Canonical Targets A Website Crictical Of Ubuntu Privacy

Canonical send notice to Ubuntu fix for trademark issue

There have been many critics of Ubuntu for its “shopping lenses” that are enabled by default in Ubuntu. If you search anything on the desktop in Unity Dash, Ubuntu uses this data to provide you advertisements from third parties such as Amazon. Despite all the hoo-hooba, Canonical has enabled this feature by default and earned a lot of criticism.

While it is rather easy to disable the online search results in Ubuntu, enabling this feature by default is deemed by many as invasion of privacy. Privacy is a critical issue among the cyber people and many take it very seriously. One such “privacy activist” is Micah Lee who has set up a website Fix Ubuntu.

Fix Ubuntu has only one page which gives various ways to disable the online suggestion etc to protect privacy. Micah is a technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and CTO of Freedom of the Press Foundation. Quite obviously a privacy activist like him would set up such a website.

Micah today posted on his blog that an email was sent to him by Canonical team and asked him to stop using Ubuntu logo and remove “Ubuntu” from its domain as it violates their trademark copyrights. You can read the email here. The mail said:

It has been brought to our attention that your website: is using Canonical’s trademarks including Ubuntu logo on your website and Ubuntu word in your domain name. The Ubuntu logo [1] and a screenshot of your website [2] are set out below.

We are really pleased to know your interest in writing about Ubuntu. But whilst we can appreciate the passion Ubuntu inspires, we also have to be diligent to ensure that Ubuntu’s trademarks are used correctly.

Here is the screenshot of the website using Ubuntu logo:

Fix Ubuntu sued by Canonical

The lawyer at Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to the mail that it is within legal terms to use the trademarks on non-commercial websites. Micah has removed the Ubuntu logo from Fix Ubuntu but has added a new disclaimer which reads:

Disclaimer: In case you are either 1) a complete idiot; or 2) a lawyer; or 3) both, please be aware that this site is not affiliated with or approved by Canonical Limited. This site criticizes Canonical for certain privacy-invading features of Ubuntu and teaches users how to fix them. So, obviously, the site is not approved by Canonical. And our use of the trademarked term Ubuntu is plainly descriptive—it helps the public find this site and understand its message.

Is Ubuntu the new Apple?

I won’t really say that, at least not yet. But in my opinion, Ubuntu should not try to bully its critic which are in their rights to criticize its controversial policies. The website had nothing that could be deemed objectionable (as per me). Open Source and Linux does not have this culture of bullying critics in the way Microsoft or Apple do. Ubuntu, please don’t go Apple’s way. We have several reasons to love you, don’t give us too many to hate you. Don’t loose respect over such petty issues.

Update: Response from Canonical

Canonical has finally responded to this fiasco after getting angry reactions from the community. You can read the article here. Main part of the article is:

In the case of, we were concerned that the use of the trademark implied a connection with and endorsement from the Ubuntu project which didn’t exist. The site owner has already agreed to remove the Ubuntu logo and clarified that there is no connection; from our perspective the situation has been resolved, and we have no issue with the site or the criticism it includes.

Update: Response from Mark Shuttleworth

Founder of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth apologised on his personal blog over this incident:

Last week, the less-than-a-month-at-Canonical new guy sent out the toughest template letter to the folks behind a “sucks” site. Now, that was not a decision based on policy or guidance; as I said, Canonical’s trademark policy is unusually generous relative to corporate norms in explicitly allowing for this sort of usage. It was a mistake, and there is no question that the various people in the line of responsibility know and agree that it was a mistake. It was no different, however, than a bug in a line of code, which I think most developers would agree happens to the best of us. It just happened to be, in that analogy, a zero-day remote root bug.

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    • True that. Even if they have rights (which might be debatable as per the EFF lawyer), morally, Canonical should not have done this. There are some unsaid norms in Open Source community and taking criticism in positive way is one of them.

    • Pardon me! What is BS here and how come the screenshot explained you that. Care to elaborate? It’s a news article and I put my points in few lines in the section

      “Is Ubuntu the new Apple”?
      I would like if you share your point of view, in a bit detail.

      • First at all. Privacy is not a critical issue here since the real critical issue here is anonymity . Some people is whining about the wrong cause.

        Secondly, the EFF lawyer and the owner of are invoking the “Nominative Fair Use” doctrine as an excuse. You did not even bother to mention that, much less to explain what it is about and if applies or not in this case. In the screenshot you will see that was using the ubuntu logo as a favicon and as a frontpage banner. They were using canonical’s trademarks to brand and identify the website, nothing else. There was no disclaimer, not clear hint of parody nor criticisms. Nothing.

        Obviously , the so called “Nominative Fair Use” doctrine does not applies here to begging with.

        It seems that the owner of fixubuntu did not bother to follow the guidelines from Canonical regarding the “use of trademarks for criticisms and parody ” nor the guidelines of the EFF itself . For instance, the EFF also recommends adding a disclaimer to avoid trouble , something that fixubuntu did not have neither .

        And you did not provide any proof that Canonical is silencing criticisms in this case, except “because they say so”.

        As for the comparison with Apple, i do not see it. Companies have the right to defend their trademarks too, there is no arguing here. I do not see how Canonical is “bullying” critics here. The new website is even more critical than before, so i do not see how removing those logos affected his free speech rights at all.

        Conclusion: this article is utter BS

        In the other hand , this is just another demonstration of nonsensical FUD against Canonical.

        • Canonical. How is it that they “own” ubuntu. Get off Abishek’s ass, douche bag. Canonical swooped in and said “mine” when it started looking good a few years ago. As for Apple, they sue and harass for the simplest, (here. I’l use “BS”)BS. That prick died now Apple will be done. We’ll see in a few years.

          • Canonical owns the Ubuntu trademark in the United States. Every major linux distribution own their respective trademarks, just like Redhat and Fedora.

            That’s how it is , troll.

          • Troll, I like that.
            Uh, redhat costs money and fedora basically sucks and no-one wants to throw money at it… Orc.

        • Why I did not mention the “Nominative Fair Use” is because I did not want the article to be lengthy. The link in the article, takes the reader to the original article by Micah where one can find the details if interested.
          Again, it was mainly a news article with my point of view in 4 lines and I still believe that despite that Canonical may have rights, they should not try to intimidate people like this.
          I have known people who are intimidated like this from Microsoft and Apple just for running a “help website” (positive) with their logo and domain. To me, its unethical (if the world has any meaning in corporate world).

  • Before canonical it was different to use ubuntu. The community effort was and is amazing. Now someone owns “our” Ubuntu. The freshness that was before is gone the feeling of “community” is different now. Smaller distributions and a variety of packages no longer are supported. Tributaries are flowing together and it all ends at canonical. Why is this their cash-cow?