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TAO license - Debian misinterpretation


My TAO packages recently got rejected for inclusing into the main unstable
archive since it was believed that the copyrights prevented it from being

I contacted Doug Schmidt and David Brownwell, the _authors_ of the TAO
licensing terms, about this issue.  They maintain that TAO _is_ free.

IMHO, Debian is misinterpreting TAO's licensing terms.  Below are the
e-mail discussions I had with Richard Brakkman (at Debian), Doug Schmidt
and David Brownwell.

- Richard Brakkman writes:
> The license contains this requirement, which makes it non-free:
> You may copy, modify, distribute, or sublicense the LICENCED
> PRODUCT without charge as part of a product or software program
> developed by you, so long as you preserve the functionality of
> interoperating with the Object Management Group's "Internet
> Inter-ORB Protocol" version one.

- Doug Schmidt writes:
In other words, as long as the TAO ORB maintains the functionality of
interoperating with version 1.0 of IIOP (which it does, of course),
then it's fine to "copy, modify, distribute, or sublicense" the
original SunSoft IIOP implementation.  Note, the key to the transitive
nature of this is "sublicense," which is what we do with TAO via the
TAO copyright, which is available at


- Ossama writes:
>> Do I need to get to permission from Sun to be able to distribute
>> Debian TAO packages?  :(

- Doug writes:
No, not to my knowledge.  Perhaps David Brownell
<brownell@ix.netcom.com> can comment on this, however.

- David Brownwell writes:
No new permission is necessary, unless you want to drop support for
IIOP 1.0; that was the only real constraint that I had Sun put on
that license.  Otherwise, it just protects Sun from lawsuits.

The Debian person was perhaps confused; I can't think why they'd
oppose a legal constraint to continue to support an "open protocol
standard" !!

- Doug writes:
Please point out to Richard that the license is simply there to ensure
that TAO continues to conform to the IIOP *STANDARD*.

- Richard writes:
> I would simply reject it again.  Please bring up the license on
> debian-legal if you want a second opinion.  I have already brought
> it up there but got only one response, from Santiago:
>   Well, this is not very different from TeX copyright: "You must not
>   do any change that makes it to not pass the trip test" 

- Doug writes:
Right, that's exactly the point.

- Richard writes:
>   However, it should be possible to not preserve the functionality
>   etc. etc.  as you distribute it under another name.

- Doug writes:
...why would anyone want to distribute TAO under a different
name?  That sounds like it defeats one of the benefits of open source,
i.e., interoperability.  It would be along the lines of changing the
Linux system call API to not support UNIX, which would be rather
pointless in a world that's increasingly based on standards.


There you have it.  I really believe that Debian is misinterpreting TAO's
license and that Doug and David make convincing arguments, especially
since they were the TAO license authors.

Can we please agree that TAO is free and that it doesn't have to be
installed under non-free?

Ossama Othman <othman@astrosun.tn.cornell.edu>
58 60 1A E8 7A 66 F4 44  74 9F 3C D4 EF BF 35 88  1024/8A04D15D 1998/08/26

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