Mozilla: Firefox licence in Ubuntu was a 'giant error'

Chairperson Mitchell Baker has said it was a mistake to include an end-user licence agreement in a beta version of Firefox 3.0.2

Mozilla, the organisation behind the Firefox web browser, has admitted it made a mistake by including an end-user licence agreement in a Firefox beta used in the Intrepid Ibex version of Ubuntu.

Mozilla Corporation chairperson Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post on Monday that Mozilla had made a "giant error" in putting the wrong content into the end-user licence agreement (EULA), which lays out how people can legally use the software.

"The most important thing here is to acknowledge that, yes, the content of the licence agreement is wrong," Baker wrote. "The correct content is clear that the code is governed by Floss [free/libre/open-source software] licences, not the typical end-user licence agreement language that is in the current version. We created a licence that points to the Floss licences, but we've made a giant error in not getting this to Ubuntu, other distributors, and posted publicly for review. We'll correct this asap."

Floss licences differ in content, but usually feature the proviso that the software can be distributed freely across the internet.

Baker also said that there were "issues" with the way the EULA was presented to people, in the form of a dialogue box.

"I think the presentation might not be so bad if we had the correct content there… But, even then, the presentation may have issues," Baker said. "We're certainly trying to figure this out. We'll do this with public input."

Baker then wrote that there would be discussion about whether a Firefox EULA was needed at all, after the correct terms had been included.

"This leaves the question of whether it ever makes sense to show people the terms that relate to the software and services available to them," said Baker. "I saw some comments asking why one ever needs any terms. Again, if we had the correct content, I think this would be less of an issue, because then we would be telling people about Floss licences. We... have shot ourselves in the foot here, given the old, wrong content. So I hope we can have a discussion on this point, but I doubt we'll have a good one until we fix the other problems."

Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth, whose organisation funds the Ubuntu operating system, on Saturday defended Mozilla, asserting that the EULA had been included for trademark reasons.