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

On Mon, Aug 05, 2002 at 07:37:22PM +0200, Frank Mittelbach wrote:
> Branden Robinson writes:
>  > On Mon, Aug 05, 2002 at 11:04:56AM -0400, Boris Veytsman wrote:
>  > > 1. As a true CS professor, Knuth distinguishes between the program
>  > >    (i.e. the code of the program) and the name of the program (file
>  > >    name of the code for systems with file naming conventions).
>  > 
>  > You have an unhealthy obsession with filenames.  A filename is no more
>  > representative of the name of a work than the page number of a book is
>  > representative of the book's title.
> Unhealthy? well, seems similar to yours concerning "work" which has to be big
> to be nearly a non-entity

You can feel free to attempt to persuade the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office that they are dealing in (near) non-entities.  I personally would
not undertake this Quixotic effort.

> and only acceptable if it can't be checked by a computer as being the
> original.

It would be trivially easy to circumvent computer checks.  What about
case-sensitivity?  Can I trust a computer to catch ALL of the following
uses of "TeX"?


T e X

 _____   __  __
|_   _|__\ \/ /
  | |/ _ \\  /
  | |  __//  \

I for one would never underestimate the cleverness of Don Knuth fans
when it comes to generating algorithms, but I submit that human
comprehension is a far superior test for the usage of the name of a

> really, what is behind all this aren't file names but works (plural),


> and each of such works is supposed not to claim itself as the original
> (to other related works) after it was modified, eg a font is a work
> and plain.tex is a work as well as tex.web.

Rather, what are contained in plain.tex and tex.web are works.  If I
print these files out, the name of the file may not be present on the
hardcopy.  That doesn't change the applicability of copyright one little

> on top of there there is indeed also the collection of such works that have
> been given names, such as "TeX" system.

Indeed!  It is the names of the works that we use to identify works, not
filenames, inode numbers, or MD5 sums.

> so it isn't the filename really, it is the identifaction to related software
> or if you like to the master piece in the middle (and the filename restriction
> is a simple way to implement that)

A filename restriction may be a simple way to implement a renaming
requirement, but it isn't a DFSG-free way.

>  > If your assertion that the "name" means "file name of the code for
>  > systems with file naming conventions", then Knuth would have no problem
>  > with people selling a derivative of TeX that failed his conformance
>  > tests, referring to this derivative as "TeX" in its documentation and on
>  > the external labelling of the product, but called the executable
>  > something else, like "/usr/bin/bandersnatch".
> Don would because it is both that bothers him and both what he wants people
> not to do.

Exactly.  So the filename restriction doesn't actually achieve much in
and of itself.  What's important is the name of the work, as it is
perceived by a human being.  A human being can use the TeX system
without ever perceiving any filenames aside from those of the document
he or she is processing!

>  > The name of a copyrighted work is the name of a copyrighted work. This
>  > is a legal construct with legal meaning, and is interpreted by humans
>  > for human purposes.  
> fine with the first sentence :-) and with the first half of the second. but
> who says that a name of a work is only for humans?

Well, I realize I'm being a bit parochial in terms of jurisdiction here,

Title 17 of the United States Code is the corpus of copyright law in the
United States.  Title 17 was drafted under the authority of Article I,
Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

"The Congress shall have Power...To promote the Progress of Science and
useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the
exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Whereas the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution says:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the
common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of
Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America."

Note that it says "We the People", not "We the Computers".  When IBM
develops artificial intelligences called "Deep Attorney" or "Deep
Legislator", let me know.

>  > If a copyright holder makes it clear to Debian that we will be taken to
>  > court if we exercise the freedoms enumerated in the Debian Free Software
>  > Guidelines, then the work is not DFSG-free in practice regardless of
>  > what the license says.
> don't think that this is the topic here, but i agree with you that this
> position would make something DFSG-nonfree 

It is very much the topic.  Does Knuth regard it as an infringement of
his rights in TeX, METAFONT, or the Computer Modern fonts if Debian
changes some of the files comprising those works without changing the
filenames...even if we rename our derived works to something other than
"TeX", "METAFONT", or "Computer Modern"?

If he would, these works are not DFSG-free.  We won't force Knuth to
take us to court to persuade us of his feelings.

