Canonical licences 'satanists' selling Ubuntu-esque t-shirts

There are, of course, many Linux distros based on Ubuntu out there (Shift Linux was, for a time, one of them). Among the religious derivatives, we have seen the Ubuntu Christian Edition,

the Ubuntu Muslim Edition,

and the Ubuntu Satanic Edition.

Normally the Ubuntu spirit of mutual respect keeps most people happy, but, according to their website, the developers of the Ubuntu Satanic Edition had run into trouble with Canonical, the company that oversees the Ubuntu distro, over what might be called an "image" issue, but what could have proved to be a "freedom of religion" publicity nightmare for Canonical.

Why? The Ubuntu Satanic Edition ("Linux for the Damned") is known for its dark Gnome themes ("Inhuman" and "Recant"), demonic wallpapers (featuring flames, pentagrams, bats, devils, skulls, etc), and special screensaver. The distro's developers had been running a CafePress store featuring merchandise that incorporates their distinctive re-imagining of the Ubuntu logo, and Canonical, citing trademark violations, had earlier last week asked them to close down their shop.

Distraught, the Ubuntu Satanic Edition team reported, "You may know that we used to have a cafepress store which sold t-shirts and stickers. It was completely commission free and we made no money from it - which made the stuff as cheap as possible. Well, it seems that Canonical is enforcing their intellectual property rights over the Ubuntu name. The store is now closed and you will no longer be able to buy any Ubuntu Satanic merchandise. This saddens us. We are big fans of Ubuntu and have a lot of respect for Canonical. However, they need to understand that a phenomenon such as Ubuntu is only as strong as its community and alienating that community over the sale of a couple of lousy t-shirts is not the way to go."

On Thursday, Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon responded, vowing to investigate and writing, "Hi - I am the Ubuntu Community Manager. Could you email the letter that you received on this to jono AT ubuntu DOT com and I will check into it. Thanks!"

On Friday, Bacon returned with a favourable resolution to the situation, stating, "I checked into it and I have managed to clear this up. Some kind of mistake occured and the Ubuntu Satanic Edition folks should not have got that letter. I spoke with our trademarks folks and they will be sending them an explicit trademark license as their merch is clearly under parady [sic], which we are indeed cool about in the trademark license. Rock on!"

So, this appears not to be the end of the road for Ubuntu Satanic Edition merchandise, and Ubuntu's reputation for tolerance and community seems to have been given a new lease of life.

Update: On Monday (22 June), the Ubuntu Satanic Edition developers breathed a public sigh of relief, writing, "Thanks to everyone in the community who got behind us and also Ubuntu and Canonical for 'not being evil'. That’s our job, after all. The store will be back on line once we receive the official license agreement."

Update: On Tuesday (23 June), Canonical's Jane Silber confirmed that, as far as the company is concerned, the issue has indeed been settled, writing, "That project [the Ubuntu Satanic Edition] is developed and supported by the open-source community rather than Canonical. We support the open-source community and the freedoms that Ubuntu enables. There was in fact a communication issue about the merchandise being sold, which has now been resolved."

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