back to article Fee fie Firefox: Mozilla's lawyers probe Dell over browser install charge

Mozilla has put its legal department to work on a preliminary investigation into claims that Dell is charging £16 to install freeware browser Firefox on new PCs. Sources told us about Mozilla's plans after we received reports that Dell was asking customers to stump up £16.25 to have the free software pre-installed. Mozilla's …

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  1. wowfood

    Are they blond?

    A Dell spokeswoman said the fee covered the time taken to install Firefox, rather than the product itself.

    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.

    I'm pretty certain that charging for the time taken to install firefox would come under "Distribution may not be subject to a fee"

    And £16.25 to install firefox? Even assuming a slow installation of around 5 minutes, that's touching on £200 an hour.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are they blond?

      £200 an hour? That's a feasible charge-out rate for an engineer.

      1. Stephen 2

        Re: Are they blond?

        Don't forget that the cost isn't directly limited to the time it takes to install. They likely held meetings, staff had to create new install images, various testing and compatibility checks etc. A lot more work goes into this than you think.

        This isn't a forced sale and you're not paying for Firefox itself, it's an optional extra.

    2. The First Dave

      Re: Are they blonde?

      "A Dell spokeswoman said the fee covered the time taken to install FireFox, rather than the product itself."

      Case closed,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are they blonde?

        Case closed, bullshit!

        You cannot tell me they manually, custom install machines?! We only have about a 900 desktops at my place and we use image builds and automated software install systems to push and remove desktop software. DELL probably shift more desktops that our entire estate in a single day's business so I cannot imagine for a second they need to charge more than a 25p for this "service" given the packages are pre-built and simply pushed on demand!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are they blonde?

          I thought that initially, but even if they are using a different build or an option on a build, they still have to identify the machine on the production line which is to have the custom software installed, configure it's build separately to the others, package it separately to the others and make sure that it's sent to the appropriate customer. For a bog standard machine, it'll just come off the production line and get sent to whoever is the next customer who wants that make and model.

          I don't think it's unreasonable to charge for custom build options on otherwise mass produced machines.

      2. Uffish

        Re: time taken

        Not in any court of law it wouldn't be.

      3. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Are they blonde?

        "A Dell spokeswoman said the fee covered the time taken to install FireFox, rather than the product itself."

        Case closed,

        People really should learn to read the bloody EULAs

        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.

        Sooo, no case not closed then....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are they blonde?

          Sooo, no case not closed then....

          So you're volunteering your time to install Firefox on anyone's computer if they want it?

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Are they blonde?

          >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.

          So taking a pedantic legal position, my broadband is free because the only way I can download Mozilla is by purchasing a service (my broadband), do Mozilla distribute CD's with their product on for free? suspect not so Mozilla are in breech of their own T&Cs.

          I think Mozilla are just trying their luck, however from what I can see whatever the outcome, Mozilla ends up with egg on the face.

        3. The First Dave

          Re: Are they blonde?

          Like I said, Case Closed.

          Even a first year law student would be able to get those conditions dismissed as unreasonable in any reasonable court of law, even if that student was so stupid that he was unable to make the argument that Dell were doing something that was not "distribution".

      4. Trevor Marron

        Re: Are they blonde?

        Unauthorised distribution is against the software licence. Putting it on a hard drive the supplying the hard drive is distribution.

        Are you saying that I could supply PCs with the latest movie blockbusters on and claim that I only charged for putting them on the HD and am not distributing them? No, I don't think so.

        1. Gav

          Re: Are they blonde?

          Wrong. What is against the software licence is charging for distribution.

          Installing it on a computer is exactly what Mozilla want people to do. Deciding that their licence forbids people to install it is exactly what they do not want. What they don't want is people selling Firefox, either on its own or as part of some package. Charging someone to install the application is neither of these.

          Movies and open source/free software are two entirely different things licensed in entirely different ways. Their distribution cannot be compared in any sensible manner.

        2. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: Are they blonde?

          "Unauthorised distribution is against the software licence. Putting it on a hard drive the supplying the hard drive is distribution."

          No, Firefox could be distributed on the hard disk without installation - Dell don't offer this but it would need to be FOC due to the terms.

          Dell are charging to perform the install, whether that be manual, or for maintenance and creation of scripts and images. The distribution to you is still FOC, it just happens that the only way they distribute that software is by first installing it for a fee since they don't offer to just give it to you on the disk.

          Dell are not forcing you to sign up for a service in order to get the software, they are giving you the software and requiring you to pay for an installation. The EULA speaks of services to prevent things like "sign up to our ISP and we'll give you free AV software".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are they blond?

      Arguments around the price charged aside, they're allowed to charge a fee to install it.

      Linux is inherently free, but I don't see any engineers volunteering their time to install it. If they are, I've got a 30 server farm I need built and configured...

