chance to prevent that legally. The same thing has btw been mulled over by the ReactOS people (www.reactos.com) who are building a binary compatible WNT-W2k-XP compatible OS. They have to include Strings like "Microsoft" or "Windows" in their system for example because of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Microsoft registry key a lot of Windows software expects to be there. As far as the name "Iceweazel" goes I would call it Brennender Fuchs der ueber den faulen Hund steigt 1.5, but sigh, they didn't go for that.

Is the Community Edition Policy a reasonable compromise?


I would just like to point out a few things. Calling your program "Iceweasel" does not mean that you can't make the program be labeled as something else for compatibility purposes. What would be wrong with using a program named "firefox-bin" to run Iceweasel? If the program itself doesn't identify as firefox, I don't see what problem there would be with a situation like that.

For a group such as Debian, couldn't you just give them a license to use the trademark in good faith? Their aims are simply to provide the best version of firefox that they can, without changing the essence of it. I'm sure the two groups can come to an understanding that if Debian packages something inappropriately they'd have to rectify the situation on pain of losing the courtesy license.

I understand the need to keep the trademark safe, but I'm sure you can extend a little more trust to Debian than you'd extend to J.Random malware author.

I'm unclear on why you can't just grant a blanket revocable trademark license to derivative works, with the condition that any changes that the Mozilla Foundation believe to be excessive will result in the revocation of the trademark license? My (vague) understanding of trademark law is that it's not a problem for lots of derivatives to be using the trademark providing those uses are all licensed. In general, it seems that even a fairly token effort at enforcement is sufficient to prevent genericide - which is presumably what you're actually worried about.

Joshua, that would be a trademark violation -- that's what would be wrong with that.

It would seem to me that the Mozilla organization in releasing Firefox under the GPL intentionally has forfeited the trademark rights it claims on its web site. Further, that even a registered trademark is worthless in the face of releasing Firefox under the GPL.

But wait! IANAL. Maybe the mozilla folks should ask SCO how things are going.

Why THE HELL don't Debian & Ubuntu just use the pretty Firefox logos?

I have never understood why they change it to that Blue Globe.

I agree with Mozilla on this, different logos and icons are confusing for end users!


Debian couldn't use the logos because they are not free; nobody is allowed to modify them.

The whole point of Debian is to create a distribution of software which the user can freely modify, so the non-free logos are right out.

Just to make sure everyone is clear on this, a Firefox extension specifies declaratively what application(s) it can be installed in. That declaration looks like this:


(just pretend that's xml, this comment form is too clever for it's own good)

In fact, it's actually impossible for an extension to use any other type of check at install time to see if it can be installed, so there are no extensions for Firefox that check the actual name of the browser. No javascript code in the extension runs at install time.

The Debian people probably won't change the guid associated with their app, so extensions will still work (provided the don't actually make any changes that make their browser incompatible with Firefox.) I suppose you could argue that this would be a form of trademark violation, but I don't think anyone will care at that point.

Also, according to the Debian Free Software guidelines, Debian would not be able to accept a license for the trademarks from the Mozilla Foundation unless that license were available to everyone under the same terms, which means that the Foundation cannot give Debian a license without completely changing their trademark policy.


I could change the entire firefox product to do nothing at all, leaving only one or two lines of original code, would that still be Firefox?

I can hear your arguements now.
"That's just stupid" - Yep.
"You have to draw the line somewhere" - Yep.
So the question is not whether or not anyopne is allowed to do it, but when does the result become a different product. Using your mygrep example, if you change it to the point were other scripts stop working then there is no way you could call it grep.

MD: So where exactly does trademark violation start?

Can I put "alias firefox=iceweasel" into my .bashrc without being sued? I think so.

Can I put up instructions on my website saying how to run firefox^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hiceweasel from the command line by typing firefox?

Can I provide a script which adds that to my .bashrc as part of my distro?

Can I call iceweasel firefox in the KDE/Gnome menus in my distro?

If I can't do that, can I supply a script which makes the change?

If not, how is that different from writing some useful instructions on a website?

Can I make the script run as part of the package installation?

Can I call the iceweasel package firefox in dselect?

It isn't about the logo - the logo is just the lever to prevent Debian from patching older versions in stable. Mozilla is not interested in supporting their older browsers and also does not want Debian from coming out with a security patch before they do. Firefox is no longer Free(as in Freedom) software.

Lots of misinformation on this issue.

