Mozilla

Ubuntu, Firefox and License Issues

September 15th, 2008

Ubuntu recently included a patch that causes an End User License  Agreement for Firefox to appear. This has caused great concern on several topics. One is the content of the agreement. Another is the presentation. A third is whether there’s any reason for a license at all.

The most important thing here is to acknowledge that yes, the content of the license agreement is wrong. The correct content is clear that the code is governed by FLOSS licenses, not the typical end user license agreement language that is in the current version. We created a license that points to the FLOSS licenses, 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.

Second, the way the license is presented to people also has issues. I think the presentation might not be so bad if we had the correct content there, so that it said the software is governed by the FLOSS licenses that are so important to us. But even then the presentation may have issues. We’re certainly trying to figure this out. We’ll do this with public input; you’ll see posts about this shortly as well.

There’s a third question of services, and whether the FLOSS license for the code can include the services one accesses. We think this isn’t true all the time, and the license will reflect that. The code is governed by FLOSS licenses, and we should have been clear about that.

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. 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 licenses. We (meaning Mozilla) 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.

We take this very seriously and are working hard to fix it.

Update: text of the revised license is online.

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