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Mozilla Is Investigating Why Dell Is Charging To Install Firefox 306

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-button-surcharge dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Dell is charging customers £16.25 ($27.18) to install Firefox on a newly purchased computer. We contacted Mozilla to find out more. The company told us it is investigating the issue and denied it has any such a deal in place. 'There is no agreement between Dell and Mozilla which allows Dell or anyone else to charge for installing Firefox using that brand name,' Mozilla's Vice President and General Counsel Denelle Dixon-Thayer told TNW. 'Our trademark policy makes clear that this is not permitted and we are investigating this specific report.' Dell has responded by saying that this practice is okay because the company is charging for the service and not the product."
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Mozilla Is Investigating Why Dell Is Charging To Install Firefox

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  • I'm pretty sure it's illegal in the United States. If our law is ahead of yours, you guys are in pretty bad shape!
    • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:24PM (#46414905)
      Oops, just reread. Yeah, they can charge for the service of installing Firefox - they're not selling the browser, they're selling the effort to install it.

      How dull do you have to be to pay someone to do this for you?

      • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:34PM (#46415001) Journal

        Shhh! Don't kill my golden goose!

        • by StingRay02 (640085) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @12:08AM (#46415911)

          Installing Firefox is what... 45 seconds? That's £1300 an hour. Now I know how all those commenters make $86,976 a week working from home! They work for Dell!

          • by Inda (580031)
            Installing Firefox from home, as a business...

            Open the door. Sign the delivery slip. Carry computer to office/workshop/garage. Boot computer. Phone customer for admin username and password. Insert USB stick. Install Firefox. Return computer to customer. Invoice and complete paperwork.

            It took me more than 45 seconds to type that.

            No one is becoming a millionaire from installing Firefox.
          • by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @07:53AM (#46417675)

            You forgot the 10 seconds to make sure it opens and the 5 seconds to make sure the homepage is something with ads that make Dell more money.

      • by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:46PM (#46415101)

        How dull do you have to be to pay someone to do this for you?

        Most corporations have entire departments of employees, who they pay just to install programs. And yes, the work is quite dull - but it is best to not annoy or insult your IT people like that.

        • by atouk (1336461) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:24PM (#46415387)
          I'm pretty sure that OEMs like Dell just use preconfigured master images to flash an install onto a hard drive. The user when he is selecting what to install is the one actually doing all the work, the rest is just a glorified script to create the configured disk. Manually installing the selected programs would take hours per machine. The generated hard drive image takes only as long as the image takes to write to the hard drive.
          • by PhilHibbs (4537)

            Who builds the scripts and images? There is effort involved in building an image that has Firefox on it. If Dell feel they need to charge in order to recoup the cost of that effort, rather than offering it free as part of the value of their service, then that's up to them. The market will decide whether that is reasonable or not. I don't see how this could be illegal, they aren't using the trademark in the sense of branding them as "Firefox Laptops".

        • by Average (648)

          Any company that is large enough to have more than one person installing software is large enough to be pushing it out through SCCM or any of a half-dozen other solutions like it. If they aren't, they will be quickly replaced by companies who do employ such solutions. A whole SCCM setup, bare-metal up, is cheaper than even one year of one minimum-wage "next clicker".

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            Sure, but bottom line is that you're still paying people to install software. You're paying the person who clicks on the SCCM setup, you're paying for the folks who keep the SCCM running, and so on.

            It isn't like Dell is paying somebody to click buttons either.

        • by nobuddy (952985)

          Only the dumb ones. The rest of us operate from baseline images and master repositories/policy based intitial setup scripts.

          Initiate image, add to proper OU, BAM, it has everything that group needs to do the job. Amount of work per unit (after initial setup of the system of course) about 3 seconds.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          How dull do you have to be to pay someone to do this for you?

          Most corporations have entire departments of employees, who they pay just to install programs. And yes, the work is quite dull - but it is best to not annoy or insult your IT people like that.

          Yes, this is the larval stage of a Sysadmin.

          And yes, they will remember anyone who insults or annoys them.

      • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:46PM (#46415109)

        Oops, just reread. Yeah, they can charge for the service of installing Firefox - they're not selling the browser, they're selling the effort to install it.

        How dull do you have to be to pay someone to do this for you?

        Consider your average user. Then remember half of them are duller than that.

      • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:54PM (#46415173) Journal

        How dull do you have to be to pay someone to do this for you?

        Very, since in the EU, users are prompted to do an automated install of an alternative browser on first use (except those times when the choice was "accidentally" missed out of builds of retail copies of Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8).

