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Linspire in Another Name Game

A little over a year ago, embattled Linux vendor Lindows (now Linspire) settled its dispute with Microsoft about the use of the name "Lindows." In a twist this week, Linspire has become involved in its own name squabble.

This week, a new Linux distribution appeared on the Distrowatch Web site under the moniker "Freespire." This cloned version of Linspire is apparently going to change its name after exchanging e-mails with Linspire.

"Freespire is a new Linux distribution, a free edition of Linspire with all proprietary components and trademarks removed," the release announcement on Distrowatch states. "The distribution comes with a free repository of over 1,500 packages available via apt-get and Synaptic."

Cloning Linux distributions while attempting to not infringe on trademarks is nothing new in the Linux world. The core Linux license, the GPL , is a Free Software license and allows for re-use by others. Perhaps the most notable Linux clones are those that mimic Linux leader Red Hat .

But the name "Freespire" is "creating confusion and misunderstanding," according to its creator Andrew Betts. Betts noted on the Freespire Web site that the project was a "private project" that did utilized components from the publicly available Linspire source repository. The project however was submitted to Distrowatch without Betts' consent, according to a statement on the Freespire site.

"Subsequent widespread distribution of this project has led to much misunderstanding, based largely on the name," Betts wrote. "So to make it clear: This project is not a free version of the Linspire operating system and is not made by Linspire Inc. "

Betts described a number of problems that the use of the term "freespire" caused including confusing users that the product was Linspire without the proprietary licensed pieces.

"This impression is false because the total Linspire experience relies on proprietary components, such as MP3, Java, Flash, QuickTime, Windows Media, Real, fonts, etc."

Apparently Linspire itself told Betts that people were contacting the Linspire support department thinking Freespire was a Linspire product.

"As much as I tried to put disclaimers in to the contrary, some still were confused to this point," Betts wrote. "I'd even seen reviews for my project that said Linspire was the creator."

Linspire's CEO Kevin Carmony told internetnews.com that Linspire did not contact Freespire's Andrew Betts and ask him to change the name, but rather it was Betts' own decision.

"Andrew and I shared a couple of e-mails and I mentioned to him we'd been getting calls from people who were confused, assuming Freespire was a product from Linspire," Carmony said. "Andrew volunteered to change the name on his own."

Linspire has also posted a note on a special page further noting that it stands behind and supports the ideals of the GPL.

"Andrew's project highlights the spirit of open source software, and it encourages discussion, development, and so on around Linux, which is always a good thing," the statement says. "Linspire completely supports the GPL and the spirit of open source, so projects like this highlight the value and dynamic of the GPL and open source. Linspire has no problem with anyone using the open source code from our operating system -- in fact we applaud such projects."

Betts wrote on the Freespire site that the name, "has caused problems for both parties" so he decided to change it. It's now code-named Squiggle while Betts awaits suggestions.

It's not all bad for Linux users. Linspire's site noted that the only true "Freespire" would need to be a free copy of the real Linspire. As such it is now giving away free copies of Linspire until September 6th at http://linspire.com/freespire.