Ubuntu Policy Complies With GPL But Fails To Address Other Important Software Freedom Issues

Today Canonical published an update to their IP Policy by adding in a “trump clause” paragraph saying that “where any other licence grants rights, this policy does not modify or reduce those rights under those licences”.

I’ve been going on about this IP Policy (which is Canonical’s but confusingly appears on the Ubuntu website) and how it was incompatible with the Ubuntu policy for years.  I’ve been given a lot of grief for querying it having been called a fucking idiot, aggressiveswearer of oaths and disingenuous, dishonest, untrustworthy and unappreciative.  It really shows Ubuntu at its worst, and is really amazing that such insults should come from the body which should be there to prevent them. And I’ve heard from numerous other people who have left the project over the years because of similar treatment.  So it’s nice to see both the FSF and the SFC put out statements today saying there were indeed problems, but sad to see they say there still are.

Canonical, Ltd.’s original policy required that redistributors needed to recompile the source code to create [their] own binaries” says SFC, and “the FSF, after receiving numerous complaints from the free software community, brought serious problems with the policy to Canonical’s attention“.  Adding the trump clause makes any danger of outright violation go away. 

But as they both say there’s still dangers of it being non free by restricting non-GPL code and using patents and trademarks.  The good news is that doesn’t happen, the Ubuntu policy forbids it and there’s a team of crack archive admins to make sure everything in the archive can be freely shared, copied and modified.  But the worry still exists for people who trust corporate sayings over community policy.  It’s why the SFC still says “Therefore, Conservancy encourages Canonical, Ltd. to make the many changes and improvements to their policy recommended during the FSF-led negotiations with them” and the FSF say “we hope they will further revise the policy so that users, to the greatest extent possible, know their rights in advance rather than having to inquire about them or negotiate them“.  Well we can but hope but if it took two years and a lot of insults to get a simple clarifying paragraph added and stuff like this happen “After a few months working on this matter, Conservancy discovered that the FSF was also working on the issue” (did nobody think to tell them?), I don’t see much progress happening in future.

Meanwhile the Ubuntu Developer Membership Board wonders why nobody wants to become a developer any more and refuses to put two and two together.  I hope Ubuntu can re-find it’s community focus again, but from today’s announcement all I can take from it is that the issues I spoke about were real concerns, even if no more than that, and they haven’t gone away.

20 Replies to “Ubuntu Policy Complies With GPL But Fails To Address Other Important Software Freedom Issues”

  1. “policy forbids” – is that always an effective barrier?

  2. Just get lost Jonathan you slow down Ubuntu’s success with all the negativity. You should go feck off and do a project of your own.

    1. I make no apology for pointing out problems in Ubuntu which are destroying the Ubuntu community and harming its relationship with the upstreams upon which we depend.

    2. Your comment is not at all appropriate, and violates the Ubuntu Code of Conduct. If you care about Ubuntu’s success, as you imply, you need to keep your comments respectful.

      1. Are you for real or are you putting people on?

        Both the FSF and the SFC have come out (not very gracefully or coordinated) on a very important issue for free software and you repeat your mantra about The Code and Ubuntu Success.

        Nice job missing THE point that JR, FSF and SFC are making.

        As someone watching from the outside of these projects, Riddell seems to be making quite important points while Canonical seems to be continuing in its 3-4yr mission to always do the wrong thing, never being able to play well with others. Developers talk. And the amount of times over the last while, it seems that most mentions of Ubuntu (internal search spying, Mir and on and on) are always accompanied with eye rolls. So when this story came out, most people just rolled their eyes and went “yeah, that sounds like them.”

        All hail Unity (for all Rick & Morty lovers).

  3. until someone fixes the bug/s https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/grub2/+bug/1341944 and other issues on baytrail, as well as getting rid of the dramatrain that is the CC I don’t feel compelled to use ubuntu or for that matter “submit a bugreport”

    its gone from bad to worse lately, and just opening a tab in the browser to get up to date on canonicals projects feel like an absolute energy-drain.

    kudos to you for being able to cope with it all, you dont get enough recognition for navigating in what’s become a toxic enviroment.

  4. Conflicts occur when BOTH parties refuse to accept the other party’s opinion. Trademarks are important for a commercial company…which is what Canonical is. It is a commercial company that does rely on and to some significant extent (how significant is open to debate), contribute to free software. Other people are permitted to use and distribute their software…but it is, I think, not unreasonable to ask these parties to remove the Ubuntu/Canonical trademarks within that software…
    Bad feelings fester when there is repeated bringing up of old conflicts. Time, I hope, to move on.

    1. Nobody has ever disputed that trademarks should be removed by derivative distros

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