Older blog entries for cinamod (starting at number 27)

22 Oct 2004 (updated 22 Oct 2004 at 03:32 UTC) »
Battles with Debian Legal

I've spent bits and pieces (and 4-hour contiguous blocks) of the past week and a half in discussions with various Debian Legal representatives and other concerned parties with respect to trademarks, several of which are registered on behalf of AbiWord and are currently held in my name.

For reference, here are two relevant threads:

Debian Legal Thread AbiWord thread

Debian's initial concerns are indeed interesting and valid ones. They raise the question of how TMs and FOSS licenses such as the GPL interact, and what a downstream software distributor's role (such as Debian's) is in the matter. Is AbiWord + 3 patches from Debian really "AbiWord"? Can you call that product "AbiWord"? What TM rights are afforded to the resulting product? How does this affect distribution and modification rights as granted by the GPL license? And etc...

It should be noted that I am not a lawyer, and that this is not a court, save maybe a court of public opinion. It should also be noted that most (if not all) people on the Debian legal list that have participated in this discussion are not lawyers.

At this point, I'd like to point out that - in my opinion - there's nothing novel or specific to AbiWord in this specific problem, though AbiWord's (outdated) TM guide page may have been the catalyst for the discussion at large. "Firefox", "Mozilla", "OpenOffice.org", "Evolution", "GNOME", "Linux", and many others also have registered trademarks. Any action or proposed solution that is taken on behalf of Debian's AbiWord package would in all fairness have to be taken against these other packages as well.

I'd like to address points in Branden Robinson's email:

re: "A" and "C", I whole-heartedly agree.

re: "B" It should be noted that the remarks in [1] are off-the cuff remarks. I do not feel that they "should suffice" in the matter of our current discussion. I have claimed that:

B.1) Debian and perhaps other distros should have a standard policy for all products that have TMs

B.2) In lieu of #1 happening, the status quo is probably good enough. I harbor no ill will toward Debian and am generally grateful for the work they do on behalf of the community at large.

B.3) In lieu of #2 not being good enough, I feel that I've spent enough time arguing my case for #1 and #2, and concede that I'm tired of this discussion and of arguing. I suppose that this could be interpreted as "should suffice," but only if Debian [unwisely] is not willing to address the two above points.

re: "D", I've suggested that if Debian is serious about making an informed and legally persuasive decision regarding a TM policy in general, they would be wise to retain legal counsel. This is nothing more than good sense, and I would be quite disappointed in Debian if they did not do so.

re: "E", the point is inflamatory. But, like point "D", it is wise and prudent to be knowledgable of the problem at hand before entering a legal quagmire. Again, this is nothing more than good sense.

It should be stated that I have neither read nor have an opinion on DFSG[3] nor OSD[4], but grant that these documents most likely have nothing but the best intentions at heart. My protestations come from my cursory knowledge of Copyright and TM law as I've recieved from classes taken at the Harvard Graduate School, the GPL, the Lanham act, and the rights and obligations afforded therein.

Brendan is right that a kind of "fair use" rule applies to TMs. In fact, I've conceded that Debian's re-distribution of these packages may well fall under such fair use provisions, rendering this a non-issue.

I do not remember being present for Brendan's "Cracker Jack" example, though I may just be blocking 4 hours of IRC infighting from my memory. As far as my understanding allows, he is correct. If you empty a Cracker Jack box and put mixed nuts in it, you can't sell it as Cracker Jack. Whether what Debian does to its package qualifies as "mixed nuts" - well, as I said above regarding fair use - I'm unconvinced either way, but lean toward the "fair use" side.

re "2", organizations like the WIPO are moving to "harmonize" TM, Patent, and Copyright law around the globe. It is probably safe to assume that whatever course of action Debian pursues will apply to some several hundred countries.

re "3", there are varying degrees of TM strength, and the rules that decide the strength of the TM are kind-of fuzzy. "Bob's Pizza" isn't a good TM. "Guess Jeans" is a good TM, because the common dictionary word "Guess" is used in a manner that doesn't suggest Pants at all.

Restraunts like Fuddruckers have sought (and won) TM cases for the interior design of their establishment. No TM on said design was explictly registered. But the look and feel was deemed sufficient as to cause confusion.

