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I am getting a little confused about the legality of modifying Linux distributions, specifically the naming and branding.
I've been looking around the website of various Linux distributors in various forms. The logos are being displayed on their website and on the media (cd, dvd etc.) there's either the logo printed or the name (Suse, Redhat etc.) written with a cd marker.
My question is, is this legal? Most (if not all) of these distributors are not official and yet they are using branding of other companies like they are their own. I'm also referring to those selling copies of Linux on Ebay.
Taking that a step further, as its all open source, people can modify etc. Lets say someone makes a minor modification to OpenSuSe. Can they still refer to it as OpenSuSe, (or even "modified" OpenSuSE)?
So, basically, apart from the source, what else is open?
I never really totally read the thing but as far as I basically understand it you can modify something under the GPL and brand it as something else - I think - but hey I think I will read some more too you got me thinking -
And not all linuxs are under the GPL or open source for that matter - they may have their own license and can charge whatever they want
The terms and conditions of the GPL are available to anybody receiving a copy of the work that has a GPL applied to it ("the licensee"). Any licensee who adheres to the terms and conditions is given permission to modify the work, as well as to copy and redistribute the work or any derivative version. The licensee is allowed to charge a fee for this service, or do this free of charge. This latter point distinguishes the GPL from software licenses that prohibit commercial redistribution. The FSF argues that free software should not place restrictions on commercial use, and the GPL explicitly states that GPL works may be sold at any price.
If you modify Fedora, then it's really not Fedora anymore and should be re-branded..
Ubuntu is a modified Debian, as are many other distros
A good example of this would be CentOS. A re-branded version of RedHat Enterprise Linux, compiled from Redhats original sources with all mentions of Redhat removed.
Be nice to see some examples you are worried about, but a Linux distributor (as in supplier) can of course use the logos of the distros they are supplying, so you know what you are getting eg see linuxit.com.au.
In the same manner as MS suppliers do.
As pointed out above, if however they are modifying the code first ie becoming a distributor (as in creator of a 'new' distro) , then they'd have to change the name, although they can mention what they base their distro on.
Typically you have to remove trademarks and brands from a distro, then rename it. For example the fedora logo is trademarked, you can't use it in your distro. You also cannot have the installer say "Welcome to the Fedora Core 8 installer".
Different companies have their rules about how others use/display their logos. Even Debian has such rules - and numerous packages within the Debian archives also have their own rules (Apache, MySQL, and many others). Generally the people and companies using the other logos comply with the rules set by the logo/trademark/brand name owner. There have been violations though and people have been asked to stop using logos, similar names, etc etc. For some of the more recent examples, have a look at Canonical's control of 'Ubuntu' and similarly named distributions derived from it (Edubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu). You can also bet that RedHat and Novell wouldn't knowingly allow anyone to use their respective brands and logos contrary to their own conditions of use.
So, basically, apart from the source, what else is open?
It is probably safest to assume that nothing besides the source is open. This was actually the sticking point between Mozilla and Debian over Debian's modifications of Firefox. Debian modified the Firefox code (which they were allowed to do) but Mozilla didn't want that code in their base. However, Debian was continuing to call the modified version Firefox and Mozilla took extreme exception to this. Mozilla's point was that what Debian was putting out as Firefox wasn't actually the same thing as what Mozilla was putting out as Firefox and confusion would result. Since Mozilla had trademarked the Firefox name, they did have the right to tell Debian to stop using it. Hence, the Debian version of Firefox is now Iceweasel.
There have also been some pretty lame attempts to use trademarks to close down an open source license. SugarCRM was one of the more prominent purveyors of this stunt. They essentially created a Catch 22 where to distribute modified code, you had to keep the original attributions and names. However, since the name SugarCRM was trademarked, you had to get permission to have it in the source code, which Sugar wouldn't give. So in essence you could modify the code but you couldn't distribute it. Nice, eh?