Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: Brian Bartholomew <>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 02:10:03 -0500

Perhaps this discussion will be less painful if I pick an example
other than Red Hat, a vendor that many, myself included, believe to be
doing wonderful things for the cause of libre software.  So instead I
will pick on the vendor who sent me physical junk mail advertising a
$250 Linux distribution.  Mercifully, I have forgotten their name, so
I will call them FooCo.


> 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.

The FooCo branding sales pitch claims that they are the best place to
get their distribution, even when a bitcopy at 1% of the price is
available elsewhere.  This fits your definition of a lie.  The fine
print is just that, fine print.  In FooCo's advertising strategy
meetings I'm sure they claim that customers won't notice the fine
print, so let's go with their own perception of the effect of their

I'm claiming, or perhaps asking, if this strategy is inconsistant with
the moral baggage associated with the libre software cause.

> 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"?

That's my question -- can a legitimate libre software vendor depend
on, and be incented to increase, informational friction?

I've always considered proselytizing the guerilla spread of libre
software to be part of the libre platform.  Rereading the philosophy
essays at confirms my memory.  Now the profit motive is
introduced, and the mission and terminology are creeping.  Perhaps
FooCo should advertise they sell Almost Free Software.  Or an
OpenSource(R) approved source distribution.  But not Free Software.

League for Programming Freedom (LPF)
Brian Bartholomew - - - Working Version, Cambridge, MA