According to a story on Linux.com, Symantec's lawyers sent Michael D. Setzer II, the leader of the open-source project formerly known as Ghost for Linux (G4L), an email "requesting" that he change the name of the project (which has been called simply "G4L" for some time) to something else. Although the only references to Ghost or Symantec on his website was saying that it had relationship to Symantec or its product, that apparently wasn't good enough for Symantec. What do I think? Read on.
G4L is mentioned both in my book Backup & Recovery and in a Wiki entry on Backup Central. It's kind of the opposite of Symantec's Ghost, in that it runs only on Linux, but can make images of either Linux or Windows systems. In the book and Wiki, I made it pretty obvious that this product was in no way related to Symantec:
G4L is an abbreviation for Ghost 4 Linux, but do not confuse it with another project by that name. G4L does not use Norton Ghost and uses the term ghost only in a generic sense, as it was used long before Norton created its brand. The other project that you will find if you search the Internet for the phrase “Ghost4Linux” uses a network boot of Linux to run a simulated DOS environment that can run some versions of Norton Ghost. That is not how G4L works; it is its own complete utility
Copyright law, however, says that if someone is likely to confuse your usage of the term to a product that has a similar context, then you're violating their trademark. Consider two cases:
The music group "Living Color" requested the FOX TV Show "In Living Color" change its name and logo, as it was suggested it was a violation of their trademark. While the logo was changed after the fourth episode (apparently it was quite similar to the band's logo), the name remained and the lawsuit continued. Although I can't find any online references to it, I remember when the new hit that they had lost the lawsuit because the judge said that no one is likely to confuse a TV show with a band. The name stayed. I personally loved the show, but thought it jumped the shark when the Waynans left.
BP (a UK company) sued the Irish petrol company Kelly for what they considered a violation of their trademark by their use of the color green in their logo. BP had trademarked their particular color of green (which you can do. Think Tiffany Blue), and said that people were likely to confuse Kelly stations for BP stations, and thus BP would lose out on revenue. Although initially losing that battle, BP eventually won in apellate court, and Kelly was forced to change their color. That's right, someone sued an Irish company for using the color green and won.
The point is that it's about context. Despite my (and their) disclaimers, someone searching for Ghost for Linux might end up on the wrong page and start downloading a free product when they could be buying a commercial version. What's that, you say? Symantec doesn't have a Linux version of Ghost? You can ghost a Linux machine with Symantec Ghost, but Ghost itself must run on a Windows box. So you might see how they might want a Linux-based product using the same name.
So it seems like Symantec has a point.
But what about G4L? They don't even want him to continue to call it G4L, since the G is a reference to Ghost. This is the same thing that happened with Sun and NIS being known as YP, for Yellow Pages. They stopped saying that yp referred to Yellow Pages after a threat of a lawsuit from something called "the real Yellow Pages." Although I can't see how anyone would confuse YP with The Yellow Pages, they are both directory services. <sheesh> Anyway, they stopped calling it Yellow Pages, but the "yp" stuck, as in "ypbind," "yppush," etc. I think they successfully argued that there was no point in the next step. That's what happens when you have lawyers.
Michael, on the other hand, doesn't have lawyers and can't afford a lawsuit even if he were to win. So he may not have any choice but to change the name. While I could argue both ways, I think that the name G4L (without being able to say what the G stands for) actually hurts the project. You want a name that people can use and refer to and that makes sense. Therefore, I think they should come up with a completely new name and call it that. (I'll throw one out: "Limage," for Linux Imager.) Then we make sure that we put 301 redirects from any of the old links pointing to the old site. That'll fix Google's cache eventually. Google (and a few blog entries like this one) will make sure that anyone searching on Ghost for Linux will still eventually find "Limage," or whatever they call it, so the project should continue and it shouldn't be hurt too much as a result.
But it's not like Symantec's going to actually gain anything here. So it's kind of an exercise in futility, but I can't really blame Symantec for doing it. It cost them an hour or two of their lawyer's time and all the rest of the work will be done by Michael and Sourceforge.
Of course, now even more people know about, uh, "that imaging product that works on Linux." Feel free to visit the project's web page.
Also, if you've got an idea of what they should call it, feel free to leave a comment to this blog entry. Let's not make it any name that references ghost in any way. So no foreign versions or synonyms of the word ghost, OK? We don't want a second email from the lawyers.
----- Signature and Disclaimer -----
Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technologist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.