Full Article Attached Firebird Database Project Admin Ann Harrison Interviewed

Monday April 21st, 2003

It's been a long and intense week since announced that the Phoenix browser has been renamed Firebird, to the dismay of much of the Firebird database community. In this interview with MozillaZine, Ann Harrison, an administrator of the Firebird database project and a partner in IBPhoenix, gives her thoughts on the dispute.

#81 Some responses.

by neva <>

Tuesday April 22nd, 2003 8:33 PM

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1. For most people, Firebird still stands for a *car*. What it ends up meaning in popular thought isn't really relevant. A good database program is *not* going to suffer undue hardship because it shares a name with a web browser. Do you really think that the average person administrating such a system can't tell the difference, or makes decisions *purely* based on name recognition? Whether the logic is really sound or not, there's usually other input there, and while it might provoke a, "Oh! That's got the same name as my web browser," it's not going to provoke anybody to drop one.

2. You think the name was a mistake. A mistake is something like typing 'tyop' instead of 'typo'. A mistake is having your painter do your living room in olive when what you really wanted was ecru. The name was chosen. The ramifications were considered. Regardless of whether or not I or anybody else actually likes it, it's not a mistake.

3. I've had my RL name for 21 years. Do I have a right to get upset if my neighbor changes her name to be the same as mine? Sort of. Does she have to change it? No. Unless there's a trademark violation, there's no responsibility for either party to use anything else.

4. Again, they don't have to settle anything; there is nothing to settle but hurt feelings, and the world doesn't generally consider those worth much time and effort, whether that's right or not. Names cannot be 'taken'. Firebird Relational Database is still Firebird Relational Database. See the above--if my neighbor renames herself to my name, she's not *taking* my name from me, and she's got no duty to do anything of the sort. Neither does Mozilla.

5. 'Open Source Software'. Now, *there's* a narrow category. Imagine if this weren't software but actual objects. I make up a card game and distribute it for free and call it 'Widget'. Somebody else makes up a special tool for working on cars, distributes it for free, and calls it a 'Widget', too. Does one have the right to tell the other not to do that? Of course not. The fact that these products are built out of lines of code instead of metal or paper does not change things in that regard. A relational database is not a web browser. A web browser is not a relational database. The fact that they are both software and both open source is no closer a similarity than the two Widgets both being objects and free.

6. Once again, Mozilla's under no obligation to choose a different name. They could have named it one of the ones of the 'worst suggestions' poll and guess what? No obligation to get a different one. They certainly aren't the ones getting particularly upset about sharing the name, so I don't think saying they should 'calm down' is really applicable.

And therein lies the rub, as they say. Mozilla Firebird does not break any laws. Nobody has any legal obligation to do anything until they are sued over it and *lose*, which it sounds like isn't going to happen. That means that those who don't like the name need to stop claiming that there's any 'obligation' on anybody's part. There is no 'obligation', there is no 'need', there is no 'duty'. There are choices to be made, just as there are always choices to be made, and some of those choices will mean consequences. But one of the funny things about free will is that we're still able to choose.