Because Ubuntu, or “Nicely Done Canonical for warping the GPL, and the spirit of Ubuntu”

Ubuntu’s website states: “Ubuntu: The world’s most popular free OS”.

I call bullshit. GNU/Linux is the world’s most popular free OS.

New Licensing

I have a bone to pick with Canonical, and Ubuntu, especially after reading this nugget:

And there it is — predictably — in the spirit of Non-Ubuntu. ” Let’s see if we can screw this ‘GPL thing'”  must be what the lawyers thought.

Ubuntu has a Logo, and a number of Trademarks.

“Ubuntu” is also an African word,  as well as a repository of open-source software.

It seems like the Canonical lawyers cannot figure out which of these things it is that they should enforce to keep themselves “protected”, and thus they have stupidly blanketed everything under their “Intellectual Property Policy“.  With “Unity”, or “Unification” being the operative words inside canonical these days, I guess the concept of unification must have filtered down to the legal department too.

What is the definition of “Ubuntu” as per the Intellectual Property Policy? Well, apparently everything. Because it’s certainly not specific. Note to lawyers (IANAL): If you are going to claim something you need to be very specific.

Cue Richard Stallman and the EFF having a fit. As am I.

Canonical, farcically renamed their “trademark policy” to an “intellectual rights policy”  (but don’t worry, apparently nothing’s changed, they just made things “clearer”).

Their policy is published under a CC-BY-SA license, just to make things clearer too 🙂 — you’re free to copy the “Ubuntu Intellection Property Policy” under attribution, but not — apparently create a derivative binary distribution.

Let’s examine this “intellectual rights” policy “summary” a bit:

1. Summary

  • You can download, install and receive updates to Ubuntu for free.
  • You can modify Ubuntu for personal or internal commercial use.
  • You can redistribute Ubuntu, but only where there has been no modification to it.
  • You can use our copyright, patent and design materials in accordance with this IPRights Policy.
  • You can be confident and can trust in the consistency of the Ubuntu experience.
  • You can rely on the standard expected of Ubuntu.

This is bullshit:

The summary certainly hasn’t made things clearer. In fact, it’s HIDDEN a BUNCH of things.
And as  the Lazyweb/TLDR knows — the summary is where 90% of people stop reading.
Let’s look at some of the detail:

You can redistribute Ubuntu, but only where there has been no modification to it.

You can redistribute Ubuntu in its unmodified form, complete with the installer images and packages provided by Canonical (this includes the publication or launch of virtual machine images).

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. If you need us to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will require a licence agreement from Canonical, for which you may be required to pay. For further information, please contact us (as set out below).

So, Canonical are now claiming intellectual property rights, and “approval veto”  on the GCC binary linked output of open-source software simply because they have associated it with a trademark!

I have to “recompile” Ubuntu  in order to re-distribute it. Hmm, I think not. In fact, the GPL puts the onus on the GPL licensee to make sure that object code distributed has to provide “all the source code needed to generate, install, and (for an executable work) run the object code and to modify the work, including scripts to control those activities”. 

This certainly does not affect the binary object. In fact, I’d like you to prove, that given the above, I’m not able to produce the same binary object.

The binary object is also not licensed, or licenseable, except for the conditions that the GPL imposes.

The GPL explicitly states under section 5 that:  “Inclusion of a covered work in an aggregate does not cause this License to apply to the other parts of the aggregate.” Meaning, you cannot restrict my use of binaries within an aggregate outside the scope of the GPL, by inversion.

No matter what you do to Ubuntu, Canonical, if YOU distribute GPL binaries you cannot change my rights due to  inclusion in your aggregate.

So fuck you. I shall copy your binary packages. Not that I want to. I use Debian.

Now:  Let’s Queue the FUD ( does this sound familiar, anyone?)

We do not recommend using modified versions of Ubuntu which are not modified in accordance with this IPRights Policy. Modified versions may be corrupted and users of such modified systems or images may find them to be inconsistent with the updates published by Canonical to its users. If they use the Trademarks, they are in contravention of this IPRights Policy. Canonical cannot guarantee the performance of such modified versions. Canonical’s updates will be consistent with every version of Ubuntu approved, certified or provided by Canonical.


Frankly, how the FUCK can they claim that (by inversion again) “Canonical CAN guarantee the performance of  ANY versions.” ?

They can guarantee nothing!

Specifically because the primary pillar of the GPL states the following EVERYWHERE: “11. BECAUSE THE PROGRAM IS LICENSED FREE OF CHARGE, THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM,”

So, Canonical cannot guarantee the performance of modified versions. Woop-de-doo. The simple fact is that  Canonical  cannot guarantee JACKSHIT for any package  in the first place, according to the GPL.


Let’s move onto their trademarks section:

Canonical’s Trademarks (registered in word and logo form) include:

  • You can use the Trademarks, in accordance with Canonical’s brand guidelines, with Canonical’s permission in writing. If you require a Trademark licence, please contact us (as set out below).
  • You will require Canonical’s permission to use: (i) any mark ending with the letters UBUNTU or BUNTU which is sufficiently similar to the Trademarks or any other confusingly similar mark, and (ii) any Trademark in a domain name or URL or for merchandising purposes.

Holy what ? You claim rights to words, domains and trademarks ending in*BUNTU?

How about FUCKUBUNTU.COM? (which by the way, is already registered, to my dismay).

But, apparently:

You can use the Trademarks in discussion, commentary, criticism or parody, provided that you do not imply endorsement by Canonical.

Thank you guys, you really made me feel safe with that “allowance” for my freedom of speech. Very kind of you.

Other Approaches

To be fair, it’s not like the Debian project hasn’t engaged in brand protecting activities like this either. Debian enforced rights associated with their logo, for example against, by asserting that the words “debian” and the use of the logo was confusing users :

The debian project however, understood the difference between a logo, and a word, and asked nicely if would stop using the words and logo to avoid confusion. The logo was removed and created. Case closed.

Their approach was way different, and more in the spirit of Ubuntu, than “Ubuntu”.

In Summary

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

– Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Nicely done Canonical. Your warped sense of Ubuntu is certainly showing.


Author: roelf on February 16, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

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