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.

91 comments for “Ubuntu, Firefox and License Issues”

  1. 1

    rhY said on September 16th, 2008 at 6:22 am:

    So you’re saying my next browser will be iceweasel?

  2. 2

    Lyle Howard Seave said on September 16th, 2008 at 7:28 am:

    I would suggest you go to the bug report everyone has ‘Flocked’ to. There are some truly excellent comments that Im not going to bother to to copy word for word.

    I loved a comment there about just rebranding a Ubuntu browser: Google Chrome meet Ubuntu Copper.
    And considering how Ubuntu is serious about branding and promoting its name, this wouldnt be out from left field.

    This was funny because I thought the Chrome Windows FUBAR was a bad blunder last week. You folks managed three of them in one shot. Nice.

    As for EULA’s, all I can say take a group of 100 people and ask them who has ever read a EULA before using it.
    These things have no legality in many countries.

    Up to now, Firefox had a couple of small annoyances in how it was governed. Now its moved to the big leagues.

    I not sure if I should worry that you folks DIDNT know this would be the reaction or that you DID know it and still went through with it.

    Neither choices makes me feel better.


  3. 3

    Mitchell Baker said on September 16th, 2008 at 7:29 am:

    Michael: that’s an interesting idea, we’ll look into it.

    John Gilmore: as to your first point, the correct content should indeed point to the MPL.

    As to firing people, I would say that just about everyone I know — inside Mozilla, outside Mozilla, in life in general — who is trying to do new things has made a serious mistake or two. That certainly includes me. I’m not perfect, I do *stupid* things some times and I can’t make me or anyone else mistake-free. My approach is to try to find a way past the anger and the nasty, personal attacks (not in your comments in this case, but in a bunch of the others) to find the source of the anger, explain that and help people internalize the reason while shedding the personal attacks.

    jsmith: yeah. though

  4. 4

    franco merletti said on September 16th, 2008 at 9:57 am:

    congratulations people ( me included )

    we are wasting our (precious) time posting comments, writing blogs, posting a bug, discussing the bug, discussing the blog about the bug, commenting about the blog that discuss the discussion of the bug, etc, etc

    and all about an useless EULAs (for god sake!)

    Mozilla ( and the great Asa… that posted Quicktime videos in his blog, without providing an linux-ready version ), don’t you have better things to defend?

    why don’t you defend the people that have problems with Firefox and didn’t get the problems resolved? for example: the infamous “print selection” bug. We are aproaching 2010 and still Firefox can’t print pages without splitting blank ones

    don’t sleep in your triumphs ! ( chrome and IE8 are getting better and better and better … )


  5. 5

    Thorsten said on September 16th, 2008 at 10:18 am:

    Full ACK @John Gilmore.

  6. 6

    Jonas B. said on September 16th, 2008 at 10:20 am:

    I just wish Ubuntu could use Iceweasel and be done with it. I would be glad if the problem could just go away. The Mozilla Foundation has been very arrogant in this matter.

    Asa’s comment is so ignorant that I slapped my forehead, literally. It’s just not true in any way.

    I shouldn’t have to explain this, but EULAs constitutes a problem in embedded software and live distributions, where Linux has carved itself a niche precisely because of this. This is also a question of policy. If more free software, of which a Linux distribution contains thousands, showed EULAs we’d have an obvious problem.

  7. 7

    Erik Postma said on September 16th, 2008 at 10:33 am:

    If the “revised license” is as far as it goes, I am highly disappointed and tempted to retract my comment above. As I stated in a comment to the “revised license” post, I will not enter into any *agreements* to use Firefox. I will only accept the terms of a *license*.

  8. 8

    alex said on September 16th, 2008 at 11:01 am:

    I haven’t seen the EULA notice here but I want to tell another story about annoying EULA’s –
    it’s iTunes EULA. I used to own a mac and regularly ran updates. I ran iTunes once every two months and updates came in I think twice a month. Thus everytime I started iTunes it required me to run through all license changes and click through them.

    The major advantage of open source software – it usually doesn’t care to bug you about a EULA.

    Debian/sun-java also has a very interesting solution. It pops the EULA once it gets installed. If you install another sun product it remembers that you already saw the license agreement.

    So if possible try to minimize popups or anything else that just requires you to click “yes” or “ok” to make things work.

  9. 9

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  10. 10

    Pingback from Mozilla no pudo con Ubuntu — Criando Cuervos

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  11. 11

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  12. 12

    Acrobat Alternate said on September 16th, 2008 at 12:41 pm:

    @jsmith: Try FoxIt Reader. Still has a EULA, but much lighter and faster then Adobe Acrobat reader, not sending info back to adobe and no spamming the reader with ads. Also the reader is gratis (free as in beer)

  13. 13

    Peter said on September 16th, 2008 at 12:54 pm:

    I see no need to show the average user an End User License Agreement. It just costs them time to click on it once, and they are not going to read it anyway. Just imagine every software in the average linux distribution would pop up an End Uer License Agreement upon its first start – what a gigantic waste of time!
    Better invest your enery in making firefox faster and better (Do you still remember why the phoenix project was started in 2002? – If you don’t, it was because Mozilla was slooooow and fat. I started to use phoenix as a faster replacement, and today Mozilla feels again like in 2002, slow and fat on state of the art Computers).
    Please care about the real Problems and don’t act like Microsoft (It is not a bug, it is a feature).

