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Mozilla Rethinking Firefox EULA

Is there a need for a separate EULA (end user license agreement) in the open source Mozilla browser? To date there has been, but that EULA is going to change very soon.

In a conversation with InternetNews.com, Mitchell Baker, Chairperson of Mozilla, admitted that Mozilla may not need both the EULA and open source license, with the EULA the likely casualty. That said, there is a need for something in between the open source license and the user which is what Baker and Mozilla are actively working on.

The issue of Firefox's EULA has raised concerns in the Linux community lately with questions arising about the need and validity of the EULA.

"Initially when we first shipped Firefox the idea of shipping Firefox under a binary source code license seemed odd so we created a EULA and we're now coming to the conclusion that is not necessary," said Baker. "So the license agreement that we've been working on will now say, 'dear end user you're using FOSS software and here are the open source licenses to look at if you'd like too and enjoy them."

Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth argued this week that the EULA for Firefox was a not a best practice for open source software while other Ubuntu users labeled the EULA as a bug. Red Hat's Fedora Linux isn't in favor the current Firefox EULA either. Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields noted that Fedora has been working with Mozilla since before the release of Firefox 3 on this issue, and those discussions are still ongoing.

"We're concerned about the fact that Mozilla feels that Firefox requires a EULA for use of the software," Frields told InternetNews.com. "We continue to believe that the Mozilla Public License is a perfectly valid license for Firefox binaries and source code."

For Novell's OpenSUSE, the EULA has been a temporary annoyance as well.

"I understand the shock that people might feel the first time they see an application popping up a EULA -- and I dearly hope it doesn't become a standard practice with OSS apps -- but in the general scope of things, I don't think it's an enormous burden on the user, since it's a one-time issue," Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, Novell's openSUSE community manager, told InternetNews.com.

That said Brockmeier noted that he doesn't want to see every FOSS application requiring acceptance of a EULA when you launch it, so he hopes this doesn't become a trend.

Under the approach Baker said Mozilla will be taking with Firefox though, she's confident that many of the concerns of the Linux community will be addressed. That said she does feel that an agreement behind just having the source code licensed under an open source license is necessary.

"There is a need for something, something to explain the license I'm not sure I would call it a EULA because that has a meaning to many people of adding restrictions to software and we won't be doing that," Baker said. "We'll be having a license agreement much as Red Hat has a license agreement that says the software is available under the GPL and don't use our trademarks etcetera. So we'll have a license agreement but we won't think of it as a EULA."

The move away from a EULA to something more in line with other open source approaches to licensing on Linux is something that Baker noted has been in process for some time.

"I think it's fair to say we'll be moving faster now," Baker said. "Now that the topic has risen I think it's the right time to get our plans out there and give people the chance to comment and get moving."