    4. M7S

      Re: Are they blond?

      Leaving aside the fact that Dell could probably do the image at such a marginal cost that they should be offering it as a free option, if you extended the arguement about distribution cost, what should happen if a customer totally incapable of doing this for themselves gets a custom PC built at a small mom-and-pop shop and asks for this software (perhaps becuase one of use told them it was good idea)?

      Is it reasonable to expect the builder to not charge for their time?

      What if I go into a shop, for sake of example, PC World (No, I would never, but that's not the point) and ask for this to be installed on my year old laptop. The techie is no more likely to read the T&Cs than the rest of us do for most software. Can I then collect it and walk out without paying the bill, because that's what the agreement says? That would seem unreasonable at the very least and possibly criminal.

      Whilst I am sure the motives of the Mozilla people are noble, there does seem to be a little bit of potential unfairness in this in some circumstances.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are they blond? @m7s

        You miss the point.

        If you go into a shop and ask someone to do a task for a fee it is you making the request. However Dell were offering a service for a fee. There is a very distinct legal difference

        For example:

        If you give me £50 I will fix your computer.

        I will fix your computer for £50.

        One is a condition on a promise and the other is a promise on a condition.

        However this is all beside the point. If a user is such a fucktard that they can't install FF by themselves then they should not be let within 10 miles of a computer.

      2. Joe User
        Flame

        Re: Are they blond?

        what should happen if a customer totally incapable of doing this for themselves

        If someone is "totally incapable" of installing a simple package like Mozilla Firefox, their fingers should be sewn together, and they should be promoted to manager.

        £16.25 to install Firefox is outrageous and Dell knows it....

      3. h4rm0ny
        Linux

        Re: Are they blond?

        "Leaving aside the fact that Dell could probably do the image at such a marginal cost that they should be offering it as a free option"

        Not really. Dell are enterprise and everything they do is geared toward that. If they're adding software to their servers that's not just about the cost of the software, it's about testing, support, supply-chain management, culpability if something goes wrong. This isn't you popping round to your neighbours and downloading it and walking away.

        Libre Software is about Free As In Speech, not Free As In Beer.

        Mozilla are wrong in this, imo. And it's a shame. It's actually good for Firefox that Dell can support a business case of charging £16 per install.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are they blond?

      "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."

      But Dell aren't charging for distribution, they are charging for installation, configuration and support of the installation. If Mozilla isn't careful, then Dell will just stop offering this service thereby ensuring that the only browsers available are IE via the OS and chrome via Google nagging...

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Are they blond?

        But Dell aren't charging for distribution, they are charging for installation, configuration and support of the installation. If Mozilla isn't careful, then Dell will just stop offering this service thereby ensuring that the only browsers available are IE via the OS and chrome via Google nagging...

        That is just weasel words, they are charging you to place firefox on some media and deliver it to you. That is basically the definition of distribution.

        The cost paid is above what you would pay if you did not have firefox distributed to you.

        Plus, no-one will ever choose to pay an extra £16 for Firefox. If they know they want it, they will know to install it themselves, if they don't know they want it, they will forgo paying for things they don't want.

        This is basically a rehash of the Dell/MS tax on PCs with no OS, I wonder how much they are being bunged now drive IE usage. Of course, now Dell are privately owned, we need never know.

      2. Anonymous Dutch Coward

        Charging for installation etc...

        Installating something /is/ distributing it... Nice try though...

        1. h4rm0ny
          Linux

          Re: Charging for installation etc...

          "Installating something /is/ distributing it... Nice try though..."

          No more than cake is sugar. Yes, you usually find sugar in cakes, but that doesn't mean a cake is only sugar. Simple proof: you turn up on my doorstep and hand me a CD with Firefox on it. You have now distributed Firefox. You do the former, spend time installing it for me and are on-call to answer questions about it any time I choose to ring you up. Are the two actions the same? No. Therefore the latter scenario is not identical to merely distributing it.

          I'm still not really clear on why distributing it has to be for free anyway. Free as in speech, not free as in beer. As the great Stallman said.

    6. Gav

      Are they a business?

      Installation <> Distribution.

      If I was charging you to download Firefox from my website, then that would be distribution.

      Going through the process of installing it on your computer is not distribution.

      Whether the cost they charge for their installation is excessive or not is a matter for the customer to decide. If they don't feel they are getting work worth that, then they are free to go elsewhere. Certainly I wouldn't pay them a penny for doing this. But maybe some would.

      1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

        @Gav: Installing is not distribution but downloading is?

        "Going through the process of installing it on your computer is not distribution."

        Explain to me how:

        1. Dell has a disk with an OS on it

        2. Dell now has a disk with Firefox on it.

        How can the difference between 1 and 2 /not/ be distributing Firefox?