It's not about the logos. It's about security. If the Mozilla Corporation favors Windows over Linux and delays releasing available security fixes for Linux until it can release on all platforms, the free software community needs the ability to do patches immediately.

If it weren't for the Mozilla Corporation's control-freak policy, this would not be a problem: the distros would regularly re-sync with new releases and all would be well. But by insisting on total control, it appears that forking is going to happen.

What will be interesting is what happens next: will other distros unify around Iceweasel?

Nice summary of your previous paragraph there Karl!

The only thing I have to say is that to me the trademark thing seems unnecessary. Lots of open source projects seem to maintain a good name without limiting customised versions to a different name.

I don't think the policy is wrong, I'm just not sure it's necessary.

What is surprising to me is that other distributers aren't grouping together and coming up with a decent name of their own which they can together establish as a recognisable name.

In the long run establishing a competing "mark" would probably hurt Mozilla.org's "name value" more than allowing people to use the trademark more freely. If every disto maker used [commonname] then Firefox would be a name largely associated only with Windows (which is obviously not an insignificant market but all the same...).

Copyright (which GPL addresses) laws are NOT the same as Trademark laws. Don't pre-suppose that the GPL overrides Trademark law in the U.S.

The problem is the (debian) license language that makes mixing free and non-free elements in a distribution an issue.

What is needed in lots of places (say video drivers, vertical market hardware interfaces/drivers, embedded systems, etc.) is a distribution license that allows free elements and non-free items (clearly partitioned and marked) to be installed from a single distribution set of media.

I'd think that a late binding/configuration lash-up to apply non-free items onto an otherwise free installation (under user consent) would protect the interests of all.

And yes, the globe only logo was made for distributions that are NOT to be marked with the Trademarked name or logo for "Firefox". I produced similar artwork (calendar only) for the "free" version of Mozilla Sunbird. As both the producer of the Sunbird logo and Mozilla software user, I support not corrupting verified versions of trademarked software. If you change the software, call it something else if the degree of change is determined by the trademark owners to be too great to have your derivative work ride on the coattails of there well known intellectual property.

This is getting to be ridiculous. There is no great mozilla anti-linux conspiracy, there is no desire to restrain debian from backporting changes to stable (even if they do it in a stupid and broken way) MOZILLA DOESN'T CARE IF YOU DO THAT. What they do care about is that if you want to call it firefox, and still make significant changes to the base line browser that you use the "unbranded" browser a feature available at compile time that debian in an act whose irony is not lost on me patched the browser in such a way the prevent this from working!

To give us all a little perspective I've collected a few links to other Open Source packages who have similar trademark policies to Mozilla in this regard.






So I propose that people take a look at these and recognize that all these large packages protect their marks in the same way, and as such debian needs to treat their marks in the same way (not to mention their own official marks).

Maybe... just maybe the problem isn't in mozilla's turf, is that inconceivable?

/ What they do care about is that if you want to call it firefox, and still make significant changes to the base line browser that you use the "unbranded" browser a feature available at compile time /

That being the case, I think it's quite reasonable for Mozilla to keep exclusive rights to their trademarks. (As long as the unbranded browser has the same functionality.)

/ To give us all a little perspective I've collected a few links to other Open Source packages who have similar trademark policies to Mozilla in this regard. /

I'll also add AbiWord

I think the real problem is that issues with trademarks and the GPL haven't been very well thought out in general.

If there was an agreement on a consistent way of seperating out trademarked branding from free unbranded GPL source, then everyone would be absolutely clear on what parts are free, and what parts are trademarks.

/ Maybe... just maybe the problem isn't in mozilla's turf, is that inconceivable? /

Actually, come to think of it though, the difference between Mozilla and the other cases mentioned is (I think) that Mozilla is claiming trademark on the whole icon set, whereas the others are generally just claiming a name and logo. I think it's Debian's objection to the trademark on the icon set that started the dispute, and I can see their point on that.

A trademark on a name and logo is necessary and important, but a trademark on a whole icon is just overkill.

Alex: about cdrecord, the way I remember it was that Schilling wanted parts to be GPL and other parts to be CDDL - which just doesn't work, even from this layperson's point of view.

The flamewars with the various distro maintainers were IIRC actually about them adding in some missing support for DVDs or something which Schilling wanted to charge for (and so obviously didn't want them maintaing sets of patchs to provide that gratis).

it`s a simple problem of trust, Debian must trust Mozilla, Mozilla must trust Debian, if you start with good faith you can solve the simple problem between a cofee or two, not with a new silly name for the same browser.

