Subject: Re: History of the NetBSD Foundation
To: Thor Lancelot Simon <>
From: Charles M. Hannum <mycroft@MIT.EDU>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 09/02/2006 23:36:30
On Sat, Sep 02, 2006 at 10:53:49PM -0400, Thor Lancelot Simon wrote:
> Your statement quoted above is wrong.  NetBSD existed well before the
> lawsuits between USL and the Regents were settled, was contacted by
> the parties' attorneys at the time of the settlement, and reached an
> agreement with USL to remove the same files Berkeley did from our own
> distribution.
> But this agreement has a confidentiality clause, which meant that for
> many years as various people spread nonsense about NetBSD being "tainted"
> we were not able to respond.  So it is very important to ensure that there
> is no question about such things in the future, and this is, of course,
> why we must document that all of the code in our repository is proper,
> which requires developers to execute agreements stating so.

Could you please refrain from speaking as if you're an authority on this
subject?  You weren't even there.  I did the cleansing, and I wrote the
first version of the aforementioned agreement (which is what most people
signed), and what you say is at least half hogwash.

The infamous "developers agreement" was not written because of the USL
lawsuit.  It was written because CSRG had a similar agreement, and there
were similar stipulations in both the CSRG and FSF copyright assignments,
and it was deemed prudent to have some explicit acknowledgement of what
the arrangement was -- specifically, that the purpose of committing
something was to cause it to be redistributed.  This had at least as
much to do with the sys_ptrace() fiasco -- someone threatening to sue us
for distributing code that he sent to us, and even committed changes to
himself -- as it did with anything USL.

I want to stress that when I wrote the agreement it was intended to be
short and to the point -- basically "I won't commit anything I know I'm
not supposed to give away".  As long as the intent was clear, that was
sufficient.  It was supposed to lightweight enough that it would not be
objectionable to anyone, and they could actually understand it on a
single reading without needing a lawyer to make sense of weasel wording.
We were very conscious of the possibility of losing people over it if it
was too overbearing.