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Re: IMAPD license problem

On Tue, Aug 15, 2000 at 10:07:56PM -0600, Richard Stallman wrote:
>     Here's a copy of the license:
>     # Copyright 1998 by the University of Washington
>     #
>     #  Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and its
>     # documentation for any purpose and without fee is hereby granted, provided
> Most people interpret this license wording as giving permission to
> distribute modified versions.  That is what I think they mean.
> But the University of Washington says these words do not give us
> permission to do that.  They are so adamant about this that they
> actually threatened to *sue* the FSF, if we released a modified
> version of PINE (we started from a PINE version which was released
> under the exact same license wording).

Uh, as I'm sure you well know, the above language is very, very similar to
the language in the MIT/X Consortium license.  The lawyers at MIT who
drafted it concurred with your understanding (at least, this is what Jim
Gettys, one of the fathers of the X Window System from way back, thinks as
far as I can tell from personal conversation with him at LWCE this past

> If we are prepared to have a lawsuit with the U of W, our lawyer
> thinks we would probably win, probably get a court to agree that this
> license gives permission to distribute modified versions.  But unless
> we actually have the suit, and get that favorable ruling, we cannot
> treat that as undisputed fact.

Seeing as the word "and" is in no sense reasonably interpretiable as an
"exlcusive or", whether in the programming sense or in the lay sense, my
mind boggles at why the University of Washington takes this stance.

However, since the language of this license appears to have been borrowed
from the original MIT/X Consortium license, perhaps the people who wrote it
could be tracked down to offer their opinion.  OTOH, it's been at least ten
years by now, and said lawyers from MIT probably work for Proskauer Rose
now or something.  :-/

> If we tell people we think this U of W software is free, without
> warning them that U of W says it isn't, we could be leading the users
> into a legal dispute.  That is not a good way to treat the users.

I agree.  Courier IMAPD claims to be GPL'ed, maybe Debian can just dump the
UWash IMAPD until they pull their heads out?

> I believe she is the boss of the maintainer of IMAPD.  So I expect she
> has read the license and is making an authoritative statement.  If you
> would like to double-check some of these points, the best way is to
> ask her.

Did she claim to be an attorney, and/or conversant with contract law in the
state of Washington?  Non-lawyers will say all sorts of outrageous things
without the slightest statutory support.

G. Branden Robinson             |
Debian GNU/Linux                |            If ignorance is bliss,
branden@debian.org              |            is omniscience hell?
http://www.debian.org/~branden/ |

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