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Mozilla backs down over Firefox EULA outrage

Browser developer admits 'giant error'

Mozilla has admitted its decision to add a licence agreement to Firefox was a mistake and said it will strip the legalese from the browser's next update.

In a pair of blog posts, former Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker - currently the chairman of the umbrella Mozilla Foundation - first acknowledged the error of packing an end-user licensing agreement (EULA) with the Linux version of Firefox and then announced that the EULA would be dropped. The move led to fierce criticism from Linux users - EULAs are commonplace in the Windows and Mac OS X ecosystems, but are largely irrelevant in Linux and other open-source environments.

"The most important thing here is to acknowledge that yes, the content of the licence agreement is wrong," said Baker. "The correct content is clear that the code is governed by FLOSS [free/libre open-source software] licences, not the typical end user licence agreement language that is in the current version. We created a licence that points to the FLOSS licences, but we've made a giant error in not getting this to Ubuntu, other distributors, and posted publicly for review.

"We've come to understand that anything EULA-like is disturbing, even if the content is FLOSS based. So we're eliminating that."

The brouhaha began when Ubuntu users began complaining last week that the newest build of Firefox, version 3.0.1, came with a licence agreement. Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, the commercial entity that sponsors Ubuntu, quickly weighed in on a mailing list. "I would not consider an EULA as a best practice," said Shuttleworth on Saturday, describing how Mozilla had demanded the EULA as a trademark protection move. "It's unfortunate that Mozilla feels this is absolutely necessary, but they do."

In the same message, Shuttleworth told users to calm down. "It's not constructive to say 'WTF?', nor is it constructive to rant and rave in allcaps," he continued. "Your software freedoms are built on legal grounds, as are Mozilla's rights in the Firefox trademark. To act as though your rights are being infringed misses the point of free software by a mile."

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