You can also build up a TM without registering it, though those TMs are often applicable only to relatively small physical localities. I do not know how such locality would apply to unregistered TMs on the Internet. For a physical example, if you open "Bob's Pizza Shop" across the street from "Bobby's Pizza Shop", you will get taken to court and most likely lose your case.

You may place a (TM) next to almost anything you want, really. Whether or not it means anything depends on legal precedent and the circumstances at hand. If you go through the process of legally being permitted to put a (R) next to the (TM), you've got a much stronger case, and your mark is protected nation-wide.

Regarding Debian's suggested solutions:

re: "P1", this is an outright reckless suggestion that will only serve to get them into legal hot water. You won't be able to claim ignorance in court, should the need arise, if this email is brought to light. You can't claim ignorance of a problem as a course of action when you're so clearly aware that there is potentially a problem. That's laffable. The cat's out of the bag. You can't put it back in.

re: "P2", I've suggested that I'm willing to do so, if properly persuaded. Thus far, I've not seen a convincing argument. I believe that if the TM were under a GPL-like license, the TM would simply cease to exist. If everyone is free to do whatever they want with the artwork and name, no TM strength applies, as I have no recourse against "infringers". The TM becomes genericised, and ceases to exist. I don't pretend to speak on behalf of organizations like Novell, but I don't believe that they'd be too pleased to surrender the TM on "Evolution", as an example. Many folks may be OK with this. Many may not.

Therefore, the argument could turn into one of saying that GPL/LGPL/BSD/whatever licensed products are incapable of having a TM. I don't believe that this to be true, but am open toward being persuaded.

re "P3" and "P4", I believe these are reasonable suggestions.

I see a few possible outcomes, and with such emails bandying about, "status quo legal ignorance" is probably a very stupid decision.

Outcome 1) Licenses like the GPL conflict with the very notion of TM. Products like "AbiWord" don't have a TM.

Solution 1.a) Nothing required on the part of Debian. AbiWord, Firefox, and the like take down their TM notices.

Outcome 2) The GPL affords you the right to do whatever you want to the code itself, provided that those modifications don't conflict with TM law. You can take AbiWord, make the "C" key insert pr0n, and redistribute it. But you can't call it "AbiWord".

Solution 2.a) Debian and other redistributers and modifiers must alter the names, artwork, and etc... of the products they distribute, possibly regardless of whether a TM is registered or not.

Solution 2.b) Debian gets folks to sign some sort of agreement licensing the use of the TM.

Solution 2.c) Debian and others stop distributing their modified works.

Outcome 3) What Debian is doing falls under "fair use" law.

Solution 3.a) Nothing to be done with respect to Debian or the TM holder.

There may be more outcomes and potential solutions. I don't pretend to know them all. What I can state firmly is that in this case, I'd personally prefer to retain ownership of my Marks, but allow organizations like Debian to use them.

It should be noted that I'm not out to "get" Debian or anyone else for that matter. At the time, the "status quo" was a reasonable course of action, and I honestly couldn't have cared less. "Don't rock the boat", in legalese. But now that the issue has been raised, and I've spent so many hours, some concrete solution must be reached. Claiming ignorance of the wolf is stupid once you've seen the wolf amidst your sheep.

In my opinion, I've never brought up the issue, though the TM guide on my website may appear otherwise. The document you see there, complete with my name on it, is the result of running the equivalent of a sed script on some source files when SourceGear Corporation stated that they intended to transfer their Copyright and TM to me. I did not write the TM document, though I symapthize with the message that SourceGear was trying to convey. I also sympathize with Debian's and the FSF's goals. I also kind-of like that I own the rights to that cute little TM'd ant, a tangible symbol of my 4 years involvement and maintainership with the AbiWord project.

Finally, it sould be noted that Debian's very own name and logo are TM'd.

"Debian is a registered trademark of Software in the Public Interest, Inc."

If Debian are truly interested in the Freedoms they wish to impose upon others' packages, I suggest that they first start at home. If my and other's actions are objectionable under their guidelines, then I ask how this is not:

"Although Debian can be obtained for free and will always remain that way, events such as the problem with the ownership of the term ``Linux'' have shown that Debian needs to protect its property from any use which could hurt its reputation. Debian has decided to create two logos: one logo is for official Debian use; the other logo falls under an open use type license."