>  > File renaming requirements are not DFSG-free.  Neither DFSG 3 nor DFSG 4
>  > permit them.  Only a requirement to rename the *work* is permitted.
> ...with work not being defined,

Title 17, Section 101, doesn't define it either.  Perhaps we can
construe an approximate meaning through an inductive process:


An ''anonymous work'' is a work on the copies or phonorecords of which no
      natural person is identified as author.

A ''collective work'' is a work, such as a periodical issue,
      anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions,
      constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are
      assembled into a collective whole.

A work is ''created'' when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord
      for the first time; where a work is prepared over a period of
      time, the portion of it that has been fixed at any particular
      time constitutes the work as of that time, and where the work has
      been prepared in different versions, each version constitutes a
      separate work.

A ''derivative work'' is a work based upon one or more
      preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement,
      dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound
      recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any
      other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or
      adapted.  A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations,
      elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent
      an original work of authorship, is a ''derivative work''.

A ''computer program'' is a set of statements or instructions
      to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring
      about a certain result.

> the word "file" being used etc etc. ...

The first two sentences of DFSG 4 are disjunct from the third.  That is,
you can apply sentences 1+2 without reference to 3, and vice versa.
This is obviously the case since it would be absurd to assume that
a license's requirement to rename or re-version a derivative work *must*
accompany a requirement that modifications only be distributed in "patch
file" form.

/me awaits the inevitable evidence that no, it isn't obvious

> But more to the point right now the works by Don have file renaming
> requirements.

Only if one doesn't regard
as meaningful.

> In practice I think what is really intended is requiring to have the work
> identify itself with a different name through the interfaces it is interacting
> with related software.

I disagree, I think what is intended is a requirement to have the work
identify itself with a different name through the interfaces with which
it is interacting with a *human*.

It is *human* confusion that Knuth has sought to avoid, not confusion on
the part of computers.  Strictly speaking, computers don't get confused.
They do what they're told, or throw an exception.

> However Don has written it up as file renaming requirements since that is what
> you think of first in that context.

In my opinion the file renaming requirement is unnecessary.  I note that
Boris just pointed out that "TeX", "METAFONT", and "Computer Modern" are
all actual trademarks.

This has the potential to clear matters up considerably.  It is quite
possible that the works commonly referred to as "TeX", "METAFONT", and
"Computer Modern" are in fact in the public domain as Knuth once stated.
Therefore, copyright does not attach to these works.

That's quite orthogonal to the issue of trademarks, and trademarks can
still be used to control the application of the names "TeX", "METAFONT",
and "Computer Modern" to anything within the registered type of goods
and services, not just computer code.

> Thus, you either have
>  - try and have him change that
>  - arrange yourself with it / or not

It sounds to me like the best way forward is:

1) To find out from Professor Knuth who holds the copyright on the works
TeX, METAFONT, and the Computer Modern fonts, or if he really did place
them in the honest-to-God public domain, and get a written statement to
this effect.  The latter part is important because the term of copyright
is very, very long these days, and it would be most unfortunate if the
eventual heirs to Knuth's estate decided that copyright licensing fees
for TeX, METAFONT, and the Computer Modern fonts would be a useful
revenue stream.

2) Update the copyright notices in TeX, METAFONT, and the Computer
Modern fonts to reflect Knuth's actual present intentions regarding
their copyright licensing if any.  If he did place these works in the
public domain, the copyright notices and license terms should be removed
from the files to put a stop to the confusion and ambiguity.  Of course,
a statement identifying Knuth as the author, and his placement of the
works in the public domain, should be substituting.

3) The trademark license terms for TeX and the Computer Modern fonts
should be obtained from the American Mathematical Society, and the
trademark license terms for METAFONT from Addison Wesley Publishing Co.,
and these terms should be placed in all files to which they apply.

>  > Does anyone know if Prof. Knuth has appointed an attorney-in-fact to
>  > handle any legal issues with TeX, METAFONT, and Computer Modern that
>  > might crop up?
> not that i know of

It sounds like everything that Knuth wants to do from a legal
perspective can be -- and probably already is -- accomplished via
trademark licenses on the terms "TeX", "METAFONT", and "Computer

I strongly urge someone who has a good working relationship with Knuth
and/or AMS and Addison-Wesley to undertake steps 1) through 3) above.
That would hopefully disambiguate the issue for all time.  ;-)

G. Branden Robinson                |    I am sorry, but what you have
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    mistaken for malicious intent is
branden@debian.org                 |    nothing more than sheer
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |    incompetence!     -- J. L. Rizzo II

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