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Why Do You Need License From Canonical To Create Derivatives? 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-they-said-so dept.
sfcrazy writes "Canonical's requirement of a license for those creating Ubuntu derivatives is back in the news. Yesterday the Community Council published a statement about Canonical's licensing policies, but it's vague and it provides no resolution to the issue. It tells creators of derivative distros to avoid the press and instead talk to the Community Council (when they're not quick about responding). Now Jonathan Riddell of Kubuntu has come forth to say no one needs any license to create any derivative distro. So, the question remains: If Red Hat doesn't force a license on Oracle or CentOS, why does Canonical insist upon one?"
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Why Do You Need License From Canonical To Create Derivatives?

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  • ... they need the free press space.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    .. thinks FLOSS developers provide free labour to the advancement of its IP.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because Canonical thinks FLOSS developers provide free labour to the advancement of its IP.

      For some reason, there's a concerted campaign happening to try to convince people that successul Open Source projects are not really open. It's an odd thing to pretend, and I'm wondering what their motive is?

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:16PM (#46257089) Homepage

    You don't need a license for the open-source portions of Ubuntu (which is almost everything). In fact, Canonical would probably be in violation of their license if they tried to impose this requirement on the Linux kernel or any GPL-licensed packages (they could impose it on BSD-licensed packages, and I'd have to research other licenses). What you'd need a license for is the Ubuntu logos and name and the like and the software Canonical wrote that isn't under an open-source license. It's the same as with RedHat, you need the license to use their logos and trademarks or you can use Fedora which doesn't have the licensed stuff in it. It's probably non-trivial to strip the trademarked and proprietary stuff out of the actual Ubuntu distribution, it'd probably be easier to go straight back to the Debian base distribution and work from there.

    • But why are these things not open-source?
      It sounds like Canonical are just a bunch of a**holes.

      • by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:37PM (#46257175)

        It sounds like Canonical are just a bunch of a**holes.

        How is this any different to what Mozilla or Redhat do?

        It's brand protection.
        They don't want some shody fork that's poorly designed to use their trademarked name and possibly impacting their reputation.

        Billuntu - Packed with malware
        Jilluntu - It wipes your disk without confirmation

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by r1348 (2567295)

          No, it's community stranglehold under the disguise of trademark protection.
          Of course, if I started a distro called The Better Redhat I'd have lawyers knocking down my door by dinner time, but if I called it, say, CentOS and declared it derived from RHEL but not officially endorsed by Redhat, I'd be just fine. Now that you cannot do with Ubuntu right now, or anyway the details are shady enough I'd not risk it.

          • by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @10:54PM (#46257663)

            Stranglehold?

            Seems a bit much if you ask me. You can use every bit of Ubuntu except a fee trademarks and logo s.
            Just the same way Ubuntu uses every bit of Debian.

            Every distro has a few branding features, always separate, never hidden, that you can neither need, nor would you want if you were starting your own distros.

            But you have missed the point of the story: Ubuntu doesn't actually claim you can't use their distro to base your own distro on. All they really claim is you can't use their branding.

            • by r1348 (2567295)

              Can I call my distro Ubuntu-derived, but not supported by Canonical?

              • by icebike (68054)

                Probably not, because trade names are protected.

                You can describe it as such but you can't use another company's name as part of your product name.

                But what has that got to do with using their GPL source code? Nothing at all.

                So no strangle hold.

          • It's not even close to a strangelhold, because nobody is forcing anyone to use Ubuntu or base other distros on it. It's easy enough to just roll a new one up from Debian or another base.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              *look of disapproval*

              Great idea. Now try it.

              There's a reason a lot of us still tolerate Canonical's **** all this time after Lucid came and went: It's still one of the better package repos out there. And setting up your own is non-trivial at best. (Mirroring is simple - actively patching every single package and so on... not so much.)

              ~ AC claim by greysondn on github

          • by prefec2 (875483)

            You cannot make a Distribution called My RedHat OS without violating the trademark of RedHat. You can create a distribution CentOS or PoundOS without any trouble from RedHat. The same, it is with Ubuntu and Canonical, you cannot call your distribution zubuntu or iCanonical, but there is no problem deriving one from Ubuntu and calling it Mint or Strawberry.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:38PM (#46257183) Journal
        Same reason the name "Linux" is not open source. Trademarks are an indication of brand, of saying, "this product is made by us, therefore it is good." Or "this product is made by us, therefore it is cheap." Or luxurious, or whatever. If you know anything about microphones, you can be sure that a Manley mic will be top quality and clear. An AudioTechnica mic will have pretenses of grandeur.

