|I am a little concerned at the discussion I was reading in debian-legal regarding Mozilla trademark issues within Debian provided Mozilla packages. The summary is that Mozilla wants to insure that anyone using a program named Firefox or Thunderbird meets Mozilla’s QA requirements for those trademarked programs. Very understandable. Debian’s “Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG)” requires that anything it includes within it’s base distribution be free to distrubte, use and modify. Understandable as well since their goal is a completely Free distribution.
The problem is, Mozilla is concerned that changes made by Debian(or Debian derivative distros) will not meet Mozilla’s QA requirements, and therefore should not use the Mozilla trademarks. The longer version isn’t so much Debian, but the derivative works based on Debian. Debian has a history of providing quality packages. But Debian’s DFSG allows anyone to pick up Debian and modify it anyway they wish, hence free.
This may result in Firefox and Thunderbird (and any other Mozilla product) going into non-free, which removes it from the base distribution and further limits distribution, or it will need to be rebranded which will also limit distribution by removing association with Mozilla. I would presonally prefer it go into non-free before it gets renamed to something else.
Since Debian has a lot of derivative distributions based on it, has the largest centerally supported hardware platform support of any of the distributions and has become the NetBSD of Linux in porting software to the most platforms, I feel it is important that Mozilla products remain in the base distribution as unchanged as possible.
I do not have a legal background, nor do I have a simple solution to this issue. But I am concerned that if Mozilla remains too restrictive on this front, this could lead to similar problems that Java has becuase of SUN’s control. Ignoring the several competing languages that srung up becuase of the strict regulation on Java. As it stands, Java does not integrate well under Linux becuase of this issue. A lack of QA becuase distributions can not bundle it within their system. This leads to a definite difference in user experience between Windows and Linux. I don’t want to see something similar happen to Mozilla.
I believe Mozilla should allow Linux distributions to do the work of packaging for them, and find some way to resolve the trademarks issues without effectively renaming or rebranding Mozilla products. This will have the benefit of further integration within those distributions and their environments. The alternative will have a negative impact on the adoption of Mozilla products with in the open-source community and slow down development as Linux distributions will be less likely to be involved with the packaging of the software.
Mozilla’s goal for 2005 is for further adoption and distribution of Firefox and Thunderbird. Making it difficult for distributions to incorporate them easily will limit that effectiveness.