The Ego of the developers it`s the problem, can you be more... adult? open? free?

open your mind guys, please, this is a win for M$ and other propietary software... c'mon!

This is simple: no need to think about the wider issues, just look at this particular example and you immediately see the reasons.

How many of the commenters here have actually used the Debian-patched version of Firefox?
It's so unstable i have to install the one from mozilla.org to view several sites without crashing.

I happen to know this is because debian broke firefox, so i can go and get another version.
Random-user isn't going to know this. They are going to whine about it and drag Firefox's name through the mud on the internet, or at best waste people's time with bogus bug reports.

I could rant all day about how the maintainers of certain Debian packages need shooting in the head, but that's not the point. They should be able to fuck things up all they want, that's the beauty of open source.
But to pass off the result as being the same as the upstream? Not even with an indicator of the applied patches? Err... no.

Someone mentioned CDrecord... similar thing there. It just so happens that the author of cdrtools is a dickhead, so i kind of sympathise with the debian maintainers... however, it also so happens that the debian version of cdrecord routinely fails on me, whereas the upstream version doesn't [/anecdote].

Just to point out, ``sendmail'' is trademarked and the name of a program, yet every MTA I've worked with (qmail, exim, postfix) has provided a sendmail command for compatibility purposes. Another example, GNU nano sets up a symlink for the trademark pico. I'm sure there are more.

Similarly, IceWeasel should be able to---if necessary for compatibility with existing scripts---automatically setup symlinks from firefox to iceweasel.

In my institution, Debian was the first OS that had firefox installed. To be honest, Debian users did the 'preaching' and converted *all* the Windows IE users to Firefox (this is over 300 Firefox installations).

Understanding the power of those (Debian) users, will they convert all Windows users to Iceweasel? They have the power, not Mozilla. No commercial can beat your local's sysadmin advice.

Mozilla responded to this problem very bad and they are the only one to loose. Marking it as 'Debian Firefox' wouldn't harm no one.

Mozilla don't forget! It's not MoCo that created the brand. It's the community. Once when you attack community, community will fight back. And, ATM, there aren't many world-wide companies that can fight with community.

MoCo was created *after* community made Firefox succesfull. Right? And this is what community gets back?


The situation you describe of reworking a core utility doesn't work, since a simple mechanism exists to handle point any calls to 'grep' to a new location.

As an example: both vi and vim can coexist on a Linux system. Rather than have to remember to type vim, I simply rename vi and create a softlink from vi to vim, thus bypassing the whole issue. Saves a keystroke, even.

The similarity is that grep or Firefox can certainly be rewritten and handled in the same manner, so long as there is a certain level of functionality.

The difference is that changes to grep are restricted by social convention only. There is no legal requirement that grep functions a certain way.

The same cannot be said for Firefox. In order for a program to be called Firefox, the code has to meet additional trademark requirements. Otherwise, it's not Firefox.

Sure, the Mozilla Foundation could make an exception. But once you give an inch, eventually you have to give a mile and suddenly, the Firefox name is worthless as a name unto itself. The Mozilla Foundation has to defend the name each and every time or they lose the right to use the name exclusively for their product.

Ultimately, it's not a fairness issue, it's an issue of law, which is not always fair, in practice, no matter how much you may wish it to be.

Before anyone goes too far, step in my shoes for a second.

So my company develops a product called 'X'.

X is awesome and works under Firefox 1.5.0.y (all y versions). We've even tested it against Windows, Mac and Linux builds of Firefox.

All of a sudden we get reports that X doesn't work under Linux. Further investigation shoes us that it doesn't work under Debian distributions.

Investigating even more we realize that Debian has a 'different' version of firefox, or put in a different way, they 1.5.0.y version of firefox is different from what you get from mozilla.org.

Besides the changes, it's even binary incompatible (different lib versions) from the mozilla.org version.

So I then explain to my customers that the debian Firefox is actually not a 'real' version of firefox 1.5.0.y, it's 'different', even though the version and name are the same.

This is my company! I can't even imagine the pain Mozilla.or goes through with this.

If I buy a VW bug, then replace a bunch of parts with non VW parts, and sell it to you. It's only fair I tell you what that parts are and that your 'bug' is actually a modified bug, before it breaks on you, and your stuck in the desert trying to figure out why the german VW parts you have don't fit in it.

