In July 2022 the World Intellectual Property Organization determined that the domain debian.community had been registered in bad faith and was being used to tarnish the trademarks of the Debian Project. It ordered that the domain be handed to the Project.
First published: November 17th, 2021
Debian is aware of a number of public posts made about Debian and its community members on a series of websites by a Mr Daniel Pocock, who purports to be a Debian Developer.
Mr Pocock is not associated with Debian. He is neither a Debian Developer, nor a member of the Debian community. He was formerly a Debian Developer, but was expelled from the project some years ago for engaging in behaviour which was destructive to Debian's reputation and to the community itself. He has not been a member of the Debian Project since 2018. He is also banned from participating in the Debian community in any form, including through technical contributions, participating in online spaces, or attending conferences and/or events. He has no right or standing to represent Debian in any capacity, or to represent himself as a Debian Developer or member of the Debian community.
In the time since he was expelled from the project, Mr Pocock has engaged in an ongoing and extensive campaign of retaliatory harassment by making a number of inflammatory and defamatory posts online, in particular on a website which purports to be a Debian website. The contents of these posts involve not only Debian, but also a number of its Developers and volunteers. He has also continued to misrepresent himself as being a member of the Debian Community in much of his communication and public presentations. Please see this article for a list of the official Debian communication channels. Legal action is being considered for, amongst other things, defamation, malicious falsehood and harassment.
Debian stands together as a community, and against harassment. We have a code of conduct that guides our response to harmful behaviour in our community, and we will continue to act to protect our community and volunteers. Please do not hesitate to contact the Debian Community team if you have concerns or need support. In the meantime, all of Debian's and its volunteers' rights are reserved.
- Free Software Foundation Europe e.V. (first published October 12, 2019)
- Open Labs (first published May 26, 2021)
- Fedora (first published January 31, 2022)
Why was the domain transferred to Debian?
Debian pursued a complaint with WIPO that the domain was being used for bad faith infringement of Debian's trademarks. In July 2022 the WIPO panel agreed that the previous registrant had no rights or interest in the trademarks and was using them in bad faith, and transferred the domain to the Debian Project.
What was Debian's objection to the content?
The content of the debian.community site tarnished Debian's trademarks by associating them with unsubstantiated claims and links to cults, insinuations of enslavement and abuse of volunteers.
Who was behind the previous site?
The previous registrant of the domain was Free Software Contributors Association, an unregistered association in Switzerland. In its complaint to WIPO, Debian asserted that the association is an alter ego for Daniel Pocock.
Can I read the WIPO judgement in full?
Yes, it is publicly archived.
Did the panel find that the articles were defamatory?
The panel was not permitted to make a finding either way - it is beyond the panel's jurisdiction. The panel was only in a position to find that the registrant registered and used the domain in bad faith to tarnish Debian's trademarks.
Will Debian be taking any other action?
This information cannot be publicly disclosed. The Debian Project continues to monitor the situation and consult with its legal counsel.