      • by dnavid (2842431) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @11:05PM (#46415587)

        Oops, just reread. Yeah, they can charge for the service of installing Firefox - they're not selling the browser, they're selling the effort to install it.

        Dell is skating on thin ice, because they aren't installing Firefox. They themselves admit that "the fee would cover the time and labour involved for factory personnel to load a different image than is provided on the system’s standard configuration." In effect, Dell is charging customers to have their PC loaded with image A rather than image B, and that seems much more like "software distribution" than "installation." If a dude was actually sitting in a factory installing Firefox on that machine, Dell could legitimately charge for that service. But that's not what's happening.

        In fact, its common practice for bundled software to be loaded in a pre-installation state, so that the software actually installs and is configured when the user first logs in. If that's the case, then the actual act of installation occurs when the customer first powers the system on. Dell would only be copying the software binaries onto the PC as part of the factory build. And if that's the case here, Dell isn't "installing Firefox" by any reasonable definition of the words.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I'm pretty sure it's illegal in the United States. If our law is ahead of yours, you guys are in pretty bad shape!

      Once again issuing laws to break the balls of businesses! Oh, it's got to be that socialism again!

      Whinge. Gnash. Foam.

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @11:30PM (#46415733) Homepage Journal

      I'm pretty sure it's legal in both countries. The only question here is supposedly whether Dell is violating the Firefox trademark. Dell argues they're not because they're charging for installation. I don't know if that m

      But minus the trademark issue, Dell certainly can charge for copies of Firefox, even if it ends up having to install Iceweasel instead. So can I. It's Free Software/Open Source, shipped under a Free Software/Open Source license, and as long as Dell complies with, for example, any copyleft provisions, it can do whatever it wants and charge whatever it wants. There's a myth that you can't charge for Free Software/Open Source software. That's never been true. Indeed, that's one of the ways the FSF originally funded itself, selling tapes containing copies of GNU.

  • by js3 (319268) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:24PM (#46414911)

    Someone is willing to pay me 16$ to install firefox, why would the firefox terms and conditions apply to me? I'm not selling their product.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ThatsMyNick (2004126)

      You are free to charge $16 for it. But you may not use the firefox trademark in your ads/product page etc. Dell should move to iceweasel and avoid using mozilla's trademarks. Then again none would pay $16 for installing iceweasel.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:57PM (#46415189)

        But you may not use the firefox trademark in your ads/product page etc.

        That sounds unreasonable. What about companies offering Windows installation services, do they need to advertise it as "Installing the world's most popular PC operating system" instead?

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          But you may not use the firefox trademark in your ads/product page etc.

          That sounds unreasonable. What about companies offering Windows installation services, do they need to advertise it as "Installing the world's most popular PC operating system" instead?

          That would depend on Microsoft's licensing, not Mozilla's. I'd imagine that Microsoft has even more stringent restrictions on the use of Microsoft branding.

        • It is likely about using the trademark for profit purposes, rather than an offhand reference.
      • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @11:02PM (#46415575) Homepage

        You are free to charge $16 for it. But you may not use the firefox trademark in your ads/product page etc.

        Does trademark law actually allow a trademark holder to do that?

        If you weren't installing genuine Mozilla Firefox I could see how it would be illegal to use their trademark.

        However, if I buy a can of Coke at Walmart, assuming I have the appropriate local government licenses I can put a sign up on my front lawn saying "Coca Cola" for sale. If I mix up my own soda, then I can't use their trademark to sell it.

        That's why T-Mobile can say "We're better than AT&T" or whatever on their ads. They don't need permission to use AT&T's name, they just can't use their name to refer to anything but the real AT&T.

        Mozilla may very well say that you're not allowed to use their name on advertising, but that doesn't mean that it is enforceable.

        The reason Debian drops the name is because they patch it, which means it is no longer the genuine article (security flaws and all).

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Does trademark law actually allow a trademark holder to do that?

          Not only does trademark law permit a trademark holder to do that, but copyright law gives them the right to restrict distribution by anyone who disrespects their trademarks, or for any other reason.

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          That's why T-Mobile can say "We're better than AT&T" or whatever on their ads. They don't need permission to use AT&T's name, they just can't use their name to refer to anything but the real AT&T.

          The article refers to the UK and UK trademark law has restrictions on this. You can only name your competition if your are making an objective comparison. That's why when Pepsi made adverts promoting taste comparisons to Coca-Cola, they did not name Coca-Cola.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Dell is distributing Firefox (by way of pre-installed-ness), and they tied this distributing to a paid service.
      This is pretty much exactly the thing Mozilla's trademark policy forbids.

