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Battle Brews Over Firefox In Ubuntu 8.10

Ubuntu

Published on 14 September 2008 08:07 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu
42 Comments

Firefox, what's not to love about this open-source web browser? Well, a number of users following the development work on Ubuntu 8.10 (the Intrepid Ibex) are feeling rather outraged over Mozilla Firefox 3.0.2 and later. In the latest Ubuntu packages, Firefox requires an EULA (End-User License Agreement) be accepted the first time you launch the browser. The EULA mostly deals with agreeing to Mozilla's trademark policies for Firefox.

A number of users are now disturbed over having to see this EULA as they call it "an irrelevant license" and that "mandating this EULA is going too far." Mark Shuttleworth said on this issue that:

Mozilla Corp asked that this be added in order for us to continue to call the browser Firefox. Since Firefox is their trademark, which we intend to respect, we have the choice of working with Mozilla to meet their requirements, or switching to an unbranded browser.

It's strongly our preference, and that of most of our users, to have Firefox as the browser in Ubuntu.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for Mozilla to have requirements and guidelines for the use of their trademark - we have the same for Ubuntu, and many other free software projects do the same. I would in fact consider it a best practice to have a good brand on a free software project, which means having trademark guidelines.

That said, I would not consider an EULA as a best practice. It's unfortunate that Mozilla feels this is absolutely necessary, but they do, and none of us are in a position to be experts about the legal constraints which Mozilla feels apply to them. We had extensive conversations with Mozilla in order to find the best possible way of meeting their requirements while preserving the flow of use of the system for our users.

Please feel free to make constructive suggestions as to how we can meet Mozilla's requirements while improving the user experience. It's not constructive to say "WTF?", nor is it constructive to rant and rave in allcaps. Your software freedoms are built on legal grounds, as are Mozilla's rights in the Firefox trademark. To act as though your rights are being infringed misses the point of free software by a mile.

I believe we have a new package in Intrepid, called abrowser, which uses the codebase behind Firefox without invoking the Firefox trade mark.


This statement though hasn't tamed many free software idealists and the outcry continues in this Launchpad bug report. Users that take this issue to heart can either switch to a trademark-free web browser or abandon Ubuntu entirely and switch to the Ubuntu-based but FSF-approved gNewSense.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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