This trademark policy is retarded. This hasn´t been a problem for other FOSS projects so why would it be for firefox?

Looks like the problem with Debian (as seen by Mozilla) is this:
1. they don't use the "official" icons (because those icons are not DFSG compliant)
2. they don't submit all their code changes to Firefox to be reviewed by Mozilla
Now the second "problem" seen by Mozilla Foundation seems to negate the right to freely change the code and redistribute granted by the GPL.
Also, I don't think any of the other entities in the FOSS world that have trademarks on their brands (products) have similar requirements (especilly the second requirement), so comparing them to MoCo is not fair at all.
I also use Debian unstable with their version of Firefox at home, and Mandrake with the Mozilla distribution of Firefox at work, and I don't see any differences (from a user point of view), except the different icons being used and the move of Debian installed extensions/themes configurations out of the reach of my normal user account.

So Mozilla wants to protect it Brand and Public mage. By alienating Debian Users (most of which are highly skilled and influential) they will gain the opposite. "Iceweasel" will become a running gag, making fun of Mozilla in perpetuality.

the article at http://enterprise.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/10/09/1434251&tid=41 says:
This sounds a bit pathetic and no links to the mailing list is provided, but if it's true, Mozilla people are quite agressive (threatening Debian with jeopardising their next release) with their not so reasonable requests.

Call it F1R3F0X ?

Mozilla is getting to be more like a kernel maintainer. But instead of a kernel it's something important, like their exclusive right to sell firefox t-shirts.

I think the mozilla foundation/corporation/group-of-huggy-bears is missing an important key concept here: When a distributor packages a program or set of programs, then it is the user's duty and responsibility to hold the package maintainer responsible -- not the original vendor. This is the case with *any* distribution. If my debian/ubuntu/suse/oddball-linux-distro-of-the-week package for program foo breaks, I can't hold the original programmer of foo responsible. That's like a consumer holding the producer of fresh goods bound and wrapped with a store logo responsible -- as soon as someone else wraps it up, it becomes their responsibility, especially if said wrapping process may involve any change. The wrapper may contact the producer and communicate about known issues, but that person still holds the ropes.

It's been like that for ages in Debian -- if you're crazy enough to use the current testing branch, and something breaks, that's a debian maintainer's problem. If KDE falls over, I don't go moan to the KDE team -- it's not their doing. Same goes with any package, inclusive of Mozilla Firefox.

Some other thoughts: from using debian for ages, I know that packages that make it into stable are rock solid. The mozilla dev team can only stand to benefit from the patches that the debian developers submit. And why not release the artwork under a less restrictive license? What's so bad about doing that? I can rip the images from anywhere anyway, and do what I like with them -- it's not like you can "hide" your images by "compiling" them. What do you have to gain by not opening up your artwork? Except that when I want to find a nice icon for a launcher toolbar to launch Firefox, I have to go hunting on the 'net. Granted, I get it, but I had to do some work. Why? Why can't I just get them, for free, as in speech and beer, when I get Firefox?

I'm sure that the debian developers would approach the patch submission concept a lot better if the mozilla team could just recognise their licensing requirements. How about a dual license? It wouldn't be the first time.

I just find it ridiculous that I will have to call my browser by another name, and make debian for newbies more difficult, just because people can't look at the simple bottom line: if we don't work together, everyone loses. There are a host of potential issues that arise from a namechange (which I agree with), as pointed out by authors above.

And guess what? If Iceweasel should fall on it's face, Firefox will still get the gun. Why? Because I'm not the only person who puts a lot of trust in the debian stable branch. I would naturally assume that the problem lay with the upstream author anyway. I wouldn't make it their problem (for reasons stated above), but I would know where it came from.

Hi! I haven't managed to read all the comments, so excuse me, if I'm repeating an idea... But I think Adam's got a point with the application's name...

Why not leave the name intact, since most of the functionality (and bugs, and compatibility issues, if any) is still the sole responsibility of MoCo developers, but require Debian to create an additional disclaimer, that in case something is wrong with Firefox shipped with Debian, it's Debian to be asked first. I'm sure they're capable of finding out whether it is them, who had screwed it up (if they did)...

