September 24, 2022


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Debian Infringes Rust Trademark: Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

5 min read

Debian Infringes Rust Trademark:  Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

Debian Infringes Rust Trademark:  Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

Recently, the Debian Rust maintainer released a “Debian bug report record” email, which caused a lot of controversy.

It mentioned that Debian violated the Rust trademark, which would lead to an extremely serious consequence.

The Mozilla Foundation, in order to maintain sufficient control over the trademark to ensure that it is a guarantee of quality and safety, has established Rust’s trademark policy: “A patch must be distributed with our express permission.”

Then before distributing a patch for Rust or Cargo (Rust’s build system and package manager) and calling it Rust or Cargo, getting explicit written permission from the Rust core team is an essential process.

And Debian has dozens of these patches , and unless they’re all licensed from Rust, I’m afraid they’re all against Rust’s trademark policy.

The dilemma of the “trademark battle”

It is legal to own a trademark in free software, and under this trademark policy, Rust (and Cargo) is non-free software.

And the Linux kernel incorporates Rust upstream, potentially making the entire Linux kernel heavily dependent on a non-free compiler.

While Debian may seek an explicit trademark license from Rust to distribute its patches, this is only a Debian-specific immunity.

That is, Debian users who want to modify the package again will need to obtain written permission from Rust again for later distribution, which interferes with the user’s freedom to distribute the modified package to others.

As such, the development of things would conflict with Article 8 of the DFSG (Debian Free Software Guidelines).

This article requires that the Debian project cannot have Debian-specific privileges and content, and that all software must be open to everyone, including all users, and use the same protocol.

So a better outcome than getting a Debian-specific immunity would be for Rust to revise its own trademark policy to address this, or for Debian to rename copies or modified Rust and Cargo when they distribute them.


Will history “repeat”?

Years ago, Debian chose the latter approach. Debian plans to release a “revised” version of Firefox that is more suitable for Debian’s needs (including customizing the default search engine, homepage, etc.), but under the terms of Firefox’s license (the Mozilla Public License), in addition to the native Mozilla Firefox code compiled version , No organization can use the Firefox name and Logo without authorization from Mozilla. So Debian had to rename Firefox to Iceweasel.

But a decade later, Debian persuaded Mozilla to allow Debian to use Firefox to refer to a “modified version” of Debian, and Iceweasel disappeared.

Mozilla dropped its original trademark policy claims and accepted the Debian terms because Mozilla realized that patches applied to Iceweasel/Firefox would not affect the quality of its products.

In fact, Debian is not an enemy but an ally, and it is more interesting to have such a powerful ally to support it as the browser with the largest market share in the world.

So will Mozilla today make Rust make peace with Debian as it did back then?

The voice of the developers

In response to the current stalemate between Debian and Rust, many developers expressed their views on Hacker News .

“This seems like a reasonable policy for a compiler,” said one developer. “If you’re releasing a patched version of your compiler that’s not from upstream, you absolutely need to let users know that fact so they can decide whether to Believe you.

This is a security issue, because the impact of using a broken compiler is huge.

Also, Rust needs some legal mechanism to shut down malware.

Otherwise, someone could throw in a “Rust” build that did bad things to the compiled product, and they wouldn’t have the legal means to shut it down. “

Debian Infringes Rust Trademark:  Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

At the same time, a developer who expressed his understanding of the Rust trademark law and proposed his own solution said: “Mozilla wants to have full control over the official Rust binaries, and Google wants to have full control over Chrome’s binaries, and I think both are is reasonable.

I think Debian should move Rust into the realm of “non-free” software. Most people are comfortable with installing nonfree software.

And those who are reluctant to install may also be skilled enough to compile their own Rust binaries.

As for using Rust in the Linux kernel, I think either requires special permission from Mozilla, or there shouldn’t be Rust in the kernel. Using non-free products in the Linux kernel can be uncomfortable. “

Debian Infringes Rust Trademark:  Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

Other developers believe that enforcing trademark policies in open source projects is not in line with the spirit of open source,” he said: “It is strange to try to enforce such trademark policies through broad copyright terms in open source projects.

The copyright restrictions only make sense if this trademark policy is in the commercial distribution of Rust.

Because misuse of the trademark will confuse consumers into thinking it is officially associated with, or endorsed by, the Rust project, which is the real legal consequence of copyright infringement.

But Debian is open source, the patches applied are public, and it is not claimed in any way to be the “official” upstream release of Rust, nor are those patches claimed to be official upstream patches.

I don’t understand how anyone would think that the Debian project is legally engaged in some kind of malicious act, with the aim of confusing consumers, or damaging the Rust project’s reputation, or even causing financial harm.

Such claims just set a bad precedent in the open source ecosystem.

This seems like a way to take advantage of the open source community while protecting intellectual property through copyright claims. The potential for Rust to abuse its trademark policy is present and definitely not in the spirit or intent of open source software. “

Debian Infringes Rust Trademark:  Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

So, what do you think of the Rust vs. Debian trademark battle?



Debian Infringes Rust Trademark: Compromise Rename Or Will It Get Exemption?

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