        And if it's labeled Ubuntu, you can be confident it will completely disregard the desires of the end-user, and be ignorant of the Unix Way; but at least the wifi drivers will work.
      • It's to protect their trademark AND their users. If you make a derivative, there is no problem if you say your operating system is *based* on Ubuntu, but you cannot use their logos or claim it is sanctioned by Canonical without their permission. This prevents people from making shoddy (or malicious) derivatives and using their brand name to harm Canonical's brand name or users.

        Of course, I am not a lawyer, so if you do plan to make a derivative, read the license(s) yourself.

      • But why are these things not open-source? It sounds like Canonical are just a bunch of a**holes.

        There are really two different issues at play here: Does Canonical have packages in Ubuntu that aren't licensed such that a derivative distro couldn't use them without begging for permission? (that they have copyright over: if Canonical managed to get a 'yeah, you can put our firmware blob in your repository; but that license is non-transferable' agreement out of some hardware vendors, that wouldn't be GPL-purist; but it wouldn't really be Canonical's call that FungusNix isn't allowed to reproduce those pac

    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:37PM (#46257169) Homepage

      Most famously, Debian renaming Firefox to Iceweasel [wikipedia.org], and CentOS's erstwhile references to Red Hat only as a "prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor."

    • Correct. I'm no fan of Canonical when they try to impose their will (Unity of course being the biggest example), but for fuck's sake people this is making a big deal out of literally nothing.

      Quoting directly from the Canonical Intellectual Property Rights Policy [canonical.com] (emphasis mine):

      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. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu.

      Just like Mozilla, just like Red Hat, and just like many other major open source projects Ubuntu uses trademarks to protect their brand. Don't use their brand and you're just forking an open source project as normal. See also Iceweasel, CentOS, etc.

      • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @11:44PM (#46257819) Homepage

        In the case of GPLv3-licensed components, the requirement to recompile the source probably violates section 7 of the license which specifies exactly what additional terms may be applied to copies of a covered work (which includes copies in object form, ie. libraries and executables). Their requirement that you not redistribute the binaries isn't a permissible addition, it's not specified in that list. And such works couldn't contain Ubuntu's trademarks because the terms Ubuntu gives for use of their trademarks isn't compatible with GPLv3, if they included their trademarks in a piece of GPLv3 software they wouldn't be allowed to distribute the result themselves. Of course they cover that in the last sentence, putting them technically within the rules because that last sentence negates everything before it when it comes to GPL-licensed components. It's kind of like they're saying "You have to pay Canonical a daily fee to park anywhere in San Diego. The daily fee is $100 for passenger cars, $200 for light trucks, SUVs and vans, $500 for commercial vehicles. This does not affect your right to park in any part of San Diego not owned by Canonical.". It's just a convoluted, inverted way of saying "You have to pay these fees to park in Canonical's parking lot.".

        • by allo (1728082)

          First: Do not confuse trademarks with copyright, and copyright alone not with licenses.
          If their trademark is violated, this does not have anything to do with the license. You may be allowed to do with source/binaries what you want, but if you distribute it with trademarks you can be sued for this. The clause tells you how to avoid this.
          The license can only be enforced by contributors. If you have at least one patch in a software and then encounter a binary of the software, you can request the source. Otherw

        • by Kjella (173770)

          I read it as: if it contains trademarks then (remove/replace and recompile) not (if it contains trademarks then remove/replace) and (recompile). I think it's just pointing out that the trademarked materials are in the binary as well and that merely editing the source is not sufficient, you must also compile new trademark free binaries. That makes the whole sentence totally reasonable, correct and meaningful in the context of avoiding trademark infringement. Sneaking in "Oh, and you must also recompile every

          • by Todd Knarr (15451)

            I think section 7 would scotch that idea for GPLv3 software at least. Adding your trademark to someone else's code (which you are only allowed to redistribute under the terms of the GPLv3) and then restricting use of that trademark would be imposing an additional restriction not permitted by section 7, at which point you no longer have a license to distribute the software to others.

            Something to always bear in mind when dealing with Linux distributions is the distinction between the packages the distributor

    • by samkass (174571)

      It's kind of strange that on the same day Canonical is being called out for not being 100% free about everything, another article discusses Google's actions with Android, which is much, much more closed and yet most of Slashdot seemed eager to rush to their defense.

