Simon Phipps has written several pages of almost-entirely-good stuff about how you benchmark a project’s governance. I particularly like his description of the best governance structure as an “open, meritocratic oligarchy”. I proud of the fact that we pretty much have one of those at Mozilla.
The one issue I would disagree with him on is his comments on trademark policy. He writes:
There will be a community-equal trademark policy, granting every participant the same rights to use of the trademarks…
But who is a participant? Free software projects have fuzzy edges. If I contribute one patch, am I a participant? Does that then allow me to label the heavily modified builds of the code I am distributing with the standard project name? This seems like it could quickly mean that the trademark doesn’t offer any guarantees of what you are getting (which is the point of a trademark).
He also says:
A trademark that is under the exclusive control of one community member will be a problem if the community tries to take a direction that member objects to.
What sort of ‘problem’ will this cause? It will cause the fork to have to rename itself. But that’s OK – in fact, it’s a good thing, because if the source is different, the mark should be different. To put it in code terms, a trademark is not about identifying a codebase, it’s about identifying a distribution. Firefox is a distribution of the Mozilla codebase by the Mozilla Organization; Songbird is another one from Pioneers of the Inevitable; and TomTom Home is yet another, from TomTom. If someone else distributes some different software built from the Mozilla codebase (and all forks are different – that’s the point) and there is no agreement with the trademark holder, then it’s right that there should be a new mark so people know what they are getting and who they are getting it from.
Having said that, I entirely agree that there are good and bad practices surrounding trademarks. I think that there are things you should look for in a free software project’s trademark arrangements – such as whether the trademark is easily removable without affecting the function, whether there are a documented and approved set of steps for removing it and being in the clear legally, and whether the day-to-day usage policies are things you can live with. (I’ve been meaning to write a more detailed paper on this for at least 5 years, but still haven’t got around to it…)
But I can’t agree that a “fully egalitarian” trademark policy is necessary for good governance, or is even in the best interests of the project. What would happen to the meaning of the word “Firefox” if Mozilla had such a policy? One group who would definitely benefit would be these people…