        1. Seanie Ryan

          Re: @Gav: Installing is not distribution but downloading is?

          simple solution for Dell. Change the option on the order process to be :

          "Install an alternative web-browser :- + £16.25 "

          Solved it there in 30 secs.

    7. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Are they blond?

      I suspect that Mozilla take exception on this bit;

      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.

      I guess they don't like the obtaining of Firefox tied to the installation service?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are they blond?

        "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."

        For starters, I doubt that's enforceable. If an IT repair guy is asked to install Firefox, do they have to do it for free because of Mozilla's diktat? Or maybe Mozilla just expects everyone to work for free. Maybe that's how things work on planet Moon-unit where Mozilla lives, but it doesn't work that way on planet Earth.

        Or maybe Mozilla doesn't think that non-techies should use Firefox? I guess they would rather see people stick with IE. Yes, that must be it.

        1. Twist Rolarian

          Re: Are they blond?

          There's no chance in any of the Nine Hells that I will ever install anything for free. Trade perhaps, but never without getting something in return.

    8. Benchops

      Re: Are they blond?

      I asked my solicitor about this and he said the rates were completely unreasonable (+£10.30). For some reason he was also interested to know if Dell were hiring.

    9. DanDanDan

      Re: Are they blond?

      I think Mozilla are perfectly within their rights to make any claims to the distribution of their own trademarked software.

      There are 10 types of computing consumer: those who know how to install firefox and those who don't. Now, those who don't will see "alternative and costly browser". Or they can stick with the default (free). If anyone in future mentions Firefox to them, then that type of consumer will think "Oh no, I don't want to pay, I'm happy with IE".

      I think this "service" would be damaging to the Mozilla trademark and that's why I think they're entitled to enforce such distribution restrictions.

      If Dell want to strip all trademarks and compile their own version of the Mozilla browser (a la CentOS), then charge to install that, then that's fair game. They will only damage their own reputation.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Are they blond?

        >>"I think this "service" would be damaging to the Mozilla trademark and that's why I think they're entitled to enforce such distribution restrictions."

        I disagree. I can't think of many better messages to send to the business community than organizations being willing to pay £16 per copy for an alternate browser. I think you're dead wrong that people are going to be confused and not look at Firefox because they think from Dell that it must always cost this much. Showing people buying it will send a clear message to many managers who lack the familiarity with Firefox to make tech-based decisions.

        Trust me on this - I've been around a long time. If I, as random tech-girl say to one of the senior management this: "hey, I know we're all using IE, but lets install this free alternative I downloaded off the Internet", the answer is going to come back: "No!" Okay, I might be able to just about pull it off because I'm quite senior myself these days, but generally it ain't going to happen.

        Now try an alternative approach: "I want the Firefox package that Dell include for our new PCs. Dell now support it as software and it's really good". Now you're in with a chance.

        Mozilla are wrong to fight this. They should welcome it. I'm both a business person AND a programmer. Putting a price on Firefox (without removing the free version) is a win in business terms. Free as in Speech, not Free as in Beer. Stallman gets a lot of hate for some reason (never understood why), but he's a very, very smart person.

        1. DanDanDan

          Re: Are they blond?

          I'm not a decision-maker at Mozilla. My main argument is that they're free to do what they want. IF someone was distributing MY software and making a tidy profit off it (I guarantee this won't be a break-even venture by Dell), then I'd want a cut of it.

          IF they'd asked me, agreed to share a reasonable cut of the profits, yada yada, etc. then I'd be ok with it. As it is, Mozilla had NO IDEA that this was going on. I think it's cheeky of Dell to say the least. Whether or not it's "Good promo" for Mozilla, it should be done with their consent; as stipulated in their T&C's!

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Are they blond?

            "I'm not a decision-maker at Mozilla. My main argument is that they're free to do what they want. IF someone was distributing MY software and making a tidy profit off it (I guarantee this won't be a break-even venture by Dell), then I'd want a cut of it."

            Well that's not really in the spirit of Open Source. After all, all that code is donated by people under the GPL for the purpose of sharing.

    10. zb

      Not my lawyer

      If only I could get him to charge me only £200 per hour. I pay that for him to say good morning.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mozillidiots

    Free as in freedom, not at is cost. There nothing, NOTHING, wrong with charging for free software. Zero, zip nada, not a thing. You can even charge for GPL software, there is no problem.

    Dell have costs to cover when installing non-standard software. You can argue the toss about whether or not the price is fair, but you CANNOT argue against their right to charge. Mozilla can say what they like, they don't have a leg to stand on.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Mozillidiots

      Dell charge to take rubbish software off. Don't see why they can't charge to put decent software on.

      1. Sandpit
        Joke

        Re: Mozillidiots

        "Dell charge to take rubbish software off. Don't see why they can't charge to put decent software on."

        But I thought they were putting Firefox on instead?