      If someone asks you to install it, that is allowed, because you aren't distributing Firefox by doing so.

      • Say what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by harryjohnston (1118069) <harry.maurice.johnston@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:05PM (#46415249) Homepage
        Pardon? Dell is installing Firefox on a customer's machine before shipping it to them. How is that any different from my installing it on a customer's machine *after* it's shipped to them? What if the customer ships their machine to me, I install Firefox, and then ship it back?
        • by arth1 (260657)

          Pardon? Dell is installing Firefox on a customer's machine before shipping it to them. How is that any different from my installing it on a customer's machine *after* it's shipped to them? What if the customer ships their machine to me, I install Firefox, and then ship it back?

          I don't see how they can legally install it on a user's PC in a way that bypasses the user accepting the license agreement. The user must be given a chance to reject it.
          They also cannot make the offer of Firefox be contingent on a sale.

          • They install dozens of programs on these machines.

            And each of them come with Licence Agreements.

            And there is no law against someone using a bit of software without agreeing to its licence agreement. You do it every time you go to a library. And the whole tech support industry can tell you that it is legal to pay someone else to install software on your computer, and perfectly OK to never agree to anything yourself.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        And how can a trademark policy prevent you from selling a product? If I buy something from you that you have a trademark on, I can sell it to somebody else legally and you have no right to keep me from doing so, and you also can't prevent me from advertising that I got it from you, using your trademark.

        You can claim that you have those rights, but that doesn't make it so.

        Now, what you can do is tell me that if I distribute a modified version of your product that I can't use your trademark, because it no lo

    • by Narcocide (102829)

      Note that they are not charging $16 but actually almost $30. ($27.18)

    • Pretty much this. Plus, Mozillla can set whatever policies they want about the use of their trademark - but so long as the activity and usage is legal their policy is irrelevant.

    • by quantaman (517394) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:08PM (#46415271)

      Someone is willing to pay me 16$ to install firefox, why would the firefox terms and conditions apply to me? I'm not selling their product.

      If you're advertising yourself as a Firefox installer then you're using Mozilla.org's trademark to do so.

      Consider how Red Hat works, Red Hat doesn't sell Linux, they sell services surrounding their own version of Linux, RHEL. If someone else tries to distribute RHEL they get in trouble with Red Hat so you get things like CentOS that remove the trademarks.

      Personally I think Mozilla has a case here. The price is fairly high and if I saw this I'd assume that Dell had some kind of deal with Mozilla and that Mozilla was comfortable fleecing consumers which damages Mozilla's brand. There's also the case that the high price Dell is signalling that Firefox costs money and installing it is a non-trivial task, again both things that damage Mozilla's brand.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Uh, no. Like you said Red Hat is not selling Linux, they are selling service. You can not distribute Linux and call it Red hat because you are not offering their service - calling it Red Hat would be deceiving. Dell, on the other hand, is not misleading anyone. They call it Firefox because it IS Firefox. Price does not enter into it at all. You can sell a can of 'Coke' for $100, as long as it is in fact Coke.

        • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

          Price does not enter into it at all. You can sell a can of 'Coke' for $100, as long as it is in fact Coke.

          I doubt anybody would buy a $100 can of coke!

        • The main thing in trademark law is likelihood of consumer confusion. The first thing the reporter did was ask MOZILLA about the deal. When Mozilla said "wtf", the reporter asked Dell. If a tech reporter thought it looked like implied affiliation, some customers probably will to. You can't use someone's trademarked name to falsely imply affiliation.

          If you sell a Coke at your garage sale, nobody is going to think that Coca-Cola Inc is involved in that, so there is no problem.

      • There's also the case that the high price Dell is signalling that Firefox costs money and installing it is a non-trivial task [...]

        Apparently you've never had to provide computing support directly to ordinary US customers.

        • by quantaman (517394)

          There's also the case that the high price Dell is signalling that Firefox costs money and installing it is a non-trivial task [...]

          Apparently you've never had to provide computing support directly to ordinary US customers.

          But this isn't support directly to consumers. It's shipping an alternate install image. There's a single one-time cost to set up the system and then it's all automatic.

          • No, not the point: I mean that for those customers, it's often not a "trivial" task, but I get your point--and I would still charge myself not because of the added revenue as much as it also ensure they'll be calling me about it. x*D
      • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @11:08PM (#46415605) Homepage

        Consider how Red Hat works, Red Hat doesn't sell Linux, they sell services surrounding their own version of Linux, RHEL. If someone else tries to distribute RHEL they get in trouble with Red Hat so you get things like CentOS that remove the trademarks.