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        That's because Google is open with all the stuff that's based on other people's open-source software. The parts they aren't open about are the parts they wrote themselves without basing them on open-source software. You'll notice the same thing with Canonical: nobody's arguing that Canonical can't restrict access to their own stuff that they wrote themselves or their own trademarks, only the stuff that's not Canonical's and whose licenses may not allow Canonical to impose restrictions on them.

      • Not really, the comments here are largely people rushing to Canonical's defense. Trademarks exist for good reasons, and they're an excellent defense against fraud and a way to promote a predictable product. Most, including the Slashdot mob, recognize that.

        Google's actions with Android are disappointing, but they still ship a fully fledged feature complete 100% open source mobile operating system. They just would like developers to use their non-free middleware, as it gives them some control over how the

    • When BackTrack became Kali [kali.org] they chose to change the base from Ubuntu to Debian. I wonder if this influenced them, or they were just running away from Unity?

    • RHEL also includes quite a lot of Apache and BSD and Perl licensed software. There are components, such as the older Sun Java that had more restrictive licenses, and which CentOS therefore could not include, and numerous programs with patent or security implicaitons such MPEG players and the libdvdcss for DVD decoding which Red Hat also could not include for patent or other legal restrictions. Red Hat definitely deserves credit for helping bring proprietary software into the open source or free software wor

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:30PM (#46257145)

    It should perhaps be noted that Red Hat and others including Apache do in fact have a similar policy. The strongest legally and I think most important part of Canonical's policy is as follows:

    Any redistribution of MODIFIED versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical IF you are going to associate it with the [Canonical] Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks

    (Emphasis mine). That's common sense - you can't call your version "Ubuntu", and Red Hat does the same. Centos is essentially RHEL with the Red Hat trademarks removed.

    What may be different is that Canonical claims their specific arrangement of packages may be subject to copy rights. That is to say, each individual package is distributable under GPL, but they suggest that copying Unbuntu's own selection of groupings for desktop, server, etc., and the exact method of integration may be subject to Canonical's consent via their stated policy. That's an interesting position. They may or may not be correct that they have the legal right to claim some aspects of distribution as their own, apart from the packages used in the composition. It may also be a dickish move to assert that right in absence of a trademark issue.

    • by fnj (64210) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:52PM (#46257239)

      What may be different is that Canonical claims their specific arrangement of packages may be subject to copy rights. That is to say, each individual package is distributable under GPL, but they suggest that copying Unbuntu's own selection of groupings for desktop, server, etc., and the exact method of integration may be subject to Canonical's consent via their stated policy.

      They can CLAIM anything. They can claim their shit doesn't stink. That doesn't make it so. GPL is GPL.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        They can CLAIM anything. They can claim their shit doesn't stink. That doesn't make it so. GPL is GPL.

        And copyright law is copyright law which trumphs the GPL. If you make a photo book you can get a copyright on the selection and arrangement of photos that is separate from the copyright on the individual photo. In fact, they can be all public domain photos and you can still get a copyright on that particular mix. The GPL can't prevent them from being created, but they can control their use like the GPLv3 does:

        A compilation of a covered work with other separate and independent works, which are not by their nature extensions of the covered work, and which are not combined with it such as to form a larger program, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, is called an "aggregate" if the compilation and its resulting copyright are not used to limit the access or legal rights of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit.

        The GPLv2 just said that a "mere aggregate" is fine and left the door wide open on that one, the GP

    • This does not indicate what Canonical actually wrote to Mint. That would be a very _reasonable_ concern. But without seeing the lette to Mint, or one from Mint about the issue, it could be about the standards for white space indentation of source code in Ubuntu software that is _not_ under a well known open source license. Some open source licenses have been known to have very, very foolish restrictions: the old "DJB" license had a restriction that modifying a single line of the code meant that you could on

  • There's a difference (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:36PM (#46257167)

    CentOS maintains their own binary repositories where packages are built from publicly available RedHat source files , whereas Mint pulls binaries directly from Ubuntu's repositories which includes Canonical trademarks. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and other *buntu's are trademarks of Canonical, so there's no necessity for licensing.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @08:48PM (#46257219) Journal
    You can create as many derivatives as you want. Absolutely. no limits (so punny, ha haa) as long as the function is continuous there. Of course after a certain number of times it will be zero for polynomials..

    Oh, you don't mean this derivative. Of course you can make derivatives, and all profits you make are yours. And all the losses will be paid out by the tax payers. wait, you aren't talking about that derivative either.

