[asterisk-biz] Open letter to digium, asterisk developers and consultants

Trixter aka Bret McDanel trixter at 0xdecafbad.com
Sun Jun 8 19:47:14 CDT 2008

I am writing this letter to Digium and all those that use or develop
software for Asterisk.  Asterisk is released under a dual license, the
one I will focus on is the GPL license.  

Digium maintains a trademark on the word Asterisk, along with other
words.  The trademark policy they have forbids marketing a product with
the asterisk word if it is not "Genuine Digium Software".  If you modify
software, apply a patch, add 3rd party modules, this trademark policy
prevents you from distributing that software saying that its based on
asterisk, or even using the name asterisk within the program.

This is particularly problematic for 3rd party module developers, since
they are forbidden from ever revealing that the module is "asterisk
compatible".  The same applies to AGIs.  All of this software is not
"Genuine Digium Software".  Consultants are not allowed per the
trademark policy from stating they work on asterisk systems, even if thy
are genuine digium software products.

Further, the exceptions to linking that come with asterisk include
critical libraries that will not allow for building if the project is
not asterisk.  The trademark policy forces a fork in the software due to
the name, however the exceptions make this a less than trivial task
since you would have to replicate openssl and other libraries.  In
general this policy makes it all but impossible to distribute modified
works based on asterisk.

The Digium trademark policy is available at http://www.digium.com for

While this may seem reasonable under the protection of the brand name,
it does defy the spirit and intent of the GPL in that effectively Digium
has banned forks of the project, distribution of 3rd party modules,
distribution of modified code, etc.

I understand that digium wants to protect their name, their branding,
and make a clear difference between what they release and what others
release, however it seems to fly in the face of open source, the Free
Software Foundation, and the GPL specifically to place these
restrictions on the software.  It also makes it so that people who have
developed components for asterisk may have a difficult time leveraging
that experience for personal or professional advancement.

I am requesting that the disclaimer apply to forks of the asterisk
project and not just asterisk itself, as this would allow people to
comply with the trademark policy and still distribute a functional
program under the terms of the GPL license.

I further request that a difference be made in the trademark policy
allowing for advertising of products that include phrases such as
"Asterisk Compatible" or "Based on Asterisk" should someone wish to
place their AGI, 3rd party module, patch, etc on a webpage and write a
description for it.

I encourage anyone who agrees that the spirit of the GPL be followed,
not just its wording to contact digium in support of this proposal.

Specifics about the trademark policy obtained from
http://www.digium.com/en/company/view-policy.php?id=Trademark-Policy on
June 08 2008, 2:35am CEST.

Genuine Digium Software is the software in the same form as originally
distributed by Digium, without modification to the code of any extent.
The only exception is that software may still be considered Genuine
Digium Software if, in connection with distribution of that software for
a certain platform, code has been removed that relates to functions that
would not work on that platform in any event. Once a change has been
made to the software, even if that change may be permissible under the
GPL, the software is no longer Genuine Digium Software, because Digium
did not make or control the change.

Uses that are not approved by this policy
"Use of a Trademark in a web page title, TITLETAG, META tag, or other
manner with the intent or the likely effect of influencing search engine
rankings or results listings."

Search engines rank based on content of a page, this in effect prevents
you from using the trademarked words in your webpage if the software is
not "genuine".

Uses that are not approved by this policy
"Use of a Trademark to refer to services offered by your company, or to
suggest that your services are authorized or endorsed by Digium."

If you are a consultant who specializes in asterisk systems you cannot
mention that, even if it is genuine digium software per the first part
of this policy.

There is a allowed use under the "fair use" provision, which has the
potentail to remove these, however the policy itself does not make it
clear that you would be allowed to use it in this way, and it does seem
to indicate specifically you cannot.

Trixter http://www.0xdecafbad.com     Bret McDanel
Belfast +44 28 9099 6461        US +1 516 687 5200
http://www.trxtel.com the phone company that pays you!

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