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Re: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)

On Mon, Aug 05, 2002 at 05:40:00PM +0200, Frank Mittelbach wrote:
> I wasn't questioning that, I was pointing out that while this is legally true,
> many people misunderstand the fact that they use a "legal term" and use it for
> something slightly different (and even some people on this list)

All we can do is try to educate people who misuse the term within a
given context.  I'm not aware of a context other than copyright for the
term "public domain", however.

> yes I disagree.
> what copyright license file you are talking about anyway? he hasn't written
> such a thing, he has written articles and gave talks and he put various
> comments into files (some of which are contradictory).
> the text that Claire cited was not a license but an article.
> i'm sorry if that is going to offend you again, but it seems to me that you
> are doing here is exactly what I was I was commenting on in the other post
> (and that felt so affronted about): use a legal situation (dual licensing) or
> no proper licenses to interpret the situation against the authors wish.

Debian has never insisted that a copyright holder draft a 20-page
document called "LICENSE" when a few sentences will do.

To the best of my knowledge, nothing in modern-day copyright law
requires people to be in possession of a document drafted by an attorney
to establish their rights.

Debian has dealt with ambiguous or non-DFSG-free licenses before.  In
many cases, we have received an email from the copyright holder
clarifying the license and thus making it DFSG-free.  (For example, "of
course, when I say you can modify and distribute, you can also
distribute modified copies.")

Perhaps it strains your credulity, but that's all Debian really
requires.  Such statements from a copyright holder are a license, every
bit as legitimate as the GNU GPL, which sustained much review by at
least one intellectual property law professor.

An email from me to you that says, "you, Frank Mittelbach, may use my
Bandersnatch program for whatever purpose you want, and can make as many
copies as you want for your personal use" is a copyright license.  (It's
not DFSG-free, though.)

What matters is whether the statement is clear and unambiguous.  Is it
clear that Professor Knuth meant what he said, when he said "anybody can
make use of my programs in whatever way they wish, as long as they do
not use the names \TeX, \MF, or Computer Modern. In particular,
any person or group who wants to produce a program superior to mine is
free to do so. However, nobody is allowed to call a system \TeX\ or
\MF\ unless that system conforms 100\%\ to my own programs, as I
have specified in the manuals for the trip and trap tests. And nobody
is allowed to use the names of the Computer Modern fonts in Volume~E
for any fonts that do not produce identical {\tt.tfm} files. This
prohibition applies to all people or machines, whether appointed by
TUG or by any other organization."

1) Is the above statement of reliable authorship?  Can we trust that
Professor Knuth actually said it?  I'm willing to stipulate that he did.

2) Does the above statement by Knuth grant permission to "anybody" to
"make use of" his programs "in whatever way they wish, as long as they
do not use the names \TeX, \MF, or Computer Modern."?  I'm willing to
stipulate that it does.

3) Does the above statement by Knuth grant permission to "anybody" to
use the names "\TeX" or "\MF" as long as "that system
conforms 100\%\" to his "own programs", or "Computer Modern" as long as
the font produces "identical {\tt.tfm} files" [to Knuth's own Computer

Can we take Professor Knuth at his word, or not?  I would think so, but
if it is the consensus of the TeX community that Knuth didn't actually
mean what he says, I'm willing to re-examine my conclusion.

>  > I repeat: the file renaming requirement is not DFSG-free, and you
>  > wanting it to be so will not make it so.  DFSG 4 does not permit it.
> Then the Computer Modern Fonts or TeX are not free (at least according to
> Branden Robinson) that may well be the case.

Only if I am compelled to ignore what I would ordinarily think is a
pretty clear and unambiguous statement from Knuth.

> It is nice to learn all those new words, first troll now sophistry.
> However the situation seems to me just the other way around, you are trying
> sophistry here: file renaming requirments are what TeX and friends brought to
> the world of free software (perhaps not DSFG free, but free anyway). Don Knuth
> hasn't formalized it in a proper (or improper) license but he has made it very
> clear that that is what he would like others to follow when using reusing or
> changing his work(s).

It seems obvious to me that the above quoted statement from Knuth is
referring to the names of works, not files.  After all, I don't know of
a filesystem that can properly render \TeX in its filenames.  Moreover,
from historical context it is clear to me that Knuth is pursuing a kind
of "poor man's trademark" in "TeX", "METAFONT", and "Computer Modern".

Such trademarks, when they are defensible, are so only in the context of
names of works or products, such as that which might be used in
human-readable articles, advertising copy, or trade-dress.

There has been at least one effort in the past to extend actual
trademark protection to a Unix command name[1], but this effort
apparently failed before even getting to court[2].  Given the amount of
time that has passed, I can only presume this was because the legal
counsel of the person in question advised him that he could not prevail.

[1] http://old.lwn.net/2001/0215/security.php3
[2] http://www.openssh.org/ssh-dispute/

G. Branden Robinson                |    You can have my PGP passphrase when
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    you pry it from my cold, dead
branden@debian.org                 |    brain.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    -- Adam Thornton

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