I'm not a member of Debian or Mozilla Corp., but I feel deeply concerned about the future of these two projects. And I believe my solution might be constructive and reasonable...

mihai: it's even worse than that, one year ago, the Debian maintainer had quietly reached an agreement on the trademark problem with MoCo's Gerv Markham. The MoCo are now renegating their own word, in an attempt to use the nearness of the release to force Debian to accept new conditions. Debian have no other choice than change the name because the MoCo folks cannot be trusted.

The way I figure it the answer to have a way to differentiate 'Official' Firefox from 'Unofficial' firefox-derived versions.

Also this would allow users who want to install firefox besides the distro-supplied ones.

So say you make Firefox official be 'Firefox' executable with 'Firefox' directory system and such and this ONLY be aviable from your website and official mirrors.

The Firefox icon and other associated things would ONLY be aviable with the binary installers you get from your website and official mirrors.

All Mozilla trademarks, all Firefox trademarks and icons and such should be removed from the source code tarball to avoid confusion for neophite developers wanting to use the code.

In the place of 'Official Firefox and Mozilla' icons should be icons that resemble the official ones, but are noticably different.

These should still be trademarked, but they should be allowed for firefox derivatives.

Also it gives products based on XUL and other Mozilla technologies to be able to put a icon representing that on their box art, if you think that is a good idea. Maybe a way to generate more interest for Mozilla beyond being a slick browser.

Like for instance have the Fox on the other side of the earth icon an be a blue color or a green color instead of a red color.

Or like my epiphany icon has a arrow over it. Have your derived firefox icon be grayer with a IE-style swirl or pointer on top of it. Some symbol overlaid on the firefox one.

Something like that. Were people can see it and understand 'Oh, that's a firefox icon, but it's not the ones from Mozilla's website, that's odd'

The executables shouldn't be 'Firefox', they should be 'ffox-something' which the -something being whatever the end user chooses.

Like Debian may want:
ffox-debian of ffox-x86-dfsg-gnu-linux-debian or something like that.

In the "about" information from the help menu it should be obvious that's a Debian product, not a Mozilla one although it can be obviously based on Mozilla.

I don't know how exactly how to work that out. But don't have the firefox icon there. Encourage people to put their own trademark on there. Since it's Debian modified, why not have the Debian swirl?

If somebody wants to make a custom icon based on yours then they can have a nice way of getting it approved by you first.

So on and so thing.

In conclusion the idea is just to have something as identifiable as 'mozilla-derived' or 'based on mozilla firefox browser code' or whatnot in the icons and information and executables and such but do it in a such away that it gives people pause so they know that it's not realy a Mozilla Firefox product.

Then if people want to use the official Firefox stuff they can be official 'associates' or whatnot and you can continue with the current policy of reviewing modifications.

Also, of course, having the namespaces different allows end users to more easily run to Mozilla.org and download the firefox installer and use that instead of the distro's package management system as new users coming from Windows tend to do.

Something has gone off the tracks, and I think I know what it is. We've got lawyers looking out for "the best interests of end users". When can I install Iceweasel?

There appears to be some confusion here. Mozilla works with a wide range of distributors to license the Firefox trademarks, allowing for changes to fit within operating environments and security models, and we worked to do this with Debian as well.

We also suggested that Mozilla would provide a license for an exception, such as "Firefox for Debian" or "Firefox, Debian Edition". We've done this before, and will do it again, for various distributors and communities.

Unfortunately, Debian was unable to do this due to the DFSG and the incompatibility with trademarks. More specifically, the clauses around derivative rights and not having a license specific to Debian. (Note that this situation is similar to the one Debian faces with their own downstream distributors and the Debian trademark.)

Copyright and trademark law serve distinct purposes and finding a balance for Open Source is complex. We believe that we're on the right path (and are constantly reviewing and making adjustments as necessary), in openly licensing the source code to the products, protecting the project's trademarks while balancing community interests, and doing so all within a public benefit and non-profit structure.

I'll attempt to reply to more specific comments shortly.

Fuck Debian. This is just another way for that particular community to try to push their communistic ideals on their user base. All they do is bitch bitch bitch about how they want things to be their way and their way only, otherwise they chastize you for being "dumb". The _linux_kernel_itself_ isn't truly free either (some will argue), so you what're they going to do.. use Hurd? Damn hypocrites.

I agree that something has gone off the rails here. I think, in this instance, it's Debian's refusal to bow to real world issues of trademark law.

It's a good thing to stand by your principles, but the specific actions by Debian look childish and unprincipled.