  14. 14

    Sebastian said on September 16th, 2008 at 12:55 pm:

    Sounds like yet another good reason to switch to IceWeasel, Konqueror or Epiphany. Such actions are hurting firefox a lot. Please don’t forget your base and all those base does not belong to you.

  15. 15

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  16. 16

    Chrome User said on September 16th, 2008 at 2:38 pm:

    With such a sickening attitude towards Free Software and freedom, Mozilla will die a slow painful death, being replaced by the truly Free and Open browser, chromium.

  17. 17

    Frank said on September 16th, 2008 at 4:02 pm:

    It’s really not about the content of the eula: no one reads eulas. And I find it really hard why mozilla would insist on needing one

  18. 18

    Pingback from Mozilla exige a Ubuntu incorporar una EULA a Firefox « Conocimiento Libre (o lo que está detrás del Software Libre)

    […] Actualización, 09/16 07:32 GMT por inniyah: Mitchell Baker, presidenta de la Fundación Mozilla, ha reconocido que han metido la pata. han modificado el texto de la EULA, que tal y como estaba no tenía ningún sentido, y han […]

  19. 19

    x29a said on September 16th, 2008 at 11:29 pm:

    “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.”

    It does. But only when the user is asking for it. Just think of what would happen when everybody does this – including libraries.

    – Jonas

  20. 20

    Trackback from onli blogging

    Firefox dank Kritik ohne EULA …

    Noch vor zwei Tagen wollte Mozilla Ubuntunutzer mit einer EULA nerven. Nach den heftigen Reaktionen begann das Zurückrudern: Zuerst wurde behauptet, der bisherige (proprietär klingende) EULA-Inhalt sei falsch und solle mit einer FLOSS-Lizenz ausgetau…

  21. 21

    Flimm said on September 17th, 2008 at 5:30 am:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to listen to the people. I have every confidence that the leaders and the lawyers of Mozilla will find a workable solution for everyone.
    Just thought you might need some encouragement after all the rants and threats! Keep up the good work.

  22. 22

    sys admin said on September 17th, 2008 at 9:00 am:

    I think a fork is in order.

    We shouldn’t be at the mercy of some “executive” who will decide whether to do the right thing.

    Besides, Mozilla will be bankrupt in a year now that their patron Google has gone off in its own direction.

  23. 23

    Pingback from Mozilla korrigiert EULA | Linux Nachrichten - News und Meldungen rund um Linux / Open Source

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  24. 24

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  25. 25

    RL said on September 17th, 2008 at 12:55 pm:

    Blame Google not Mozilla!

    Like sys admin said Mozilla have reached much with the help from Google’s money and now they might loose it. The whole idea seems right away from the search for a new way to fill a financial gap arising. But if that’s the reason then this is the wrong approach leading to loose a good reputation / position:

    1. Firefox is a very good product as Free Software
    2. Having a great community supporting it
    3. Advantges comparing to the competitors like: Chrome is intransparent and
    4. Firefox can secure privacy

    It should have come a clear statement to keep the things like before but offering other opportunities to earn the money it needs to go on. Everyone would see that.

    The money makeing would be “Mozilla Services” (whatever these will be) which can be used by users installing a plugin / addon which then can have restrictions / ads or payable character. Letting users choose if they want more and if so giving them then the legal stuff and see if they accept it and also let them deactivate / uninstall if they want to get rid of it.

    Free Software should enbale some kind of Free Information (as far as possible) like knowing decisions before they are fixed and giving the possibilty to discuss it. Haveing the other way causes poeple reacting like screaming FORK FORK – instead of giving constructive input.

    If the impression is wrong then we come back to the question: What is the reason for changing? The complete thoughts leading here would then be interesting – OK, this is surely not possible but help understand.

  26. 26

    Matt said on September 17th, 2008 at 1:13 pm:

    I believe the EULA should be shown whenever there are legal restrictions that limit the typical users use of the software. This is not the case with firefox. Most people simply do not need to care about the licens, and showing it will give the opposite impression.

    Some argue that showing the EULA doesn’t hurt the average user, since most people don’t read it. But the fact that the questions has sparked such a large debate clearly shows that a lot of people do care.

    I do hope, that Mozilla and Ubuntu will work together and find a solution that doesn’t alarm or annoy the users. Firefox is a great browser, and I hope that we’ll still see both the browser itself and its name/logo in the upcoming Ubuntu version.

  27. 27

    mario said on September 17th, 2008 at 3:05 pm:

    It leaves me with a sad feeling, when Mozilla displays that sort of attitude towards its user base.

  28. 28

    Trackback from Tu Linux

    Mozilla Firefox admite que EULA es defectuoso…

  29. 29

    sağlık said on September 18th, 2008 at 4:32 am:

    Sounds like yet another good reason to switch to IceWeasel, Konqueror or Epiphany.

  30. 30

    mapics said on September 18th, 2008 at 4:18 pm:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to listen to the people.

  31. 31

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  39. 39

    rotyyu said on October 6th, 2008 at 3:20 am:

    I heard that Mozilla has changed their decision..

  40. 40

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