Bonum Certa Men Certa

Bad faith: Debian logo and theme use authorized

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 17, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

Software in the Public Interest, Inc (SPI) has spent over $120,000 on legal fees attacking a single volunteer who resigned at a time of grief when he lost two family members.

In the UDRP dispute over WeMakeFedora.org, the legal panel found that communications from IBM Red Hat had authorized use of the domain name and therefore, IBM Red Hat themselves were acting in bad faith by trying to retrospectively launch a dispute.

The authorizations published on the debian.org web site are even more unambiguous, unconditional and explicit than the authorizations that IBM Red Hat gave to the owner of WeMakeFedora.org.

Therefore, Software in the Public Interest, Inc has no right to complain about third party web sites that "look like" debian.org.

Using the standards set by the WeMakeFedora.org verdict, we can say clearly that Software in the Public Interest, Inc is acting in bad faith when it complains about similar web sites.

We don't even need to pay a legal panel to tell us that because the hypocrisy has a certain smell about it. Debian is rotting from the inside.

It is important to think about the consequences for the volunteers running independent web sites. Many of us do this without payment. We do this as a hobby. Dealing with harassment from lawyers creates stress and takes time away from our families. If a WIPO panel was to make a declaration of bad faith about us simply because we don't know how to write an adequate response and can't afford a lawyer then the rogue WIPO verdict could have negative consequences for our employment, ability to borrow money and ability to obtain or renew essential insurance policies for our homes and our trade.

When you think about all those potentially negative consequenes for us as volunteers, it is really wrong for SPI to seek such consequences despite the fact they authorized use of the logo and theme.

That is why it is so important for the legal panel to make a verdict of bad faith against SPI themselves.

Legitimate interest: redistribution of the Debian software is explicitly authorized

The Debian Free Software Guidelines and the Open Source Definition evolved together. One of the key pillars of both definitions is the authorization of free redistribution of the software.

With this authorization, any person who obtains a copy of the software is entitled to redistribute it.

The DebianGNULinux.org domain name was registered to do exactly that, to redistribute copies of the Debian software. This activity has been authorized.

Remarkably, in one of their claims submitted to another tribunal, the misfits explicitly describe a web site redistributing Debian as an outrageous crime, despite the fact the DFSG and the license statement referred to earlier explicitly authorize redistribution of genuine copies of Debian GNU/Linux.

complaint about debiangnulinux.org

Such a flagrant violation of the principles in the DFSG appears to be bad faith on the part of the complainant.

Legitimate interest: use of the logo is authorized

The trademark holder has created a web page where they distribute copies of the logo in many different electronic formats.

The page describes two versions of the logo, the open logo and the restricted use logo.

The page gives a free-for-all license to use the open logo.

The logo I am using on pages about my Debian work is the open logo.

Here is the text of the authorization from the trademark holder:

The Debian Open Use Logo comes in two flavors, with and without “Debian” label.

The Debian Open Use Logo(s) are Copyright (c) 1999 Software in the Public Interest, Inc., and are released under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License, version 3 or any later version, or, at your option, of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Legitimate interest: use of Debian-themed web page style

The Debian web page style is used extensively on third party web sites run by individual co-authors and volunteers.

At the bottom of every page on the main www.debian.org web site there is a link to a dedicated page about the licenses (authorization) to re-use the theme and content of www.debian.org.

The license link goes to the page https://www.debian.org/license. The page includes the following authorization:

Debian WWW Pages License Copyright © 1997-2024 Software in the Public Interest, Inc. and others
SPI can be contacted at:
1732 1st Ave #20327
New York, NY 10128-5177
United States


Since 25 January 2012, the new material can be redistributed and/or modified under the terms of the MIT (Expat) License or, at your option, of the GNU General Public License; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version (the latest version is usually available at https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html).

Work is in progress to make the older material compliant with the above licenses. Until then, please refer to the following terms of the Open Publication License.

This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, Draft v1.0 or later (you can read our local copy, the latest version is usually available at http://www.opencontent.org/openpub/).

“Debian” and the Debian Logo are trademarks of Software in the Public Interest, Inc.

The complainant publishes the source code for the web site theme. This makes it easy for anybody empowered by the above license to download the theme and use it when creating their own site.

At the bottom of every page on Debian.org, they promote the source code for the web site with a link text "Web site source code is available".

Here is the link to download source code for the theme of the Debian.org web site.

Bad faith: complainant reneges on existing authorizations

As noted in the statements on legitimate interest, the complainant has clearly authorized many of the things they complained about.

The Debian Social Contract, which states "We will not hide problems", authorizes discussion of controversial technical, social and ethical topics. In fact, it is more than an authorization, it encourages such discussions and publications. Therefore, their complaining about what is published on these web sites is itself an act of bad faith.

They authorized use of the logo, as discussed, so their complaining about use of the logo is itself bad faith.

They put the web site theme and content under the open source licenses, as discussed above, so their complaining about sites with a similar appearance is itself bad faith.

Overall, for their claim of bad faith to supercede these authorizations, they would have to demonstrate some extraordinary acts of wrongdoing, for example, to show that a web site was using the trademark, domain name and logo to distribute a virus. They provide no evidence of such wrongdoing.

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