It won't hurt them any, but in the future I will have to recommend something other than a Debian-based Linux distribution, if they continue down this path.

>>The MoCo are now renegating
>>their own word, in an
>>attempt to use the nearness
>>of the release to force
>> Debian to accept new conditions.

B.S. They arn't renegating, instead they have listened to users complaints regarding the debian version (which is slow, buggy and incompatible), and have decided that the next release of Debian either needs to have;

1) A official build from mozilla.org
2) A custom build that mozilla.org has reviewed the patches on, and will do so for future releases
3) Call it something different to not confuse users and developers who can't figure out why they extensions and plugins are broken.

If I create a product called "Bob's X machine", you then take that product and change it, causing it to be worse, slow and buggy, I'll email your sorry ass and ask you to please remove my name 'Bob' from your product, as I don't want to be associated with something that is of inferior quality.

It's not that hard. No matter what you think about Opensource and licenses, it's only fair to comply with the request of the creators when they say, "if you want to accosiate it with me, either keep the quality on-par, or call it something else".

If you fail to understand that, you obviously have ZERO experience with customers, and creating a trustworth brand.

for adam re: http://cbeard.typepad.com/mozilla/2006/10/mozilla_tradema.html#comment-23467628

personally, i like the grep example.

[timeless@landfill ~]$ ls /bin/*grep* /usr/bin/*grep*
/bin/egrep /usr/bin/agrep /usr/bin/grepdiff /usr/bin/pcregrep /usr/bin/zegrep /usr/bin/zipgrep /bin/fgrep /usr/bin/bzgrep /usr/bin/grepjar /usr/bin/pgrep /usr/bin/zfgrep /bin/grep /usr/bin/grep-changelog /usr/bin/msggrep /usr/bin/xml_grep /usr/bin/zgrep

it's a good argument that you'd never see a grep named something other than grep, but well... it doesn't hold up on any linux system i've met. yes, i know a number of these are specialized one might even say that someone took the opportunity to "add new features". egrep especially, of course, the behavior of egrep and grep isn't quite compatible which confuses me often enough.

fwiw one of the things about posix is that it's a standard, that means you're not supposed to violate it. if you make your version of grep behave "differently" from the standard, then any script that depends on grep behaving in a certain way is broken.

[timeless@landfill ~]$ ls /bin/*perl* /usr/bin/*perl*
/usr/bin/find2perl /usr/bin/perl5.6.1 /usr/bin/perl.bak /usr/bin/perldoc /usr/bin/sperl5.8.5 /usr/bin/perl /usr/bin/perl5.8.0 /usr/bin/perlbug /usr/bin/perlivp /usr/bin/suidperl /usr/bin/perl5.6.0 /usr/bin/perl5.8.5 /usr/bin/perlcc /usr/bin/perltidy

to be fair, a couple of these perls aren't actually perl, i think perlcc, perltidy, perldoc, perlivp, perlbug, and find2perl

that still leaves 8 perls. and some people may remember perl4 and perl5.

[timeless@landfill ~]$ ls /bin/*python* /usr/bin/*python*
/usr/bin/python /usr/bin/python2 /usr/bin/python2.3

wow, we only have one python here, but i'm sure someday, and iirc my mac already has more than one, because each version is slightly incompatible.

but let's go back to simpler apps.

[timeless@landfill ~]$ ls /bin/*vi* /usr/bin/*vi* | magic_grep_vi_derivatives

/bin/rvi /usr/bin/vim /bin/rview /usr/bin/vimdiff /bin/vi /usr/bin/vimtutor /bin/view /usr/bin/rvim /usr/bin/evim

there's vi, vim, ...

for the vi haters, i give you emacs and XEmacs, which people who remember jwz will remember. and of course, there are some fun problems between various flavors of emacs20/21. and if you were around you might remember some other variants. some thankfully died.

for the windows users of vim, there is gvim and a couple of other incompatible flavors. do note that quite a few of these are so differentiated that people really can't live with using some other version.

one of my personal favorites is the various incompatible versions of gcc, which red hat made famous by shipping kgcc (the kernel gcc compiler, because the gcc they shipped couldn't build the kernel).

note that solaris is actually fairly good about not breaking the behavior of an app from version to version. you can be sure that vi will behave exactly the same on just about any version of solaris you can find. that's a lot more than i can say for vi on random linux workstations.

when people don't like pico, they make nano, which of course doesn't quite work the same. i'm glad they didn't install nano as pico, otherwise i'd be confused when i pressed ^W^T and ^T and certain other things which just don't work the same in nano.

