For the last few months there has been an ongoing murmur about Canonical’s intellectual property assertions. What I find interesting is that while people accuse Canonical of violating the Open Source Ethos they say nothing of other companies. Before I go any further, I need to state that I am not a lawyer and have not played one on TV. The thoughts and opinions are nothing more than my thoughts and opinions.
Here are some of the claims Red Hat makes in regards to intellectual property:
2. Intellectual Property Rights. The Programs and each of their components are owned by Red Hat and other licensors and are protected under copyright law and under other laws as applicable. Title to the Programs and any component, or to any copy, modification, or merged portion shall remain with Red Hat and other licensors, subject to the applicable license. This EULA does not permit you to distribute the Programs or their components using Red Hat’s trademarks, regardless of whether the copy has been modified. You may make a commercial redistribution of the Programs only if (a) permitted under a separate written agreement with Red Hat authorizing such commercial redistribution, or (b) you remove and replace all occurrences of Red Hat trademarks.
I think that clearly asserts that a copyright over programs. I will make the assumption they mean both the binary form and source code. They also prohibit redistribution unless all of the trademarks are removed unless you enter in to an agreement with Red Hat or you remove and replace all trademarks.
Here are some of the claims made by Canonical:
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.
The disk, CD, installer and system images, together with Ubuntu packages and binary files, are in many cases copyright of Canonical
Canonical owns intellectual property rights in the trade dress and look and feel of Ubuntu (including the Unity interface), along with various themes and components that may include unregistered design rights, registered design rights and design patents, your use of Ubuntu is subject to these rights.
From what I read here anyone can redistribute Ubuntu in unmodified form, but if you are going to modify it and retain the trademarks you must seek approval from Canonical. You can redistribute it if you remove all trademarks and recompile. If you need Canonical to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will need a license agreement.
The Case of Mint:
I want to remind everyone that this is my opinion only and that I am not a lawyer, nor have I played one in a movie. If I am to take the case of Linux Mint and apply what I have read from both Red Hat and Canonical what would Mint have to do? What I understand Mint does:
- Uses Canonical’s repositories
- Specifically claims that it is based on Ubuntu (and Debian)
If Mint was based on Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® they would need to remove all Red Hat® trademarks or enter in to a license agreement with Red Hat®.
In the actual case of Mint being based on Ubuntu they have the option of removing all Ubuntu trademarks and recompiling, or entering in to a license agreement with Canonical.
The only difference I see is that Canonical has explicitly claimed that one would have to recompile binaries. I am not a package guru nor a kernel developer… but I am under the impression that in order to remove trademarks and copyrighted art that the binary would need to be recompiled. This leaves me wondering what all the noise is about since it would appear recompiling would be necessary in the case of a distribution being based on Red Hat®.
One more thing:
To date I think Canonical has an outstanding record of working with redistributions of their software. They encourage such endeavors and want them to grow.