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Might Ubuntu and Firefox part ways because of the dreaded EULA?

Users of the upcoming Ubuntu "Intrepid Ibex" are in for a surprise - being confronted by a EULA the first time they launch the Firefox web browser. And it's caused a bit of a stir.

Users of the upcoming Ubuntu "Intrepid Ibex" are in for a surprise - being confronted by a EULA the first time they launch the Firefox web browser. And it's caused a bit of a stir.

Read my EULA!
Here's what Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) has to say:

Mozilla Corp asked that this be added in order for us to continue to call the browser Firefox. Since Firefox is their trademark, which we intend to respect, we have the choice of working with Mozilla to meet their requirements, or switching to an unbranded browser.

It's strongly our preference, and that of most of our users, to have Firefox as the browser in Ubuntu.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for Mozilla to have requirements and guidelines for the use of their trademark - we have the same for Ubuntu, and many other free software projects do the same. I would in fact consider it a best practice to have a good brand on a free software project, which means having trademark guidelines.

That said, I would not consider an EULA as a best practice. It's unfortunate that Mozilla feels this is absolutely necessary, but they do, and none of us are in a position to be experts about the legal constraints which Mozilla feels apply to them. We had extensive conversations with Mozilla in order to find the best possible way of meeting their requirements while preserving the flow of use of the system for our users.

Please feel free to make constructive suggestions as to how we can meet Mozilla's requirements while improving the user experience. It's not constructive to say "WTF?", nor is it constructive to rant and rave in allcaps. Your software freedoms are built on legal grounds, as are Mozilla's rights in the Firefox trademark. To act as though your rights are being infringed misses the point of free software by a mile.

I believe we have a new package in Intrepid, called abrowser, which uses the codebase behind Firefox without invoking the Firefox trade mark.

Now, if you come from a Windows background, the idea of being confronted by a EULA the first time you fire up an applications might not strike you as particularly odd since most applications come with an EULA that you have to click through as either a standard part of the install, or when you first fire up the application. On Linux distros however, EULAs are a rare thing.

There seems to be two camps forming around this EULA push by Mozilla:

  • Those who think that having to click through an EULA once is no big deal.
  • Those who think that having to click through an EULA once is a really big deal.

Note: Copy of EULA can be found here.

Those who think that they EULA is a big deal cite a number of reasons why this is a bad thing:

  • Forcing an EULA on users is against the concept of free software
  • The EULA makes using Ubuntu in a Live CD format cumbersome because you'd have to agree to the EULA with every reboot
  • Pretty soon, Ubuntu will be packed with programs that require the user to click through a EULA
  • In some countries the EULAs have no legal effects, so the whole thing move is pointless
  • It's a bad thing that user's first experience with the newly installed/upgrade of "Intrepid Ibex" will be a long, confusing EULA that screams proprietary software
  • The EULA is not a recognized free license, therefore Firefox has to move to restricted status

It also seems to have annoyed the Ubuntu community that this EULA has been added to Ubuntu without any consultation.

So, could Firefox be banished from the default Firefox install and be thrown into the restricted software pile (along with code such as codecs for proprietary file formats)? Well, yes it could. One option for Ubuntu would be to use IceWeasel, a rebranded version of Firefox put together by the Debian Project. Or just dispense with branding altogether and go for abrowser, which is again Firefox without the Firefox branding.

Personally, I really don't see the point of the EULA in this case. Firefox is free software and users can, if they wish (and have the know how), remove the EULA. Looking at this from Mozilla's side, I'm guessing that the company is using the EULA as a way to increase awareness of the Firefox brand.

Anyone here got any thoughts either way on EULAs?

Editorial standards

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