A few weeks ago, we had an issue with a new project on sf.net that looked like the established project Tiny Core Linux. A SourceForge user registered a project called “tinycorelinux” that was was not affiliated with the original project in any way except that it redistributed their binaries. The Tiny Core Linux team contacted us and asked us to remove the project.
Most of the time when we get a report of infringement, itâ€™s a company attacking one of our projects, and our default is to ask for evidence and extend our projects the benefit of the doubt. Another common case is when a well-intentioned contributor (or fan of the project) wants to help bring exposure to the project, and help get it out into the wild, and the issue can be resolved through a few simple emails. Or sometimes, a person is trying to fork an original project and simply gets it wrong.
As such, our approach has traditionally been more “hands-off,” and we encouraged trademark owners to try and resolve these kinds of issues directly with the project. Direct communication is often times best, and an intermediary between Point A and Point B can only serve to muddy the waters.
If a compromise can’t be made, or if the user does not comply with the wishes of the trademark owner, then we will step in and take action. This point of view has served us well in the past, and we’ve only had to step in on a few occasions.
So when the team at Tiny Core Linux approached us about this new project, and asked us to take it down, we instead requested that they contact the owner of this newly registered project, and advised that we would let the project remain in the time being.
This ignited a firestorm of controversy in the Tinycore Linux forums, who saw us as siding with the trademark infringer, and protecting them. Of course, we do not promote fraudulent projects and arenâ€™t going to support those leeching off the hard work of others.
We reached back out to the Tiny Core Linux team through IRC chat to clear up the misunderstanding, and we have contacted the infringing project, requiring them to change its name, or be removed. (In this case, the project was not registered by someone trying to infringe, but someone who wanted to provide metadata for the ISO images for the Tinycore Linux distro).
While legal guidelines keep our current process for handling these issues in place, in the future, we will be taking a more active role in monitoring new projects for potential copyright infringement, and we will be clearer in our communication with all involved parties. Our goal is to help open source projects be more successful wherever they are hosted.