Distributions of free software involve sharing of computer program, which is mostly governed by copyright law. Other legal rights, involving trademark, patent, trade dress protection, protection against unfair competition, and other legal doctrines are potentially involved as well. When hundreds or thousands of programs and associated files containing documentation or configuration data combined into “packages” are then aggregated into “distributions” such as Debian, Fedora, RHEL or Ubuntu, the significance of these related rights increases, and the complexity of their interaction does as well.
Our practice at SFLC involves advising clients on the interaction of these rights and the difficulties that arise from their overlapping nature especially as they travel between non-commercial and commercial parties.
We publish this document explaining the interaction of these peripheral rights for the benefit of the larger community in furtherance of our mission of spreading awareness about Free and Open Source Software.