Linux Mint has grown rapidly and as the founder and leader of this distribution, I’ll be honest, there are some things I’ve had to learn the hard way. I believe I made the right decisions in most cases but I can also look back at some of these decisions and see that I made mistakes. The technical side of things has actually been quite easy, being a developer and knowing what I want I never found it hard to implement something. I’ve also been lucky to find a great and helpful community from which a few highly skilled persons stepped up and came to help me develop the distribution. The hardest challenges were around the community itself, and the relationship with people actively trying to help or to develop initiatives related to Linux Mint. Among these challenges the branding in particular has always been an issue.
Before I go on about the branding I’d like to stress out the fact that everything we do is free, redistributable, shareable, modifyable and that anybody can fork or reuse or work for any use they see fit. That’s our idea of freedom and as said before, we hope you like it
The branding is an issue though. The first example was Ultumix, a distribution based on Linux Mint. Ultumix released an ISO of their distribution using the Mint splash screen and even described the ISO as “Linux Mint Ultumix Edition” on their website. Although it’s fine for them to modify our distribution and reuse it to create Ultumix, it creates a serious problem for us if they use our branding and confuse people as to whether or not we were the makers of that so-called edition. It’s a problem of responsibility and ownership. Our concern here, and I hope you’ll excuse my French, is that people might download this ISO thinking it’s one of our editions, dislike it and consequently have a negative opinion of us based on something we’re not responsible or even in control of.
That same problem happened also when the maintainer of one of our editions refused to follow our process and wanted to release the ISO before we could properly test it. It was fine for him to make that ISO and fine for him to release it publicly but as we consequently didn’t want to have anything to do with it, it was important for us that this ISO wasn’t using our name.
Lately our community grew in size and our distribution in popularity. A lot of websites about Linux Mint were created and we’re facing a new challenge. The presence of these websites is beneficial to all of us, for the website itself as it can generate some income from its own traffic or revenue through its own business activities (sales for instance), for users as it provides additional services and resources related to the distribution, and finally for the distribution itself as it rises awareness and creates more momentum in the community and on the Web in general. In general, any Linux Mint related initiative (whether it’s in the form of a web site, a derived distribution or something else) is beneficial to us, the only potential problem with it is branding. In the case of a website the concern is that visitors might think we’re the maintainers of a particular portal and if they’re unhappy with the service or the content on that portal they might get a bad opinion of the distribution itself. Again, the distinction needs to be clear so that responsability and ownership are clearly not mistakenly given to us for something we are not maintaining.
So how exactly do we let websites talk about us, dedicate themselves to us and at the same time enforce that distinction between who we are and what is around us. We need to clearly state how our branding can be used and this is something, by lack of experience, we’ve never really looked into until now.
So here goes (and this will be summarized on the website):
For derived distributions, localization, independent ISOs:
– Linux Mint Logo: Derived distributions need to make their own. If the goal of the distribution is to specialize Linux Mint without the will to create a brand of its own the logo can be a modification of the Linux Mint logo or the Linux Mint logo itself as long as something is put on top of it to clearly distinguish it from the official one. The Linux Mint logo cannot be used in the splash screens, boot menus or in the default wallpaper. The logo can be used within the menu and the mint tools and as part of alternative wallpapers.
– Linux Mint catchphrase (“from freedom came elegance”): The catchphrase cannot be used at all. It can however be translated in a different language (for localized independent Mint-related projects) or modified.
– “Linux Mint” name: The name can be referred to but it can’t be used as part of the project’s name.
– Mint tools: The mint tools can be modified or used without modifications. No restrictions apply to them.
– “Linux Mint Edition”: The derived project can under no circumstances describe itself as a “Linux Mint Edition”.
– Linux Mint Logo and favicon: The Linux Mint logo cannot be used to identify the website. However it can be a modification of the Linux Mint logo or the Linux Mint logo itself as long as something is put on top of it to clearly distinguish it from the official one.
– Linux Mint catchphrase (“from freedom came elegance”): The catchphrase cannot be used to identify the website. It can however be translated or modified.
– “Linux Mint” name: The portal’s name can contain “Linux Mint” as part of its own name but it cannot confuse visitors and make them think it’s maintained by the distribution. For instance “Linux Mint Shop” is not an acceptable name as it implies the shop is maintained by Linux Mint. If it does it needs to state both in English and in the website’s language, on the website’s main page, that it’s an independent website, that it’s distinct from linuxmint.com and that it’s not maintained by the distribution itself.
– Domain name: The domain name can contain “linuxmint” but if it does it needs to state both in English and in the website’s language, on the website’s main page, that it’s an independent website, that it’s distinct from linuxmint.com and that it’s not maintained by the distribution itself.
It’s not an interesting topic or one I like to think about but that point had to be addressed. I’ll soon formalize all this and in the meantime I’d love to get your feedback on this.