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Mozilla removes EULA from Linux Firefox
Sep. 18, 2008

Linux Firefox users can say a eulogy for EULA (End User License Agreement). After much pressure, Mozilla is removing the EULA from the Firefox welcome screen on Linux distributions, according to a recent Mozilla blog by Harvey Anderson, VP and general counsel of Mozilla.

(Click for larger view of one of the candidates for a new Linux Firefox welcome screen)

Since the GPL generally frowns upon additional license limitations, Linux users are quick to protest any suggestions of an end user license for Linux software. Ubuntu users in particular have been up in arms about the Firefox welcome-screen language and have threatened to replace Firefox, for example with the Iceweasel browser used by Debian.

Iceweasel uses the generic "abrowser" codebase maintained by the Firefox project, making it technically the same browser, sans branding elements. Unfortunately, since one of those elements is the identification string sent by the browser in HTTP headers, using "Iceweasel" instead of "Firefox" results in a less enjoyable browsing experience. Sites such as Rhapsody that test for compatible browsers often refuse to cooperate, and those that deliver browser-specific stylesheets do not look their best. It's a whole lot of legal chancery that the Mozilla Foundation ought to have cleared up long ago.

According to Anderson's blog entry, Mozilla is reviewing several welcome screen designs, including the one above, and is actively seeking input before choosing a replacement. The new screens will first appear in Ubuntu distributions, writes Anderson, who stresses that the designs are not yet complete.

"There is no EULA," he writes of the new screens. "There are no caps except where grammatically required. There's no click-through, or license splashed in the users face on start-up (or at any point thereafter). We'll either include some text on the first-run page or in an info box that links to a static page in the browser that contains a notice about your rights."

According to Anderson, Mozilla has been working with Ubuntu maintainer Canonical on the issue, and has received additional feedback from Red Hat and Fedora.

Anderson's blog and screenshots may be found here.

-- Eric Brown. Henry Kingman contributed to this report.

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