    You can create derivative works, but the dolts from RIAA and MPAA take a dim view and claim copyright infringement on anything and everything, like for example looking at the Atlantic Ocean without proper license. Not the derivative either?

    Man, if your derivative something obscure like building git specific distribution or ubuntu running under mono under cygwin X server or something, go ahead and derive it. No one will notice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    TFS> If Red Hat doesn't force a license on Oracle or CentOS, why does Canonical insist upon one?"

    Actually the same happens to Red Hat; I recall CentOS refers to them indirectly as "an important Linux vendor", because it's prevented from using Red Hat branding.

    Canonical is even being nicer and saying "we allow you to use the Ubuntu brand, but you have to ask and sign up a licence". Or, do what CentOS does and don't use our repos. If it's from source, I bet there would be no problem, but using pre-compiled

    • by Geeky (90998)
      CentOS refers to RedHat all over their site.

      From the first entry in their FAQ, "What is CentOS Linux?":

      CentOS Linux provides a free enterprise class computing platform to anyone who wishes to use it. CentOS Linux releases are built from publicly available open source SRPMS provided by Red Hat, Inc (often referred to as "Upstream" or "The Upstream Vendor (TUV)") for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (often referred to as “the upstream product” or RHEL).

      They don't use the branding, but they are completely open about building from Redhat provided sources.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The strongest case Ubuntu has in my opinion is to state that the Ubuntu repositories in their binary form are only available to Carnonical authorized distibutions. The servers are theirs and they can dictate any terms of service they wish. Carnonical/Ubuntu still has to provide source per the GPL but not free binaries and bandwidth.

    Side note: Slashdot is half following my system theme... the text is white but the background is white not grey, the end result being I cannot see what I type. Please forgive

    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      The strongest case Ubuntu has in my opinion is to state that the Ubuntu repositories in their binary form are only available to Carnonical authorized distibutions. The servers are theirs and they can dictate any terms of service they wish. Carnonical/Ubuntu still has to provide source per the GPL but not free binaries and bandwidth.

      That's not at all how Ubuntu is distributed. Canonical maintains a handful of servers but the vast majority is handled by universities and companies around the world that donates storage in their FTP pools to Ubuntu.

  • It's pretty obvious that Kubuntu is derivative of Ubuntu and Canonical is within its rights to maintain the strength of their trademark. If the Kubuntu folks wanted to be truly libre then they should have been smart enough to come up with an original name.

  • Red Hat doesn't force a license on Oracle or CentOS.

    That's because they own CentOS, and if they tried to force such a thing on Oracle, Oracle would own them.

    • No, it's because both CentOS and Oracle use only the code, which is GPL, and thus their use of it is already covered by the same license which covers Red Hat's use of it. Neither party uses any Red Hat trademarks or IP, so there's nothing left for Red Hat to license.

      • by kthreadd (1558445)

        The interesting question is then if it's acceptable that Red Hat takes free software, packages it into binary packages and then restricts the distribution of the binary packages. For most licenses that's probably OK, but at least with GPL-style licenses that may or may not be true. I'm sure they have lawyers that have already looked at this and determined that they can, but in that case I would say that this is probably a flaw in the GPL. You may run into trademark issues with modified binaries, but unmodif

      • No, it's because both CentOS and Oracle use only the code

        "Linux Mint had been asked to sign a license agreement in order to continue distributing software packages out of the Ubuntu repositories."

        No difference then. That's from TFA, BTW.

  • Since some will try to make the comparison, in fact CentOS and Scientific Linux do not use RedHat branding. They are also not covered by RedHat service agreements. There is no conflict or issue. Mint similarly also does NOT use Ubuntu branding, trademarks, etc. So what is this about?

    http://distrowatch.com/weekly.... [distrowatch.com] Clem responded, "Money isn't a primary concern. Although the original fee was in the hundreds of thousands pounds, it was easily reduced to a single digit figure. The licensing aims at rest

  • Canonical is within its right to require licenses for people wanting to make derivatives of its intellectual property. FOSS and the GPL doesn't prohibit that. The kicker is, though, what parts of Ubuntu's stack are actually IP of Canonical? Things like their software center would be and other parts they've developed, but the vast majority would not be. Likewise for the name and other branding. If you want to advertize that you are an Ubuntu derivative, then, you probably need to license it.

    So, if you want

  • My guess: Canonical is pissed that Mint gets more hits than they do on distrowatch. Hmmm, maybe it has to do with that yucky unity interface. Suck it up Canonical and compete with Mint!!!
  • Isn't that something we learn in math?

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

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