Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: (Frank Hecker)
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 00:36:40 -0500

Brian Bartholomew wrote:
> Let me be more plain-spoken.  As some point, lying produces
> transactions of negative value to consumers.  We call this practice
> immoral and illegal, and prosecute it as 'fraud'.

What you were talking about originally is not lying IMHO, i.e., uttering
things one knows to be false in an attempt to deceive another.  It is
rather an issue of the morality of withholding information from the
customer in what is in effect a business negotiation.  (An issue which
is especially relevant in sales.)  Put the other way, to what extent
should a vendor go to educate their customer about all aspects of the
transaction they are considering, including the existence of (and
information about) competitors and alternative distribution channels,
information about what prices the vendor is willing to accept, and
whether the customer can get lower prices from an alternative source,

This is a judgement call that everyone must make for themselves, but in
the case we were originally discussing (Red Hat vs. CheapBytes) I
personally don't see any issue. If you go one click in from the Red Hat
home page (link for RH 5.2) you'll find statements like "We make Red Hat
Linux available by unrestricted FTP from our site and many mirror sites
on the Internet" and an explanation of the GPL and the rights it gives
users.  This to me is sufficient notice: the consumer has been informed
of the nature of what they are purchasing and that it can be obtained
through an alternate channel at no charge (FTP download); they can then
investigate other channels for themselves (for example by typing "Linux"
into any web search engine).

To remove this from Red Hat specifically: Should a vendor of free
software be compelled to state the equivalent of "I'm selling this
software on CD for $50, but be aware you can buy it from our competitor
Acme for $2, and by the way here's their URL and phone number"?  This
would seem necessary by your ideas on "educational benefit" to the
consumer; however I think this goes well beyond what is sufficient when
dealing with a presumably informed consumer.

Frank Hecker          Pre-sales support, Netscape government sales