Canonical, Ubuntu Linux‘s parent company, has often rubbed other free software groups the wrong way when it came to open-source licenses. On July 15, Canonical, with support from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), have changed Ubuntu’s licensing terms. The FSF states that Canonical’s new intellectual property (IP) policies “unequivocally comply with the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) and other free software licenses.”
Canonical has been regarded with suspicion by some Linux users since the day it forked from Debian over a decade ago. For example, Canonical used Launchpad as its project hosting software for five years before opening its code under the the Affero GPL in July 2009. This open-source license requires that users can download the source code of a program that they’re using as a software-as-a-service (SaaS).
More recently, Canonical’s licensing policies became a hot-button topic for two desktop Linux distributions. First, Canonical required Linux Mint, an Ubuntu fork, to sign a license agreement for Mint to continue distributing packages from Ubuntu’s repositories. Then, Jonathan Riddell, former head of the Kubuntu (Ubuntu with the KDE desktop) project, argued over this licensing issue for about a year and a half. As a result of this, and a funding issue, the Ubuntu Community Council, with Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s support, removed Riddell from any Kubuntu leadership position.