Using the Debian trademark

Using the Debian trademark

In October 2023, the Software Freedom Institute chose to cancel our Debian trademark registration. If you have registered domain names containing the Debian trademark then we recommend that you seek advice about whether your web site content meets the criteria for legitimate interests under the UDRP or similar fair use frameworks that apply in your jurisdiction. The judgment about the domain name provides an interesting example where the right of copyright interests was deemed to be superior to the trademark rights. As all Debian Developers have copyright interests in our work, the precedent gives us a strong defence against malicious UDRP cases.

At the Institute, we are disappointed by the recent events in Debian. Thirty Debian Developers have resigned in a very short space of time.

We encourage people to go ahead and use the name Debian in domain names and web sites that are genuinely connected with your Debian activities. The Debian Social Contract, point no. 3, tells us We will not hide problems.

The Debian Constitution tells us that we are independent and autonomous. Therefore, it is completely normal for Debian Developers to create autonomous web sites including the name Debian in the domain. With over a thousand active Debian Developers, it is unlikely that every Developer will always agree with every other Developer. This makes it even more vital to have multiple, autonomous, censor-resistant Debian web sites.

Everybody who ever contributed to Debian in the entire history of the project has legitimate interests in using the trademark in a domain name. These legitimate interests are honored in the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) clause 4(a)(ii). Given the nature of free, open source software projects it is completely impossible to say that the volunteers have no rights whatsoever. Therefore, any claim made under the UDRP can not honestly satisfy clause 4(a)(ii) and will be struck out.

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