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Firefox- Forgive Me

Well, I've made a change in plans. Firefox will remain my default browser. I'm just not too terribly excited about the IceWeasel fork. I've evaluated their decision, and the pros/cons, and here's what I came up with:

  • Mozilla wants to protect their trademark. The browser should be used in conjunction with the image.
  • Debian doesn't want to use the images as they claim this makes the software non-free. They have a valid concern, but Debian has a trademarked logo also, although I don't think it's found anywhere in the operating system. I could be wrong. I don't know, as I'm not a Debian user.
  • As an Ubuntu user, I am using their trademarked logo in the operating system itself. Does this mean the Ubuntu operating system is non-free? Heavens no, it just means that Ubuntu is interested in protecting themselves, their name and their product.

So does using the non-free logo that Mozilla ships with Firefox make the browser non-free? Certainly not. You are free to do with the code as you wish, you just aren't allowed to modify the image or take it with you.

So, here's my solution to the longstanding debate between Debian and Mozilla. Debian: rather than make Firefox your default browser, make Epiphany or Galeon (or Konqueror if using KDE) the default. Put Firefox in your non-free repositories. Just like any other operating system, if the user wants it, they have to manually install it.

This way, you're not alienating users by forking the project, you allowing the maximum amount of freedom giving everyone the choice whether or not to have trademarked browsers installed, and you can keep Mozilla happy by using the trademarked image with the browser. Everyone wins.

Firefox: you're back to being my browser of choice. Sorry I ever left you. With that said, I'm excited for your 2.0 release in 7 days. And hopefully, you'll be in Edgy.

Nothing to see here. Please move on.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Christer Edwards | October 18, 2006 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    You've made another good point, as usual. I never even thought about the idea of Ubuntu's trademarked logo being used and that going along the same lines as the Debian vs Firefox issue.

    Last I hear IceWeasel is still planned for 6.10 Edgy Eft. I guess we'll see what happens.

  2. Lonnie Olson | October 19, 2006 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    No, you are misunderstanding. It isn't that the logo itself is non-free. Debian is protesting because Firefox itself is non-free. Firefox has a clause in it's license that prevents you from redistributing a modified version with the logo/brand intact when the modifications haven't been approved by Mozilla.

    This restriction makes Firefox non-free according to the Debian guidelines. It is not about the logo. It is about the lack of freedom to redistribute a modified version. I personally am grateful that someone is standing up and not putting up with this $#!t.

    Mozilla makes a big deal about Firefox being Free Software, when in fact it isn't. At least not really. Debian is just pointing out that their advertising is misleading. They are mostly Free. Not officially Free.

    I personally love Firefox as a browser, and will happily use IceWeasel. Debian's patches and modifications, nor the new branding will turn me away from my favorite browser.

    The only way you can compare this snafu to Ubuntu is if Ubuntu had a license that would prevent you from redistributing a customized version of Ubuntu if you leave the logo and branding intact. This is *not* the case. You are 100% free to redistribute modified and un-approved versions of Ubuntu.

  3. Aaron | October 19, 2006 at 8:12 pm | Permalink


    Quite to the contrary, I understand the point and postition of both very clearly. Mozilla will not allow releases of Firefox to be branded 'Firefox' without the official logo. Debian has had a exception to the rule, and that is why Firefox is in the Debian and Ubuntu repositories.

    Firefox, as it exists without the logo is very much 'free software'. It's Mozilla's grip that keep anyone from distributing the software without the logo and branding it as 'Firefox' that makes Debian and GNU unhappy. But, Mozilla is just protecting their trademark, as they are entitled to do so.

    The key point that everyone seems to be missing, is that it is *all* about the logo. The logo is key, not the software, distribution or code. If it wasn't for the logo, none of this mess would've started. The logo is not free, the software is. Logo no, software yes. As such, I can use Firefox on my machine without the logo, and I will be using 'free software' in every sense of the term as defined by GNU and Debian, just as all Debian and Ubuntu users currently are.

    The point is: you cannot resdestribute the browser as 'Firefox' without the logo, but you *can* restribute it under some other name without the logo. Esentially, this is what GNU is doing with IceWeasel. Unfortunately, they forked it, so now, it's an entirely different browser completely, and that makes a lot of us nervous. But the software is still free, it's just that the 'Firefox' trademark is not.

  4. Stephen | October 24, 2006 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    From what I understand, you can break the conflict down as follows:

    1. Debian wants to be able to patch the Firefox code however it pleases (essentially "creating a derivative work") and still call the resultant compiled package "firefox".

    2. Mozilla have a problem with anyone using the Firefox name on a piece of software that isn't comprised of 100% Mozilla-sanctioned Firefox code, and anyone who doesn't use the firefox name is prohibited from using the firefox logo.

    3. Debian are basically complying with this requirement of Mozilla's by applying their (presumably unsanctioned) patches, and releasing their binary package as "iceweasel" instead of firefox, despite it being 99.99% identical to firefox.

    So, as far as I know, it's not the case that the "key point is that it's *all* about the logo", and Lonnie's points are all basically correct. As has been blogged by Matthew Garrett, with reference to the Mozilla representative's post on the Debian bug tracker, the logo issue is "basically a bizarre corner aspect" of Mozilla's unwillingness to allow people to patch Firefox and still call the end result Firefox.

  5. Aaron | October 24, 2006 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I think we are all arguing the same point here, just from different aspects. The underlining concern here, is Mozilla wants to protect their trademark, while still keeping the browser open source, and Debian wants to use Firefox without the trademark. The battle begins.

    I see this from two standpoints:

    1) Mozilla needs to release their grip on the trademark, and release a browser with a free logo under a similar name.
    2) Debian needs to put Firefox in their non-free repository, and use Epiphany or Konqueror or some other browser as their default.

    Long story short, I'll keep using the browser, as I don't feel my rights or freedom in using the software or the code are comprimised. Same goes with Thunderbird and Sunbird/Lighning.

  6. Amy Rose | June 6, 2007 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    I know this is a bit late, but Aaron, it's good to see someone who makes sense about this issue. I prefer Konqueror myself, but I'm on Mozilla's side re. the trademark dispute. Even the GPL allows the copyright holder to enforce trademarks this way, so why should it be different for any other open-source program? o.o

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