        Actually, it isn't illegal to sell RHEL at all, even without permission. It is illegal to make copies of it, however.

        So, if you buy one box of RHEL from Red Hat, then turn around and sell it for $100 more on Ebay, there is nothing they can legally do to stop you. Now, if you modify the software then it no longer is RHEL and they can certainly shut you down. If you make a copy of it then you're violating their copyright license and they can also shut you down (but that is copyright law, not trademark law).

        Trademark law generally centers around the genuineness of products, not how they are used/sold/etc.

        CentOS strips out the non-free components of RHEL so that it is no longer illegal to copy/redistribute them. It also strips out the trademarks, which is necessary because it isn't identical to what Redhat distributes.

      • Personally I think Mozilla has a case here

        Based on what, though? The trademark policy - not that this isn't a license - states:

        By not charging, we mean the Mozilla product must be without cost and its distribution (whether by download or other media) may not be subject to a fee, or tied to subscribing to or purchasing a service, or the collection of personal information.

        As I understand it, the emphasized parts are where Dell possibly runs afoul; They 1. tie the distribution of FireFox to the service of i

  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:25PM (#46414921)

    If they charge to add Firefox, will they give a refund for leaving off Windows?

  • Selling the labour (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dittbub (2425592) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:27PM (#46414943)
    Dell also charges to set up bios parameters. Big woop
  • Michael's got to pay for getting his eponymous company back, and he won't be able to do that just by selling computers.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:51PM (#46415143)
    The price is ridiculous, but I don't see a problem with them charging to do the installation. OTOH Mozilla might have the right to limit use of their icons. But GPL is GPL, you have certain rights to redistribute. That's why IceCat (formerly Ice Weasel) exists.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      OTOH Mozilla might have the right to limit use of their icons.

      Only if the icon isn't covered by an FOSS copyright. They can limit the use of their trademark if you modify the product, but not if you simply resell it.

      I'm not sure they can do anything about your icon either if you download it from them every time you image a PC. That would be an interesting argument.

  • by steppin_razor_LA (236684) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:04PM (#46415243) Homepage Journal

    They aren't selling the software they are selling their time to install it for you. Big difference....

  • How long before... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon (813062)
    ... Dell refuses warranty service if the computer has software installed that Dell did not install?

    .
    Dell is desperate for revenue at this point, and when companies are desperate for revenue they do customer-antagonistic things.

  • As a service, this really does make sense. It takes time and knowledge to configure a computer. A lot of people are lacking in one, or both, of those departments. The price also makes sense when it comes down to installing an individual piece of software. It takes time to do so. For businesses, time is money.

    On the other hand, consumers really ought to look for better deals. You can tell someone what you need and pay them by the hour to get a system that is tailored to your needs. If you need a bunch

  • You can't use trademark to prevent people from referring to your product. If you are, in fact, installing Firefox on the machine, you can say so, no matter what their policies say. This is "nominative use".

  • by Beeftopia (1846720) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:54PM (#46415539)

    I just checked how much Microsoft Office Home and Business costs when put on a Dell computer - 179 USD, right there on the Dell site, for a desktop computer. It costs 219 USD at Big Box Mart and Microsoft itself [microsoft.com]

    So uh... yeah. They're charging for free software. It's just taking advantage of the ignorant. Who might be your grandma. Or a firefighter. Or a grocery store cashier.

    • So uh... yeah. They're charging for free software. It's just taking advantage of the ignorant. Who might be your grandma. Or a firefighter. Or a grocery store cashier.

      Which is not illegal, you know. I'm perfectly within my right to sell bottles of air to anyone willing to buy - provided that I pay my taxes, and don't advertise it as anything other than what it actually is. I'm not obligated to tell my customers that they can get identical air for free elsewhere.

      The only potential angle here is the use of Firefox trademark, but even that is dubious so long as they refer to it in the context of "service of installing X".

  • $27.16 for a Firefox install is a nice cash cow. After the initial download (the slowest part, at least it is for me) installing a new version of Firefox might take me two minutes to copy the tar archive onto a system, uncompress it, untar, and clean up. That comes to about $815/hour for that "service". Most lawyers don't charge that much. Dell ought to be a little ashamed of themselves.

  • We also charge the customer if we install Linux for him. If the price is reasonable is in the eye of the customer, but installing and configuring Linux has the same hourly rate as installing Windows.

  • It's the oPeN SoURce and freeware aspect that maybe confuses people to see a problem here.

    What if Firefox was a commercial, closed source program, and Dell was selling this service? People would just think the installation as a basic consulting service and not notice anything special about it.

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