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Mozilla: Firefox license in Ubuntu was 'giant error'

License agreement has the wrong content, Mozilla's chief exec says. The code is actually under a free and open-source license.

Correction at 10:20 a.m. PDT: Mitchell Baker's title has been corrected. She is the former CEO of Mozilla Corp. She is currently chair of both the Mozilla Corp. and the Mozilla Foundation.

Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox Web browser, has acknowledged it made a mistake by including an end-user license agreement in a Firefox beta used in the Intrepid Ibex version of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu logo

Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker, said in a blog post Monday that Mozilla had made a "giant error" in putting the wrong content into the end-user license agreement (EULA), which lays out how people can legally use the software.

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

Floss licenses differ in content, but usually feature the proviso that the software can be distributed freely across the Internet.

Mitchell Baker
Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker: 'We...have shot ourselves in the foot here.' Seth Rosenblatt/CNET Networks

Baker also said that there were "issues" with the way the EULA was presented to people, in the form of a dialog box.

"I think the presentation might not be so bad if we had the correct content there...But, even then, the presentation may have issues," Baker said. "We're certainly trying to figure this out. We'll do this with public input."

Baker then wrote that there would be discussion about whether a Firefox EULA was needed at all, after the correct terms had been included.

"This leaves the question of whether it ever makes sense to show people the terms that relate to the software and services available to them," Baker said. "I saw some comments asking why one ever needs any terms. Again, if we had the correct content, I think this would be less of an issue, because then we would be telling people about Floss licenses. We...have shot ourselves in the foot here, given the old, wrong content. So I hope we can have a discussion on this point, but I doubt we'll have a good one until we fix the other problems."

Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth, whose organization funds the Ubuntu operating system, on Saturday had defended Mozilla, asserting that the EULA had been included for trademark reasons.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.