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The Evil Free Browser Distributors
via Consumerist, a tenderheaded British "Trading Standards" lady from a small northern town attacks Mozilla away the browser free? And for...not having a problem with people selling hard copies of the thing? Gervase Markham writes in The London Times:

Who could possibly be upset with the Mozilla Foundation for giving away its Firefox browser?

One of my roles at the Mozilla Foundation relates to copyright licensing. I'm responsible for making sure that the software we distribute respects the conditions of the free software licences of the underlying code. I'm also the first point of contact for licensing questions.

Most of the time, this job involves helping people who want to use our code in their own products understand the terms, or advising project members who want to integrate code from another project into our codebase. Occasionally, however, something a little more unusual comes along.

A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town. They had encountered businesses which were selling copies of Firefox, and wanted to confirm that this was in violation of our licence agreements before taking action against them.

I wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft – that the software was free, both as in speech and as in price, and that people copying and redistributing it was a feature, not a bug. I said that selling verbatim copies of Firefox on physical media was absolutely fine with us, and we would like her to return any confiscated CDs and allow us to continue with our plan for world domination (or words to that effect).

Unfortunately, this was not well received. Her reply was incredulous:

"I can't believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?" she asked.

"If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

I felt somewhat unnerved at being held responsible for the disintegration of the UK anti-piracy system. Who would have thought giving away software could cause such difficulties?

Posted by aalkon at March 1, 2006 6:36 AM

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Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 1, 2006 5:14 PM

That would go in a "Weird News" header. Funny.

Posted by: opit at March 2, 2006 10:51 AM

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