Re: A reminder about the facts

From: Juergen Pfeifer <>
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997 00:20:35 +0200

Richard Stallman wrote:

> I just checked the ncurses distribution terms, and was very surprised:
> they *do not* give permission for distribution of modified versions.
> I had assumed ncurses was free software because "everyone knew" it".
> I was under the impression that ncurses was derived from some BSD
> software and was distributed under the same terms as BSD. I should
> have checked the distribution terms when the FSF first considered
> distributing ncurses. I am sorry I failed to do that.
> Unfortunately, this means that ncurses is not free software.
> The freedom to distribute modified versions, including changes that
> the author does not like, is a crucial aspect of free software.
> As a result, it is indeed forbidden for Dickey, or any of us, to
> distribute modified versions. So I deleted ncurses 4.1 from prep.
Arghhh!!! At least that's not what's my intention with ncurses.

> I also deleted the other versions of ncurses from prep, because the
> FSF exists to develop and distribute free software only. Distributing
> a non-free program, even if legally permitted, does not advance our
> mission.

For my personal taste that's a bit too religious...

> The free software community is now in a hole. We need a good free
> curses package for free operating systems, and the one we thought we
> had, we do not have. I can see three possible ways we can come up
> with one:
> * ESR and Zeyd together can agree to permit distribution of modified
> versions and thus make ncurses free software.
> * Someone can write a new program which is free software. Perhaps
> some of Dickey's code, and other recent contributors' code, can be
> used as part of this.
> * There may be another good alternative, or at least one that is
> better than nothing. Does anyone know?
> The first way is best. Perhaps it is possible. ESR spoke of
> transferring ncurses to the FSF. If both ESR and Zeyd are willing to
> say yes to this, and understand that we would have to change the
> distribution terms and thus make ncurses free software, then the FSF
> will say yes to it.

But you should be aware that Eric and Zeyd are not the only persons
holding copyrights on what's in ncurses. I personally would follow your
suggestion and handover all my copyrights to FSF or any other third
that want's to take over ncurses to resolve the current problems. I
also like to maintain the code I've written and continue to repair
broken in the core library. I would also like to still see my name in
the product.

The most critical point might be that people are confused about the
rights they have to use GPLed software in commercial products. This
topic seems to be a never ending thread in various newsgroups.

Received on Mon Jun 02 1997 - 19:05:38 EDT

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