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: Mozillidiots

          Must admit, FireFox is hanging by a thread here. May be going IE11

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mozillidiots

      When calling people idiots, please remember to check you are not being an idiot yourself.

      Their Firefox trademark is not free and they can choose to do what they want with it, charges or distribution.

      They even state Dell can distribute and charge for a version of their browser without the Firefox trademark.

      1. El Andy

        Re: Mozillidiots

        @AC: "Their Firefox trademark is not free and they can choose to do what they want with it, charges or distribution."

        Irrelevant. Trademark protection doesn't work like that, you can't just add arbitrary rules and assume they're legal requirements. In exactly the same way Coca-Cola can't insist that shopkeepers selling their product have to paint the walls blue.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mozillidiots

          > In exactly the same way Coca-Cola can't insist that shopkeepers selling their product have to paint the walls blue.

          Why not? Other than requiring something that is outrageously unreasonable or illegal, a supplier can make whatever demands they wish for the use of their trademark.

          You state the above as though it were extremely outrageous, but consider the conditions that Apple might dictate regarding the environment in which their equipment is displayed, the marketing materials, colour scheming etc.

          Trademarks are in essence all about branding and reputation and Mozilla have just as much right to dictate the way on which their trademarks are used by others.

        2. Steve 129

          Re: Mozillidiots

          Wrong. Coke COULD if they wanted. They could very easily say "If you want to use the Coca Cola trademarked logo to sell Coke, then you must etc..." but they choose not to.

          Levi did EXACTLY this to Tesco !!!

          Mozilla can put WHATEVER restrictions on the use of their trademark that they want... ANYTHING.

          Everyone seems to be missing the facts that a) putting it on a HDD and distributing to customers is... believe it or not... 'distribution' and b) Mozilla can put whatever restrictions on their software/trademark that they want... ANYTHING.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Mozillidiots

            >>"Mozilla can put WHATEVER restrictions on the use of their trademark that they want... ANYTHING."

            I'm pretty sure that's not true. There are laws of the land, restrictions on fair contracts... If I were doing business in America and let all my distributors use my trademark except for those that sold to black/jewish/atheist/gay/whatever people, I'm pretty sure that would fall foul of the law. Basically, if you're going to be discriminatory you need to be able to do so on reasonable grounds. Is it reasonable grounds to say that Dell cannot charge for installation, testing, version management, supply-chain impact, etc. That's for the courts to decide, but I don't think you're right to say Mozilla can impose "ANYTHING" as a condition of their trademark use.

          2. DanDanDan

            Re: Mozillidiots

            Wrong. Coca-Cola(TM) DO enforce WHATEVER restrictions they want on the distributors of their drinks. Such as "You MUST NOT display pepsi-licensed drink products in the same area as Coke products, you must not use our vending machines, with our logo on, to sell Non-Coke products, etc".

            If you charge a fee for installing Mozilla Firefox (TM) on someone's computer, then you're in violation of the terms of use of their software. If you don't want to install it for free, then you have the option of not installing it at all. It's tough luck that you can't profit from their (trademarked) branding.

            1. Oninoshiko

              Re: Mozillidiots

              Yes, but they don't do that with trademark limitations, they use financial incentives (we won't sell to you wholesale if you don't do this). Trademarks can ALWAYS be used for nominative purposes. If I make a vending machine that has Coke, 7up, and Mt Dew in it, I can use the logos from ALL of them on the buttons, and none of them can do anything about it because it is for nominative purposes. Coke can refuse to sell to me wholesale, but that's an entirely different matter.

    3. CaptainHook

      Re: Mozillidiots

      There nothing, NOTHING, wrong with charging for free software. Zero, zip nada, not a thing. You can even charge for GPL software, there is no problem.

      *****

      This is a Trademark / Contract issue. If there weren't any restrictions associated with the use of the Trademark then you would be correct. As it is, you're an idiot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mozillidiots

        @CatptainHook - "This is a Trademark / Contract issue. If there weren't any restrictions associated with the use of the Trademark then you would be correct. As it is, you're an idiot."

        Just watch - Dell will start installing IceWeasel instead.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mozillidiots

        > This is a Trademark / Contract issue. If there weren't any restrictions associated with the use of the Trademark then you would be correct.

        Dell are not distributing Firefox (you can prove me wrong by giving me a link to where Dell are offering it for download). They are providing an installation service. If you went into ANY computer shop on the planet, they would charge you for their time with installing Firefox. Dell are quite within their rights to charge.

        Despite what freetards think, the global economy is not powered by fairy dust.

        1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

          Re: Mozillidiots

          "Dell are not distributing Firefox (you can prove me wrong by giving me a link to where Dell are offering it for download)."

          Who says all distribution has to be done via a download? There's CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, tapes, even punch cards, paper or T-shirts with source code (re the PGP export thingy years back)

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