Their "Two Logos" policy is a nearly identical in form and message to AbiWord's published TM Guide policy. As if AbiWord's TM guide "forced the issue." Such a view may prove to be either laffable or hypoctical, or merely shortsighted.

The Second U.S. Presidential Debate

Like a lot of the people I know, I spent yesterday night inside watching the debate instead of being out on the town. Two few things about the President's demeanor and rhetoric particularly struck me as unsettling.

Firstly, President Bush called Senator Kerry "the most liberal senator in this nation's history" on several occasions. My knowledge of the candidates leads me to believe this to be patently false. A few weeks ago, Luis referred me to this site, which attempts to show where a person's political views fall in 2-space, rather than the traditional "liberal/conservative" line. (For the record, I fall in the lower, left quadrant, or about 180 degrees from both Bush and Kerry.) Notice how closely grouped Bush and Kerry are, based on their statements, campaign promises, voting record, etc... Based on your knowledge of the candidates, which of the following are true?

A) President Bush is misinformed/lying/expounding rhetoric.

B) Senator Kerry is pretty liberal, all things considered. If you're a liberal, you find this sad.

C) President Bush's campaign is misinformed as to where a true centrist lies.

D) The graph's information/method/premise is wrong.

E) One or more of the above.

Secondly, it seemed as though all nuance escapes the President. In his projected worldview, everything boils down to Yes/No answers, and it doesn't matter why you answered Yes/No on any particular item. Again, this may be pure rhetoric on the part of the President. For instance:

A) "Senator Kerry voted against spending $87 billion in Iraq." Indeed, Senator Kerry didn't vote for the President's $87 billion plan. He was in favor of another $87 billion dollar plan which was *nearly identical* to the President's, except that it drew that $87 billion by rolling back President Bush's tax cuts rather than incurring further deficit spending. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's get the money from over here instead."

B) "Senator Kerry didn't vote for the partial birth abortion ban." Again, Kerry did not vote for this bill. Why? Because it failed to include a provision in cases where the mother's health is gravely at risk. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's make this one extremely narrow exception."

C) "Senator Kerry voted against the Department of Homeland Security." Again, the President is correct. But only because as part of its charter, the DHS as sponsored by the President excludes its workers from joining unions. Kerry would have voted for the DHS if this provision were removed. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's make sure that the workers in this new department have the same rights as other employees."

D) President bush called Senator Kerry a "tax and spend liberal", without mentioning that he himself is a "don't tax, but keep spending" conservative. Clearly, the President isn't conservative in the "fiscally conservative" school of thought, and what more, has never vetoed a spending bill from Congress. The days of Republicans wanting small government are truely over, and the Republicans I know resent that. I'm not an economist, but I'm highly unconvinced that tax cuts somehow lead to higher tax revenues and smaller deficits. If you're going to net less income, it seems as though you need to spend less, at least in the long-term. In the long-term, we as citizens all have to balance our checkbooks. Why should our government be held to a lower standard? Shouldn't someone with a MBA be aware of this?

I don't necessarily believe that President Bush himself believes this rhetoric, but his campaign is trying to convince you that the rhetoric is true in the interest of getting President Bush re-elected. Not that the Kerry campaign is innocent either. But in my opinion, the FUD spread in the debates thus far has been fairly one-sided.

22 Sep 2004 (updated 23 Sep 2004 at 03:17 UTC) »

Hacker Head

So my ~3 journal entries have finally been syndicated to Planet Gnome. Huzzah!

In the process, I've tried (and amittedly, failed) at creating a viable hacker head.

If someone with more Gimp-foo than myself would like to give it a whirl, I was thinking of using this photo as my base. There's a free [drink of choice] in it for you @ the next Gnome Summit or Guadec.


I'm slowly making my way back from an extended hacking absence here. A few fixes here, a few fixes there. It's all building up to AbiWord 2.2, which is due out in about 1 month. The 2.1.x branch is probably an order of magnitude more stable than the 2.0.x branch for the same feature set. 2.1.x's new features need some more testing, but things seem to be coming together rather nicely. I love it when a plan comes together.


