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I like to create my own distro based on Ubuntu. I may modify the source of some packages. When I read intellectual-property-policy of Ubuntu, I noticed the following rule.

Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu. If you need us to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will require a licence agreement from Canonical, for which you may be required to pay. For further information, please contact us (as set out below).

Source: https://ubuntu.com/legal/intellectual-property-policy

Consider that I have recompiled the Ubuntu package source and built my own repository: I actually pull the source apt-get source, build deps apt-get build-dep and use dpkg-buildpackage to compile. Once .deb is generated, I host it in my local private apt-repository.

In the future, if I have to legally prove that I have indeed recompiled the Ubuntu package source, how can I prove it? Do I have to inject any custom tags in generated .deb or binary inside the .deb? I checked for the custom tags (just to find some leads) in MintLinux distro's .deb but I couldn't able to see any custom tags.

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  • Are you asking about specific packages or all packages?
    – Pilot6
    Jan 30, 2023 at 16:28
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    It seems you're asking the slightly wrong question. You don't need to prove you've recompiled - you need to make sure the words: UBUNTU, KUBUNTU, EDUBUNTU, XUBUNTU, JUJU and LANDSCAPE are not included in your distribution, and this will require recompilation. Jan 31, 2023 at 10:40
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    Also, while it's prudent to retain evidence that you have complied with the license conditions, it's ultimately up to the other party to prove that you haven't. (But note the wording here: it doesn't say "you must", it says "you will need to", implying that it's necessary for technical rather than legal reasons.) Jan 31, 2023 at 21:57
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    You are misreading the text basically. The requirement is that you remove all Canonical/Ubuntu trademarks, and the text simply reminds you that this requires recompiling.
    – Max Xiong
    Jan 31, 2023 at 22:13
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    @KarthikNedunchezhiyan Just so you know: if you are creating your own distro to be used by yourself you are not "redistributing modified versions of Ubuntu". Redistribution implies that you give that modified version to other "entities" (be it people or companies). If you are just using a custom version of ubuntu on your own 1000 servers I don't think you need to do anything legally speaking. If the 1000 servers are of your friends or clients then yes you need to remove the trademarks
    – GACy20
    Feb 1, 2023 at 8:21

3 Answers 3

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You need to remove all items that are trademarked and after doing that you have to recompile to make new binaries. Not recompiling is not an option so you do not need to prove you recompiled.

You could remove all trademarks except for 1 and recompile. That is still a violation and you did recompile. Canonical will tell you what trademarks are still there if there are still trademarked items in your version.

Oh and I am not a lawyer... so if you want an official answer that can be used as a legal argument you need to contact an actual copyright/trademark lawyer and/or Canonical directly :)

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  • I understand that you are saying the source code has the trademarks. May I know where the trademarks are located inside the source code? Jan 30, 2023 at 16:18
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    @KarthikNedunchezhiyan the words "Ubuntu" (also Kubuntu, etc.) are trademarked by Canonical. You can search and replace those words.
    – user68186
    Jan 30, 2023 at 16:27
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    The trademarked terms are listed in Section 4 of the page you linked to @KarthikNedunchezhiyan. Use your editor's search functionality.
    – muru
    Jan 30, 2023 at 16:28
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    @KarthikNedunchezhiyan It can change every update so there is likely not a list. A grep on all the source files is the way to go to find the words. And a "sed" search and replace the way to change them. Pix probably will tell you through an extension like .jpg.
    – Rinzwind
    Jan 30, 2023 at 17:29
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    "Recompiling is not an option..." I think you meant to say that not recompiling is not an option?
    – MJ713
    Feb 1, 2023 at 22:07
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You have perhaps misread the sentence.

Recompiling your binaries is a technical requirement (not a legal requirement). Your source code changed when you removed all the trademarks, so of course you must recompile that software.

The only "proof" you need of non-trademark-infringement is that folks cannot find any Ubuntu trademarks in your source nor in your binaries.

Keep in mind the proper source attribution may be required by the software's license, so don't just do a global search/replace that might obscure or mangle the copyright holder, author, upstream source(s), code comments, changelogs, etc. License violations will get you socially snubbed, and perhaps into serious legal trouble, too.

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If you plan to have your own repository with unmodified Ubuntu packages, then you don't need an approval from Canonical.

If you distribute modified packages, then you have to provide your source code, e.g. patches.

If we are talking about deb packages, the patch section with appropriate changelog is sufficient.

If you want to make a whole modified distribution available, you need to remove all trademarks from it. It doesn't mean that you have to remove all ubuntu words from everywhere though.

BTW I AM a lawyer, not a copyright one though. So this is not a legal advice ;-) Anyway I can understand how GPL works.

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    No, the requirement is unmodified images, i.e. installer images ☹ or at least was when I last checked (and a friend of mine caught wind of it, told their legal department to check it, and a mere two weeks later their appliance was Debian‑ instead of *buntu-based)
    – mirabilos
    Jan 31, 2023 at 8:55

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