Subject: Re: copyright questions
To: Wolfgang Solfrank <>
From: Chris G. Demetriou <>
List: current-users
Date: 06/13/1997 11:19:54
> > The fact of the matter is, in the past, people/groups _have_ followed
> > the letter of the license rather than the spirit of the license, and
> > that is unacceptable to _me_, a software author.  My only recourse in
> > that case is to make the letter of the license say what I want it to
> > say more precisely.
> Hmm, while I can understand your thoughts, it leaves a bit of sour gripe with
> me.  It reminds me of your failure to (as the release engineer) acknowledge
> all the contributors in the Legal Mumbo-Jumbo in the 1.0 release...

I don't specifically remember what went on with 1.0, and don't have
easy source tree access to check, right now.

However, there are a couple of points to be had here:

(1) I made a good faith effort to include all of the appropriate
attribution strings (i.e. "This product contains software written by
...") in the release documentation.  If I missed a few, that's
unfortunate.  However, I really did try to include all of them.

(2) Regarding Berkeley's clause "3," there's a bad answer and a not
much better answer.  The bad answer is that since NetBSD is
distributed by "us" in source form, people should consider the source
itself part of the documentation to the system.  (That's a somewhat
valid, if annoying, answer.)  The better answer is a cop-out; there is
simply too much 'stuff' in the tree for the right thing to be done by
a bunch of volunteers.  (This harkens back to some of my earlier
messages, about being more forceful about contributions.)

(3) TNF has never been particularly organized about acknowledging
peoples' contributions.  In a perfect world, everyone who's ever
submitted a patch and had it included would be acknowledged in one
nice lists that explains what they did.  In a good world, everyone
who's submitted a 'large chunk of code' would be acknowledged in a
central place.  (This is like what was done for the Berkeley
contributors list.  I thought that that list was a Good Thing, and
that's why I went to the effort of HTML-ifying it and putting it up on
our web pages!)  In the world that exists, only the developers and a
few other people are really acknowledged.  I think that's unfortunate.
I think that people who contribute code _should_ be listed in a
software contributor's list, a la the Berkeley one.  (I think that
vendors shipping NetBSD should be _required_ to ship that pre-made
list in their documentation, actually.)  Unfortunately, not even
_that_ is happening, as far as I'm aware.

Really, (a) NetBSD should be maintaining a public list of contributors
(i.e. people who've donated code) to the project, (b) doing what it
can (i.e. with its limits on resources, especially 'time') to give
others credit, and (c) (definitely) doing what is legally required to
meet the rest of the license requirements of the code in the system.

As far as I know, NetBSD does do (c), doesn't do much about an
organized list for (b) (though does a good job in commit messages,
etc.), and doesn't do (a) well at all.  I think the latter is
particularly unfortunate, because it means that the project is giving
people who've actually contributed (i.e. signed over) code the shaft.

I've said for a long time that we should be doing a better job with
(a) and (b), and a more careful job with (c).  However, I've never
really had time to pursue it, and (since I'm quite happily no longer
part of the group that's in charge of the project) i feel no great
personal obligation to attempt to find somebody to do the work and
delegate it to them.

I'm quite willing to say that NetBSD isn't doing a perfect job, but it
may well be doing the best job that it can with the resources it has.
However, that leaves me, personally, as a software author left to fend
for my credit with whatever rights I have available to me.

For what it's worth (and for the record 8-):

I intend to donate a large fraction of the software in NetBSD holding
my copyright to The NetBSD Foundation, as soon as it actively starts
crediting people who donate software to the project.  However, until
it puts up a 'software constributors' list, I have no intention of
doing that.  I strongly encourage others to do the same (but I also
strongly encourage them to wait until there's a published and
maintained contributors list).