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For my computer class we need Linux. So I recommend to get Virtual Box and Ubuntu. But since there has to be TeX and Emacs installed which is non-trivial for novices, I thought I might set up an appliance to help them.

I realize that it is free software for the most part, but I am not sure how to handle the Ubuntu brand name in this case.

Is it legal to create a Ubuntu VM, install some packages and make the bundle available for download?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

What you want to do is basically creating an Ubuntu derivative (please correct me if I'm wrong).

As long as you choose to distribute free software, the only problem you may encounter is the Ubuntu branding, which has some trademarks. Fortunately, there is a page on the Ubuntu website which clearly explains what you can do and what you cannot do with the trademarks. The page is http://www.ubuntu.com/aboutus/trademarkpolicy. The paragraph you are interested in is this one:

We recognise and encourage the concept of a “remix.” Remixes are derived versions of Ubuntu, and it is intended that any software and hardware certifications will apply to a Remix. Therefore the changes from the official Ubuntu product must be minimal to be permitted to use the Trademarks. These changes can include configuration changes through the existing Ubuntu configuration management tools, changes to artwork and graphical themes and some variance in package selection. In general, a Remix can have applications from the Ubuntu archives added, or default applications removed, but removing or changing any infrastructure components (e.g., shared libraries or desktop components) will result in changes too large for the resulting product to be called by a Trademark. Note that if the nature of the product's divergence from Ubuntu changes, the Remix naming and Trademark use may no longer apply.

[I've reported what I think may be the answer to you question, however I recommend you to read the full page, just to be sure that everything is OK.]

So, given that the above expectations are met, the answer is: yes, you can create your derivative and distribute it.

If you are going to distribute non-free software, then you might encounter other possible legal problems, but they are related to the software's license, not to Ubuntu itself.

Finally, I also suggest you to read this page: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DerivativeDistroHowto. It doesn't give you many legal advices (the Trademark policy page I linked above is more complete and updated), but contains some technical notes that may help you during your work.

EDIT: If you are seeking a more authoritative and official answer, I suggest you to contact directly Canonical using the form on this page: https://forms.canonical.com/trademark/

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Thank you, I wrote them an email stating my exact problem. I think a while distro is overkill, I do not need my own repos and so on. I did not select "install software from 3rd party", so I should be good on that, I guess. –  queueoverflow Oct 12 '11 at 15:45
Did you ever get a response from Canonical about distributing a virtual appliance? –  Phyxx Mar 11 '13 at 22:18

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