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Re: Juridical problems

Roger Dingledine wrote:

> In message <19980913102909.4339.qmail@sidney.remcomp.fr>, jfm2@club-internet.fr writes:
> >
> >When hacking the install I stumbled upon the string
> >"Copyright by Red Hat Software".
> >
> >I am not sure we can replace it simply by "Project Independence"
> >because

You can't/oughtn't/shouldn't.  :-)

> >
> >a) the name Project Independence is already taken.  Of course
> Exactly which 'Project Independence' variants are taken, and in
> which countries? I see 'Project Independence, Ltd' in infoseek.
> Perhaps somebody with more legal experience can say if you can
> simply make a different variant on it and call it your own.

Most countries use a likelihood of confusion test for trademark protection.  I would
suspect something as descriptive as "Project Independence" would not be entitled to strong
protection, but research needs to be done.  As a general rule, the more different people
use the same name, the easier it is to copy.  But the essential question is this:  would a
consumer be confused that someone else produced your product?  You can always reduce this
risk by including "subtitles" to make clear to a reasonable consumer that you are not
affiliated w/ any other company named "Project Independence".  Of course, to have a
trademark you will need a legal entity . . . .

> >b) We have no juridical entity.  A solution would be to copyright
> >using the names of the participants but putting my name in front of
> >the first thing the user will see -the installation panel- seems a bit

Maybe I'm missing something, but what is there to copyright?  From what I gather from
being on the mailing list, you are simply repackaging other people's work.  That does not
entitle you to a copyright, not even a derivative copyright.  RedHat copyrights things
like glint, which it wrote.

> agreed, that doesn't sound like a very community-friendly approach.
> >violent.  Perhaps better would be to have a "Contributors" and put
> >Copyrights only in the sources like it is done in Linux kernel.
> >
> >Any ideas?
> On another note, are you allowed to simply replace somebody else's
> copyright with your own when you start distributing their material
> (even modified)? That seems fishy. :)

Absolutely not.  The GPL (and probably any other license applicable to software in the
distribution) gives you a LICENSE to use, copy and redistribute, it does not give you the
right to claim authorship (a copyright is a claim to authorship).  Please do _not_ try to
claim a copyright in something that is not your original work, it is not only probably
unlawful in every jurisdiction in the world (even China and Russia!), it is IMHO totally
unfair to the actual authors (I'm not trying to be rude here, I just need to make this
point clearly and unequivocally).  If you made substantial changes to a GPL program, then
there might be the question of whether or not you are entitled to a copyright on a
"derivative work", but I would be amazed if just redistributing what RedHat, KDE et al.
distribute qualifies in any jurisdiction.

If you want some sort of intellectual property protection for the PI distribution, your
best bet is to use a trademark or service mark, whose purpose is to signal to people the
_source_ of a product or service, which is what I gather you are really trying to do.  To
do this you will likely want to form a legal entity (this opens a bird's nest of issues,
such as control, ownership, liabilities) or to pick a representative to hold the

Hope this helps.  BTW, I am not giving any legal advice and my opinions are strictly my


Andreas F. Pour