To the delight of my mother and mothers everywhere, I've enrolled part-time at Harvard graduate school this semester. I recently finished up a fascinating IP law class there this summer. No, I'm not thinking of becoming a lawyer...

I've been involved in a few GPL scuffles with some corporations. You know who you are. Knowing the history and realities of US and World copyright, patent, and trademark law has shed some new light on why things are the way they are, and how one might go about changing them for the better. It was quite a thrill to defend GPL-like licenses in class against a man who is Harvard's top IP lawyer and clerked for a Supreme Court Justice.

Hackergotchi Update

Thanks go out to RP and Tobias for their hacker head submissions. I think that I'll be using this one for now.

Found this neat snippet of HTML code on Slashdot today:

<LINK REL="alternate" TITLE="Slashdot RSS" HREF="//slashdot.org/index.rss" TYPE="application/rss+xml">

If you have a relatively new Firefox (1.0rc will do nicely), Firefox will act as an RSS aggregator by creating a virtual bookmark folder. It's kind-of neat. I expect that the RSS planets out there will start using it.


I think that the US basketball team's loss to Puerto Rico is an embarrasment. And I do think that its members are some of the best players in the world. And yet I think that they still should have lost.

The US basketball team isn't a team. It's comprosed of superstars that don't work well together, and Tim Duncan. Each player is *the* star on his own team. Its co-captian, Allen Iverson, is a street thug who doesn't like to practice and has a problem with coaches. Like this year's NBA finals where the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons, we've seen that the whole can be much less than the sum of its parts.

It's probably also noteworthy that the first 10 people asked to be on this team turned down the offer. I don't think that happened on Puerto Rico, Argentina, Serbia, Spain, or Lithuania.

I don't think that the US team underestimated Puerto Rico. I think that the US chose some great players. I think that the US chose a lousy team. And we'll suffer for it.



I'd love to get word and character spacing into Pango proper before its next release. It's essential for handling SVG's text elements properly in librsvg, and I really would rather not duplicate any work that you're putting into Mozilla. If you have a plan of action, lemme know.


It is great the Caleb is working on adding filters to librsvg. Soon, we'll have nice support for all sorts of blurs, masks, and the like. I believe that this will lead to a significant improvement in the quality of SVG icon themes.

However, these will definitely not detract from RSVG's speed in cases where where these filters are *not* used. The way filters work is they take a base image (i.e. what you've already drawn using our lightning-fast rendering engine) and transform it according to a set of rules.

Granted, to start supporting some features (and make others work 100% correctly), RSVG will need some internal changes. But I imagine that these changes will make RSVG resemble XSVG's internally. Considering that XSVG is a fork of RSVG, I don't think that'll be *too* drastic of a change for us to re-merge.

I think that RSVG will be the full-featured renderer that you want. I think that it will be the fast renderer that you want. I do not think that replacing RSVG with KSVG is a good idea. I do not think that replacing RSVG with XSVG is a good idea.

And yes, application writers need to start using the new GdkPixbuf and GtkImage APIs that I've added in GTK 2.3. Too much scaling is happening after load-time, and as a result, our Scalable Vector Graphics aren't looking as nicely as they should. Bravo to Gnome-Games for getting this right!


Indeed, that would be a great idea. I can concretely point out a few things that are lacking or need improvement, though:

1) GtkSpell is dependant on Aspell/Pspell. It would be preferable if it instead used something like Enchant. Patch here.

2) Its language support is pretty basic right now. It'd probably be preferable if it would use a "lang" TextTag.

I guess I'll contact Evan Martin or the new maintainer and send him up a new patch that addresses these concerns.


I've been distracted away from any productive AbiWord hacking in so long... The good news is that some other projects got a bit of help along along their periphery.

Was able to write GIMP plug-in loaders for the JBIG and SWF formats. The SWF plugin lets you load any frame from a SWF movie, optionally scaled/otherwise resized. Why open Flash movies inside of GIMP? I dunno. Boredom, I suppose :)

Also thinking of writing a RSVG plugin for Moz. Its builtin SVG support shows promise, but (at present) leaves much to be desired. Yeah, RSVG needs a lot of work too. I'll see what I can get to, now that most of the Sodipodi Flags work properly.

We all loved you Chema. Words can't describe how much I'll miss you.

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