Re: What is "free software"?

From: Michael Alan Dorman <>
Date: 03 Jun 1997 12:51:46 -0400

"Eric S. Raymond" <> writes:
> I think I can safely assert that neither Zeyd nor myself wants to
> prevent OpenBSD from making necessary local adaptations.

That is good. Unfortunately...

> That we assert a right to control the redistribution of modified
> versions does not mean we want to forbid all such modifications.
> That reservation is not intended to hoard the code. Rather, it is
> intended to prevent abuses like Thomas Dickey's.

The existence of the provisions that allow you to forbid modifications
is---to be dramatic---a loaded but uncocked gun held at the head of
projects like Debian or OpenBSD.

You have just assured us that you would never fire it, because you
like us, but until you throw away the gun, we have no guarantee of
safety, and the fact that you have just recently fired this gun, I
hope you understand, might give people reason to contemplate the
origin of the term "gun-shy".

As the former Debian maintainer for ncurses, I can state that I am
unwilling to take the risk associated with releasing modifications
without an unequivocal guarantee that I would not be legally liable.
And the current license does not give me that guarantee, as your
actions against Tom Dickey have displayed.

So, whatever my opinions about the current dustup, the simple fact is
that your license *does* make it unattractive for organizations that
do not want to incur the possibility of legal action to use ncurses.

And the only thing you could reasonably do to remove this issue would
then make it perfectly legal for Tom Dickey to fork an ncurses

You also have to factor in that special licensing for Debian would not
be adequate, because the Debian wants to be able to be used as a basis
for other, more specialised projects, so we must be able to pass that
modification right on to others.

Moreover, what would happen if Tom Dickey sent patches to the Debian
maintainer, and then suggested to people that they pick up the Debian
package, instead of your distribution...

So, how do you resolve this problem?

Received on Tue Jun 03 1997 - 13:00:59 EDT

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