"Weasel" indeed. Now I understand completely.

"A naive user, one who deliberately or accidentally does things that are stupid or ill-advised. Roughly synonymous with {loser}." -- From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (19 Sep 2003)

I'm disappointed that Firefox, being essentially a product of the free software community, tries to cut those links and become just another browser... Opera is already faster and more stable, why use Firefox if it's not free ( as in freedom ) anymore :(

cbeard: Debian is not about Open Source, they are about Free Software. By insisting on US style trademarks you are not putting users Freedom first.

I'm no expert on the subject so this probably makes no sense, but I have a simple question:

Let's suppose I'd like to make some modifications to Debian itself and offer a specialized LAMP stack or something (DAMP or whatever). Is it OK for Debian that I use their name in my new creation even though it's different from their original/supported product?

It really is disappointing to see the Mozilla Corporation taking this attitude towards Firefox. It's a shame that now Firefox has achieved such success, Mozilla seems to have forgotten that they owe something to the community that is responsible for that success. Without free software developers and users, they wouldn't have the brand they have today. Now that they do have is, it's a pity that free software developers and users are those they're doing their best to disenfranchise with their current actions.

As a long-time Debian and Firefox user, I must say I am firmly in the side of MoFo in this debacle. I can understand their point of protecting trademarks much more easily than Debian's insistence on their definition of "freedom". One icon makes the program non-free, because that icon cannot be modified? I wouldn't be allowed to modify the icon if it was included, I cannot modify it now because it is not included... I don't see how freedom is increased by removing that icon. I know this line of reasoning can reach too far, but it's only one icon!

Overall I feel Debian has been going downhill lately (for example this and the kernel firmware flamefest). DFSG says currently "Our priorities are our users and free software", but the balance is now slanted way too much away from users. Maybe that clause should be changed to more realistic "Our priority is free software and free software only, if the most strict interpretation of that leaves something useful for us to distribute, be happy".

"As a long-time Debian and Firefox user, I must say I am firmly in the side of MoFo in this debacle."

What is funny here is that there is no debacle, and both MoFo and Debian believe this is the best solution.

The goal of free software is to give freedom to the user, not the software, as someone here suggested. The DFSG is there to ensure that the user has the power over the software he/she uses, not some users or one organization that builds and distributes the software. A side effect is that all users are potential developers and contributions are strongly encouraged. This is what the DFSG enforces: "Debian will allways give it's users as much freedom as possible over the software they distribute". If some software is restricting the actions of the users it is better not to push that software onto the users, because it will restrict their freedom, and that is seen as wrong, the biggest wrong (even bigger than the problem of not having that software or those icons or whatever, at all).

debian is just the first distribution to have problems with the radical approach of Mozilla.

just wait when redhat will be forced to take the same approach than debian.

Er, why do people keep saying "the GPL says this" and "the GPL does that" in this discussion? Mozilla isn't distributed under the GPL, it's licensed under the Mozilla Public License....


Let's throw this one back at Debian:
What if I take Debian Stable (Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 "Sarge"), then I proceed to rip out the Debian package manager and replace it with RPM, only then I have to rebuild almost everything, and then I upgrade the kernel to 2.20.FUTURE_REBUILD_EDITION... but hey, it's still based on Debian, right? All in the name of Free Software, right? So I go ahead and call it: Debian GNU/Linux 3.1, aka "Sarge". Noooo confusion there, now is there?

Obviously this example is grossly exaggerated, but in principle, this is what Debian is doing to Firefox.

Think, people.

Wow, this is a LONG read. I agree with Nate on October 11, 2006 at 06:28 AM. I don`t want to use iceweasel I want to use firefox. However I don`t mind having some debian patches applyed. I think it would work great to put "Debian Firfox 2.x" in the about. Leave it firefox, add the Debian :) The Debian swirl in the icon is also a great idea.


Debian patches are mainly oriented to adapt Firefox for linux standard, as in order to respect /usr/lib/ naming convention for example, or modification in order to support other architectures than x86.

But even without those patches, MoCo wouldn't let Debian use Firefox name without branding the logos.
It breaks arguments about code modification, the product would be exactly the same !

On personal opinion, I find this very helpful.
Guys, I have also posted some more relevant info further on this, not sure if you find it useful: http://www.bidmaxhost.com/forum/

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