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Thread: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivatives?

  1. #1
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    Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivatives?

    http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20131209

    Third, and I think this is a point other Linux news websites are ignoring, Clem claims he has been asked by Canonical's legal department to license the binary packages used by Ubuntu. To me this is a scary thought. Ubuntu is a base distribution for many projects, some of them (such as Mint and Kubuntu) are quite successful. Clem's statement makes me wonder if Canonical has approached other open source projects about licensing the right to access Ubuntu's package repositories. If so, what might follow? Would derivative distributions need to pay to use Canonical's packages? How would Canonical enforce such a policy, with lawyers, by blocking access to the repositories if a user isn't using Genuine Ubuntu? Canonical would certainly have the right to restrict access to its packages, they are on Canonical's servers after all. However, most Linux distributions are quite open about allowing anyone to access their software repositories and I wonder if Canonical might be acting in a short-sighted manner if they are trying to license access.

    With these thoughts in mind I contacted Canonical and asked if they could shed any light on the issue. At the time of writing I have not received a reply. An e-mail to the Linux Mint project asking for details yielded much better results. Clement Lefebvre responded the following day and, while he wasn't able to go into specific details as talks with Canonical are still on-going, he was able to share a few pieces of information. When asked if Canonical was hoping to collect a fee for using their binary packages, 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 restricting what Mint can and cannot do, mostly in relation to the OEM market, to prevent Mint from competing with Canonical in front of the same commercial partners."

    Clem went on to indicate Canonical has not offered any threats nor discussed enforcing any licensing terms. When I asked what Mint's plans were concerning the licensing deal Clem answered, "We don't think the claim is valid (i.e. that you can copyright the compilation of source into a binary, which is a deterministic process). With that said, Ubuntu is one of Mint's major components and it adds value to our project. If we're able to please Canonical without harming Linux Mint, then we're interested in looking into it. As negative as this may sound, this is neither urgent nor conflictual. It's a rare occasion for Canonical and Linux Mint to talk with one another and although there are disagreements on the validity of the claim, things have been going quite well between the two distributions and both projects are looking for a solution that pleases all parties."

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    An interesting read. Clem knows what he is doing. I've been using Mint for years because it works. The risk/level asignment to packages just means that kernel and xorg updates are not done automatically--reducing the anguish of a non-bootable or black-screen system. These forums are littered with posts of kernel and xorg updates that bork a system. With Mint, you have to plan some time to perform them as a group an be ready to fix any breakage. With stock ubuntu--all updates are suggested and applied with one or two clicks. This can result in a non-bootable or black-screen system if you are not prepared for it.

    Mint also fixes/addresses a lot of issues that users find in stock Ubuntu. I won't list them, but there are a lot of tweaks that are applied--again many posts on these forums for how to perform these same tweaks.

    The licensing aspect is interesting. I can see using a license to maintain some Ubuntu branding elements or link into Ubuntu/Canonical services, but for just using the package repositories and including a non-compete clause--I fail to see how that is open-source friendly. Being friendly (and human) was something that Ubuntu originally stood for.
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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    The licensing aspect is interesting. I can see using a license to maintain some Ubuntu branding elements or link into Ubuntu/Canonical services, but for just using the package repositories and including a non-compete clause--I fail to see how that is open-source friendly. Being friendly (and human) was something that Ubuntu originally stood for.
    Yip, in essence Debian could adopt the same attitude with Ubuntu if they wanted as they initially pull in the Debian repos.

    Will be interesting to see how this all plays out, if not handled correctly I think we could expect a big backlash.

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    No offense to our Latin Brothers, but this sounds like a Mexican Standoff.

    http://www.soundonsight.org/wp-conte...doff-photo.jpg
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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    No offense to our Latin Brothers, but this sounds like a Mexican Standoff.

    http://www.soundonsight.org/wp-conte...doff-photo.jpg
    I don't see anywhere in the article where there is any discord between the two parties as of yet, there can't be a Mexican standoff, if both parties are agreeable to discussion.

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    I was referring to Debian forcing licensing to Ubuntu which forces licensing to Mint--nobody wins in this situation. It's not likely to happen, but licensing of repositories does bring up some interesting dilemmas in the FOSS community.
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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Legal Eagles drumming up business?


    ed.

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Linux is about open-source. I use it because its community-driven and open-source. If this was to happen, I'd think again about using Ubuntu.

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    I was referring to Debian forcing licensing to Ubuntu which forces licensing to Mint--nobody wins in this situation. It's not likely to happen, but licensing of repositories does bring up some interesting dilemmas in the FOSS community.
    This may come off as a rather abrasive comment, but I would love nothing more than to see Debian license their repos to Ubuntu and Ubuntu only if Ubuntu pulls this stunt with Mint. I'm sorry, but I'm the guy who thinks the only fair response when you get punched is to punch back. Canonical has been making a growing list of (in my opinion) bad decisions lately, which has resulted in me quietly using another distro altogether, but something like this will firmly remove my ability to recommend this distro.

    I've always kind of raised an eyebrow at LMDE, though... Part of me wondered if it was to have a hot-spare backup plan in case something took a nose dive.

    I also have to really commend Clem on his response. He's very collected and calm about it, even though this could be a pretty serious threat to Mint in its current standing. In fact with Cinnamon 2.0 being on the radar for LMDE (if it hasn't been pushed already) this alone is enough of a reason for me to fire it up again and see how things play out.

    Anyway, just my 2c. I'm sure others may disagree but in the name of keeping the open source spirit, do I dare say, human... this is a pretty concerning move.

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    Re: Canonical legal department requesting to license packages used by Ubuntu derivati

    Yes, that is basically the Mexican Standoff scenario that I referring to. Clem and LMDE made a lot of changes requested by the community to the base Ubuntu distribution--things that you would normally "undo" to Ubuntu as soon as you installed it. Less work and more satisfaction with how the system works. Don't like the close buttons on the left side, no problem. Don't like the fact that Control-Alt-Backspace was turned off, no problem. Don't like Unity, no problem. Clem provided out-of-the-box distros that took Ubuntu and tweaked them the way most folks do anyway. It's a lot work and becoming more difficult as the frameworks become more Canonical-centric. So I see the move to straight Debian for LMDE in the near future. And Clem is a master at diplomacy.
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