[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Python 1.5.2 licensing (long)

I argue that Debian needs to clarify
immediately with copyright holder CNRI the
licensing of Python 1.5.2--whether CNRI
considers the 1.5.2 license to be valid and
whether CNRI intends for 1.5.2 to be
distributed with that license.

1) It's the safe and prudent thing to do.

The copyright files in Python 1.5.2 list
Guido van Rossum as the author, but he had
signed over copyright to CNRI when he started
working for them.(1)  The copyright files
only list the dates 1991-1995, a decision
<URL: http://www.python.org/doc/Copyright.html>
says was "deliberate", and do not list
CNRI as the copyright holder.  Guido's
announcement of 1.6b1 includes the phrases
"never placed a CNRI-specific license on the
software" and "clarify the licensing".(2)

Tim Peters has said "CNRI claims that the
existing (CWI) Python license isn't a valid
license, and while that claim makes little
sense to me I'm not a lawyer"(3) and 
speculated "If CNRI claims they released
software without a valid license, the legality
of using 1.5.2 and 1.6a2 is muddy...  Since it
seems very unlikely they'll agree to say that
the CWI license is valid, perhaps they could
be persuaded to promise not to press any
claims based on the presumed invalidity of the
CWI license excepting claims against BeOpen

Guido van Rossum's announcements and Tim
Peters postings could hardly have been
made in a more public manner, in Python's
mailing lists and in Usenet's comp.lang.python.
I posted pointers and quotes to debian-legal
about a week ago.  Debian has said in the
past that releases are not made on a set
schedule, they are made when the distribution
is "ready".  

CNRI's opinion on these questions is simply
unknown.  Tim Peters has consistently
been advising in public writings that the
copyright holder CNRI needs to be asked.  

2) It's the right thing to do.

A policy of always asking the copyright
holder when there is any doubt about the
intent of licensing builds trust between
Debian and software creators and trust
between Debian and users.  Debian's stance
on including KDE was made despite the
extreme unlikelihood of any copyright holder
suing Debian and despite other distributions'
judgment.  Now we have a situation where
the copyright holder CNRI has finished
detailed negotiations "to clarify the
licensing" with BeOpen over a new license
for Python 1.6b1.

The license included with Python 1.5.2
states that:  "Permission to use, copy,
modify, and distribute this software and its 
documentation for any purpose and without
fee is hereby granted" subject to certain
easily met conditions such as retention of
original copyright notices.  Yet Tim Peters
has written:  "The gripe here was that,
since they didn't believe the CWI license
was valid, they-- as the copyright
holder --didn't believe we had the right to
release a derivative work without a license
they *liked*.  As things turned out, it
appears the only license they like is the
one they wrote."(5)  Now the context of what
Tim was talking about was that BeOpen,
Guido van Rossum's new employer, wanted to
cleanly get permission from CNRI, Guido van
Rossum's former employer, to avoid any
chance of a lawsuit.  The copyright holder
CNRI needs to be asked for the users' sake,
so that users can know that the license of
software distributed by Debian truthfully
reflects the will of the copyright holder.

(1) From: "Tim Peters" <tim_one@email.msn.com>
 To: <python-list@python.org>
 Subject: RE: Questions for Tim Peters
 Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 02:12:02 -0400
 Message-ID: <LNBBLJKPBEHFEDALKOLCKELKGNAA.tim_one@email.msn.com>
 Newsgroups: comp.lang.python

(2) From: Guido van Rossum <guido@beopen.com>
 Subject: Python 1.6b1 is released!
 Date: 05 Aug 2000 00:00:00 GMT
 Message-ID: <cpog381l62.fsf@cj20424-a.reston1.va.home.com>
 Newsgroups: comp.lang.python

(3) From: "Tim Peters" <tim_one@email.msn.com>
 To: "Greg Ewing" <see@my.signature>
 Cc: <python-list@python.org>
 Subject: RE: The State of Python
 Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 01:50:53 -0400
 Message-ID: <LNBBLJKPBEHFEDALKOLCOEBCGNAA.tim_one@email.msn.com>

(4) From: "Tim Peters" <tim_one@email.msn.com>
 To: <python-list@python.org>, "Guido van Rossum" <guido@python.org>
 Subject: RE: Questions for Guido van Rossum (Was: ...Tim Peters)
 Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000 22:25:23 -0400
 Message-ID: <LNBBLJKPBEHFEDALKOLCKEDCGOAA.tim_one@email.msn.com>

(5) From: "Tim Peters" <tim_one@email.msn.com>
 To: <python-list@python.org>
 Subject: RE: Questions for Guido van Rossum 
 Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 02:14:24 -0400
 Message-ID: <LNBBLJKPBEHFEDALKOLCEEEBGOAA.tim_one@email.msn.com>

Sincerely yours,
Henry Jones

--== Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/ ==--
Before you buy.

Reply to: