Last week, an interesting thing happened in the Linux community. Canonical, the owners of Ubuntu and one of the leaders of the open data movement, threatened a critical website over trademark issues. Something they either didn't expect or didn't research was that the website, Fix Ubuntu, is owned an operated by Micah Lee from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
While the EFF has taken some cases that have been questionable, their involvement in this case has been a positive. They contacted Canonical and we have received an interesting response from Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical.
In a blog post on his website, Shuttleworth said,
We do have to "enforce" those trademarks, or we lose them. That means:
The only problem here is that, of course, you don't HAVE to enforce all issues. For example, a website being critical of a corporation falls under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and through fair use has the ability to use said corporation's name and logo. This issue has been tried and settled in court many times, leaving Canonical with no real recourse.
The excuse given by Shuttleworth was that of a company whose Twitter was mixed up for a personal one. He said in the same blog post,
Last week, the less-than-a-month-at-Canonical new guy sent out the toughest template letter to the folks behind a "sucks" site. Now, that was not a decision based on policy or guidance; as I said, Canonical's trademark policy is unusually generous relative to corporate norms in explicitly allowing for this sort of usage. It was a mistake, and there is no question that the various people in the line of responsibility know and agree that it was a mistake. It was no different, however, than a bug in a line of code, which I think most developers would agree happens to the best of us. It just happened to be, in that analogy, a zero-day remote root bug.
So, the new guy did it, not we're mad that someone is criticizing our business model. It will be interesting to see what the EFF has to say about Shuttleworth's response.
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