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.

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