Subject: Re: copyright issue
To: der Mouse <mouse@Rodents.Montreal.QC.CA>
From: Bill Studenmund <>
List: current-users
Date: 06/17/1997 12:10:23
On Tue, 17 Jun 1997, der Mouse wrote:

> [Pulling quotes from three different messages together...]
> Though I've been trying to stay out of this, I have decided to permit
> myself one message of comment on it.  This has potential to force me
> away from NetBSD altogether, which is pretty serious to me.

I, too, have been sadly watching this thread, and want to chime in my vote
of concern.

> >> From what I understand of clause 2, almost every page on the site
> >> should include the following:
> >> 	This product includes software developed by
> >> 	Christopher G. Demetriou for the NetBSD Project.
> > Are you serious or did you only forgot smiley ?
> Not being the person you're responding to, I can't say...but as I read
> the license (at least as included in sys/arch/alpha/alpha/conf.c
> version 1.25), that's correct: absent a waiver from cgd, most of the
> NetBSD web pages should "conspicuously and completely" display that
> notice.  NetBSD is certainly a "system" "containing the Software", and
> the NetBSD web pages are "informational" and "publicity" materials.

I agree. The new acknoledgement requirements, though admittedly very
clear, seems to cover ANY mention of the software so copyrighted. I think
that's silly. When some folks have come up with examples of the
implications of this change, like the changed login prompt, supporters
have said these examples aren't reasonable (Jason's quoted below saying
so, and I think other people have agreed). I AGREE. The problem is we're
dealing with lawyers and the law. Common sense doesn't fit in the legal
system. I think that's the real disagreement. 

> > Man, can you understand the license is for people who _don't ask
> > Chris for anything else_, people who just steal his code w/o mention
> > of his work at all ?
> As I understand it, the incident that prompted this was another
> organization taking cgd's work on the alpha port and reusing it without
> preserving the attributions.  If this is true, it was already in
> violation of the prior license; changing the license is unlikely to
> stop anyone who's willing to ignore the license anyway.

>From what I understand of the incident, I too would have been mad. VERY
MAD. I also understand about working on things which won't get advertised. 
The two things I've worked on, the Netatalk port and the mac's serial
ports, aren't going to generate lots of acknowledgements from advertising
(for netatalk, I'm in the CHANGES credits, I think, but that's it, and the
copyrights don't require acknowledging me anyway). For me, that's fine. If
I'd done a lot more, I can understand wanting to get mentioned along with
everyone else.

The old license probably was a little too under-representative in this
case, and needed changing. Part of my worry is that this change goes too

> >> I mean, the login prompt is an advertisement of the OS my system
> >> running, and it's in "any medium", right? This should *not* be moved
> >> to another list; this affects *everyone* using NetBSD.
> > Quite honestly, now you're just being silly.
> Jason [the above fragment being from one of Jason Thorpe's replies],
> have _you_ actually read the license?  I mean, in one sense that's a
> stupid question, core having read not only the current license but
> multiple prior versions of it, but I'm beginning to wonder if you are
> reacting based on what you know Chris means rather than what the
> license actually says.
> Taken from the file mentioned above,
> "The Acknowledgment must be conspicuously and completely displayed
> whenever [...] any [...] system[] containing the Software, [is]
> mentioned in [...] informational [...] materials of any kind [...]."
> Are you saying that NetBSD is not a system containing "the Software",
> are you saying that the login banner does not mention it, or are you
> saying that it's not "informational material"?  It sure looks to me as
> though all three of those conditions are true, and hence "[t]he
> Acknowledgment must be conspicuously and completely displayed".
> > No reasonable interpretation of the license would consider a login
> > banner advertising or promotional materials.
> No, but it is unquestionably "informational" (unless, I suppose, one
> replaces it with a null string).
> 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.

As I was saying above, I think these two paragraphs sum up the
controversy. I too trust Chris to be reasonable about enforcing his
license. The problems, though are that NetBSD'd need a release (which I
understand Chris offered and is in the works) or else he might have due
dilegance (sp?) problems. Also, I really worry about the precedent we're
setting. What happens when 5 or 10 or 20 folks are using this kind of
license? To me, this license doesn't seem to scale well.

One thing which might help is if everyone could see the terms of the
release. I know nothing requires us to be shown it, but it would probably
help calm everyone's concerns. And it'd let everyone know what in the
world they're fussing about. :-)

> > This license does NOT affect users of NetBSD.

It may not directly, but....

> > It does affect people who _distribute_ NetBSD, but no more than a
> > standard Berkeley-style license does.
> I disagree with this too.  I'm not sure what your reference for the
> "standard Berkeley-style license" is; I'm using sys/kern/uipc_socket.c
> version 1.21 as my sample.  It requires an acknowledgement only for
> "advertising materials".  cgd's new license covers "advertising,
> marketing, informational or publicity materials of any kind" and
> broadens "mentioning features or use of this software" to "any
> software, products or systems containing the Software", both of which
> are signifcant.

The cases I am concerned about are folks who make websites describing
NetBSD and who make CD's of freeware. I'd hate for us to make it difficult
for these people. It's been pointed out that the CD people really should
be checking things through. True. But right now, it's fine for them to
just download FreeBSD or OpenBSD and throw it on a CD. If we make life
hard for either the CD makers or users w/ helpful web sites, there's a
good chance they'll just skip NetBSD.

That's my big worry. I've tried to make life easier for the mac68k port,
to get more people to use it (whether or not I succeded is another issue
:-) . I want us to gain more users. W/o a release, I am concerned that
this license, how ever well-intentioned, might hinder that.

One thing which would assuage my concerns is the release. If it can
release third parties dealing with NetBSD, definitely under clear,
mutually agreable conditions, to a not-all-encompasing necessity of

Something so that people merely mentioning NetBSD don't need to append an
acknowledgement every time they mention it. Also something so that someone
doing a shareware re-distribution of NetBSD won't have to mention everyone
by name on the CD silkscreen and everytime they stick it as a line item in
a catalog. Having conditions under which third parties still need to
directly contact the author would be ok.

Let's face it. We have competition in the free UN*X market. _I_ probably
won't switch away, but we do need others to keep choosing us. That way we
get more warm bodies to help with ports, drivers, ... I think new users
are essential to our (NetBSD's) continued excelence. If dealing w/ NetBSD
becomes burdensome, people will just go elsewhere. And that sadens me.

I do want to make clear that I do appreciate Chris's efforts for the
NetBSD project. I got Netatalk compiling on an Alpha thanks to his
personal intervention, and he put up with me while I was getting
everything going. If the release covers the concerns above, I'd be very
happy for him to stay involved with NetBSD, and I think NetBSD'd be better
off for it. I don't think that ANYONE (Chris, Jonathan who's started using
it (someone mentioned), core, or anyone else) is conspiring towards some
of the worst-case scenarios which have been described. The problem's that
once we set a precedent, we've set it.

Oh, I also agree with the point that NetBSD probably isn't doing enough
in the way of recognition. If I weren't lagging on promises of LocalTalk,
I'd help sift through files and make sure everything's done right.

Take care,