Re: Substituting "Linux" with "GNU/Linux" or "GNU"

Alan Cox wrote:
> The GNU/Linux case is particularly problematic as one of the purposes of
> trademark law is to prevent one mark being used confusingly to associate
> its values with another. That is what the GNU/Linux(tm) association
> specifically attempts to do.

If you put the trademark issues aside, this is the problem that is
bothering me.  People think that the system is "Linux" and associate
the "values" of Linus Torvalds as the main motivation to develop the
operating system.  This is not fair and you know it, it also
undermines our goals.  For many others this is a matter of ethical
choice and principle; we would use GNU even if it was the most
crippled system on Earth.

But there are much more "blatant trademark violations" -- a lot of
GNU/Linux distributions contain "Linux" in their name, such as
"Skolelinux", "Userlinux", etc.  It is no coincidence that the Linux
developers never argue about these cases, while they fiercely oppose
the "GNU" in the name.  This is becuase of the huge difference in
values, it is an abyss.  OTOH, GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux is a
combination.  We include "Linux" in the name because it is an
essential component of the system and the Linux developers deserve
credit for their work.  The GNU Project's policy was always to point
out that Linux is a seperate project, developed independently.  So I
doubt that any misunderstanding could arise of this.

> End users don't know what a "GNU system" is.

This is the problem, they think that it is a "Linux system".

> Seeing an error message about GNU systems will not explain the error
> to them nor will it make them understand the importance of free
> software.

I'm not saying that every error dialog should have "GNU" in it.  Only
those places that now contain "Linux" and refer to the OS.

> Context is important here. It is one thing to explain to users in
> the manual or about dialogue boxes about what software freedom is
> and explain the software freedoms - where clearly you want to talk
> about GNU and the GPL and the specific goals it has,

Calling the system GNU/Linux or GNU is not equal to forcing the user
to read, understand and accept the GNU Philosophy.  The system is GNU,
whether you like it or not.  By calling it with its actual name you
just give the people a chance to learn more about the ethical and
moral issues, something that they cannot do on linux.{org,com}.

> and a second when a user wants to know why portrait mode printing
> isn't working. In the latter case it is very unlikely the user
> wishes to learn about software freedom, GNU or anything except why
> their printer isn't working. In that situation "This feature is not
> available on the GNU system" will confuse the user or maybe make
> them conclude its not in GNOME rather than not in the underlying
> environment.

You seem to assume that every user cares only about the practical
issues when using a computer.  I think that in your example "This
feature is not available on the Linux system" is much more confusing.

In the GNU Project, discrimination against proprietary software is not
just a policy -- it's the principle and the purpose.  Proprietary
software is fundamentally unjust and wrong, so when we have the
opportunity to place it at a disadvantage, that is a good thing. --RMS

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