[Pkg-fonts-devel] Bug#492623: ttf-liberation: Trademark prevents modifications

Ian Jackson ian at davenant.greenend.org.uk
Tue Jul 29 22:51:46 UTC 2008

Julian Andres Klode writes ("Bug#492623: ttf-liberation: Trademark prevents modifications"):
> Package: ttf-liberation
> Version: 1.04~beta2-2
> Severity: important
> Quoting the license:
> If you modify the files, you must
>  - Rename the fonts to remove any reference to Liberation
>  - Not install the fonts as liberation
>  - Rename the binary package and the source package
>  - Change the description to remove all references to Liberation and
>    Red Hat.

Some of these restrictions are plainly unenforceable in pretty much
any jurisdiction.  For example, the factual statement "these fonts are
modified versions of RedHat's Liberation" is not generally restricted
by trademark law.  And "functional" things like the font name (used by
applications and documents) and package names are often treated by
courts as exempted.

But the real kicker is this: Debian contains oodles of stuff with
these kind of idiotic trademark licences.  Our usual approach with
these has been to ignore them and hope it never becomes an issue.
In 99% of cases this is true.

If the trademark owner cares[1] they are of course free to contact
Debian (or anyone else) to insist we do not encroach on their legally
enforceable monopoly.  In that case we will typically rename the

So in practice pointing out questionable trademark policies is
harmful: we have nothing to gain, since our and our users' freedom is
not really at risk, but we have some convenience to lose by making an
issue of it.


[1] It's possible of course that they don't notice but Debian is
hardly hidden.

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