Subject: Re: copyright issue
To: None <current-users@NetBSD.ORG>
From: David W. Rankin <>
List: current-users
Date: 06/17/1997 14:40:32
Let me be very clear here. I am NOT a spokesman for my employer,
nor do I in any way know my employer's position on this matter.
This is being written on my lunch break. (As for my employer, if you
REALLY insist on knowing, I suspect you can find out.)

>Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 10:48:48 -0400 (EDT)
>From: der Mouse  <mouse@Rodents.Montreal.QC.CA>
>Subject: Re: copyright issue

>[Pulling quotes from three different messages together...]

I think Jason wrote the next paragraph, but I am not sure...
>> No reasonable interpretation of the license would consider a login
>> banner advertising or promotional materials.

 * 2. The following Acknowledgment must be used in communications
 * involving the Software as described below:

 * whenever the Software, or any software, products or systems
 * the Software,

Since the login prompt is an informational communication involving a
that contains cgd software (or may contain it and I can't be sure), it
have the text of the warning printed, or the system owner is in
of the license.

If I advertise a web server that happens to run NetBSD, I might be
in the same sticky licensing issue, because the system contains the
NetBSD code, and I'm advertising the web server. Of course, just
because I will probably win doesn't mean I definitely will win. Even
if I do win, it's not very likely that I'd get my attorneys' fees paid
for, and that's as good as a loss.

>The license also doesn't say anything about "reasonable".  If Chris
>doesn't want it to say something unreasonable, he should make sure it
>doesn't.  As written, I believe it does, and therein lies the problem.

>I currently trust Chris to be reasonable in enforcing his license.  I
>don't trust him to be so forevermore.  I _definitely_ don't trust his
>estate to be so.  I also am uneasy about violating his license even
>when confident I won't get in trouble as a result.

One other thing to consider is that Chris may sell or have to transfer
his copyrights to another party that doesn't like that his code is free.
Said party could easily change enforcement standards to be much tougher
than before, and go back and sue for earlier actions.

In addition to the DCE cell here where I work, we have quite a few PC
servers with lots of disks. I'd like to get those PCs running NetBSD
and the DCE 1.2.2 server code that's out for free. Unfortunately,
the letter of the license is such that I expose my employer to liability
if we use NetBSD, and then anyone else in the company mentions NetBSD
(or possibly even our DCE cell) without invoking cgd's name. (Remember
"(b) your actions, and the actions of all those who may act on your

Basically, the problem with this license isn't Chris, it's the license
itself. If the license can be read to require mention of cgd in every
mention of NetBSD, in casual conversation to require the mention of cgd
as well, then it in fact _requires it_. The fact that Jason, Chris, or
anyone else says (especially in Email) that that's ridiculous doesn't
mean that it's not enforcable later.

BTW, I may be a wimpersnapper when it comes to computing, but I'd
daresay that Chris' license is close to, if not completely, without
precident in the free software world. It's certainly the first time I've
ever seen a license require every mention of a piece of software in
any form require that an author be mentioned.
>> This license does NOT affect users of NetBSD.

>Your saying so won't make it so.  If you're willing to pay for me to
>get a professional legal opinion on the matter, I'll go do that; until
>then, I have to rely on my own reading of the license, which clearly
>indicates that it _is_ an issue for people who simply want to use
>NetBSD - indeed, for anyone who even mentions it in conversation.

If you have not already used the encumbered NetBSD, then you are
free from the license's effects. However, if you've used the software,
then here on out you'd be in violation of his copyrights to not follow
his license.

>From the license:

 * You may use, copy, modify and redistribute this Software without
 * charge, in either source code form, binary form, or both, on the
 * following conditions:

Notice "use". If I use NetBSD code that includes Chris' license, then I
am just as bound by it as anyone else. Just because Chris doesn't
choose to enforce that right this minute doesn't legally stop him
or someone else from doing so in the future.

My beef with this is that the LETTER of this license states that if
I use NetBSD binaries or source for practically any computer function,
I am thereafter required to mention cgd in any public, private, or
business context in which I mention the word "NetBSD". If I do not,
then I can be held in willful violation of cgd's copyrights, and the
civil and criminal penalties for copyright violation are VERY high.

It doesn't matter what Chris, Jason, der Mouse, or myself say
in Email, the license is what has to be read, because that is what
the courts will read.

We're terribly concerned with a license virus that requires a
different type of free distribution, yet we accept a license virus
that requires cgd mentioned almost every time "NetBSD" gets spoken
or printed?

For the record, I am not a licensee of the cgd-encumbered NetBSD,
so I am not required to say the magic phrase.