Fedora-Council/tickets ticket #460: Relicense Fedora-logos

@msuchy filed Fedora-Council/tickets ticket #460. Discuss here and record votes and decisions in the ticket.

Ticket text:

I think we should keep the status quo. In general, we don’t want unauthorized changes to our marks.

I’ll repeat what I put in the GitLab issue for posterity’s sake:

If we are changing the license to CC-BY-ND, we should be clear-eyed that this is not a Free license. Neither does the Creative Commons distinguish the NoDerivatives clause as a Free Culture license. It takes away one of the Four Freedoms of the right to modify and make changes to the work. It does open questions for how other communities (especially user communities) could modify and change the work.

Perhaps NoDerivatives is what we want here, but there is an enforcement question that realistically we will need to consider. What do we do when someone modifies the Fedora logo in some way? If they add a country flag or a rainbow into the Fedora logo, does this mean we should pursue those as license violations? Speaking for myself, I have neither the interest nor capacity in pursuing cases like that.

Looking at the Digital Public Goods Standard, to which Fedora is a party of, they permit the NonCommercial variants but not the NoDerivatives variants for recognized Digital Public Goods. And thinking for myself, the NonCommercial license is actually the kind of use I would rather enforce and act upon for Fedora than NoDerivatives. I might not care whether someone remixes the Fedora logo in a way that personalizes it to their community, but I would care if someone is using the Fedora brand and trademark to sell a commercial product, or make it appear that Fedora supports or endorses their commercial product. In this case, I’d want someone to request trademark permission through the Fedora Council, as they would already today.

As I understand it from Richard’s original comment, the status quo is in violation of our existing policies and there is no exception in place for what we have with the logos. So, something needs to change. @ref outlined five possible options that we could pursue, one of which was a license change.

We could also opt to keep our proprietary license and update the guidelines so that the trademarks remain an exception to existing licensing policy, although I would contest that this is in sharp contrast to how several of our user communities already reuse and remix the Fedora logo in a variety of ways.

I don’t want to be the person going and chasing a Fedora community in some country for remixing the Fedora logo to use a country’s flag as part of the artwork. Would that meet the logo guidelines? No. Does it really have a detrimental impact on Fedora? Not really. Would it have a detrimental impact on community morale for some Red Hatter to come with a threat to stop using the logo? Potentially.

There is a note somewhere, I can’t remember where, about complying with the Fedora CoC in order to use the Fedora logo and brand. I’m not sure if this is something that would be overwritten or not by switching to a CC license. Would we have any control over that in this case, versus what we have now? Historically, this is a power we have used when the administrators of a specific Fedora user community were breaking the Fedora CoC on a regular basis, and we asked them to stop using our logo to clearly separate them from the core Fedora community.

Is there a way that we could preserve that protection here somehow?

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Copyright and trademark law are separate. Switching to a CC license wouldn’t prevent us from enforcing use in a trademark context, but it makes the situation confusing for everyone.

Let’s keep it simple and explicitly grant ourselves an exception that we’ve implicitly relied on. That’s what I meant by keeping the status quo.

Wikipedia takes the exciting stance that the logo is actually public domain, giving the rationale

This logo image consists only of simple geometric shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain. Although it is free of copyright restrictions, this image may still be subject to other restrictions

Having seen the work that went into designing both the new logo and the old one, I’m quite skeptical of that claim — but I am not a lawyer.

But — in combination with our brewing thoughts on relaxing some of our rules on producing non-commercial, non-official swag items — that does get me thinking. What if we relaxed the copyright license significantly (CC, while also more strongly emphasizing trademark rules and our brand guidelines.

The brand guidelines have some amount of “teeth” given by the trademark, but I’m optimistically thinking that if we make those more prominent, people will want to respect our wishes (and not make @duffy very sad with horrific home-brewed “variants”).

As I understand it, we only allow CC0 for content, not code, particularly because it specifically says “No trademark or patent rights held by Affirmer are waived, abandoned, surrendered, licensed or otherwise affected by this document.” In this case, that seems like exactly what we want.

Does Fedora Legal have an opinion on this?

CC: @ref and @jlovejoy.