Re: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)
Alan Shutko writes:
> Boris Veytsman <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
> > I afraid you are in state of denial. You have certain ideas about
> > programmer's freedom. You value these ideas too much, you just cannot
> > accept the fact that Knuth does not share them.
> I doubt it's that. I think it more likely that Thomas is arguing
> against your insistence that TeX be removed wholly from Debian by
> explaining his interpretation of the issues. In his interpretation,
> TeX is DSFG-free, and in yours, it's apparently not, so it seems to
> me that you're trying to get TeX removed from Debian. (Why, I'm not
I fear you miss the cruical point here:
Thomas interpretation is that of a crippled fragment of the TeX system that
he wants to judges on its own (ie let's look at TeX "the program")
while Boris, David, and I try to explain that it is our understanding that
Don Knuth views "TeX" as being more than simply tex.web or an executable
derived from that (see below).
Thus our point is that building a distribution consisting of the executable
TeX plus a replacement of Computer Modern fonts (eg free replacements as
somebody called them) is against the explicit wish of Don Knuth and if Debian
intends to produce such a package then (and only then!) it would be better to
omit the whole thing and just put everything into the non-free part of
> > Knuth publicly accused them that they violated his rights (I do not
> > remember whether he mentioned copyright, trademark or both, and this
> > page is no longer avialable on the Web).
> Here's the link to the old version of Knuth's page about this:
thanks very much for providing this link. In my opinion it clearly supports
what I was trying to explain before.
> It seems that Knuth was clear about his wishes:
> "Dear friends, I decided to put these fonts into the public domain
> rather than to make them proprietary; all I have asked is that nobody
> change them, UNLESS THE NAME IS CHANGED,.... This compatibility must
> be enforced by peer pressure (boycotts, bad publicity, etc.), to
> anybody who breaks the rules."
> In other words, Knuth was not claiming that people were breaking his
> license or that the law had anything to do with it. He was merely
> claiming that he did a lot of work to make things the same
> everywhere, people broke that, and anyone who agreed with him should
> yell at the people who broke things.
> That's DSFG-free.
I don't however understand your conclusions you draw from this text. Don
Somebody made unauthorized changes to the Computer Modern source files in
1994 (i.e., to the METAFONT programs that define the Computer Modern fonts),
in direct violation of my stipulation on the copyright page of Computers &
Typesetting, Volume E.
Dear friends, I decided to put these fonts into the public domain rather
than to make them proprietary; all I have asked is that nobody change them,
UNLESS THE NAME IS CHANGED, so that every user can obtain equivalent results
on all computer systems, now and 50 years from now. I went to enormous
efforts to make TeX and METAFONT systems equivalent on hundreds of different
computers, and to make them archival as no commercial software has ever
been. For many years I have been careful not to make any font changes that
would alter TeX's typesetting behavior. If you want to improve the fonts, go
ahead, but DON'T GIVE YOUR FONTS THE SAME NAME AS MINE. I insist that every
font named cmr10 have the same font metrics, so that TeX will choose exactly
the same line breaks and page breaks on every computer system in the
world. This compatibility must be enforced by peer pressure (boycotts, bad
publicity, etc.), to anybody who breaks the rules. The TeX Users Group is
now deciding how best to condemn this action and to keep the cancer from
infecting too many systems.
Look, I number the Linux folks among my personal heroes; I don't want to
campaign against their fine work. They undoubtedly picked up these bad font
files from somewhere in all innocence. But now the community must quickly
get the word out that the CM fonts distributed with Linux since spring 1995
(at least) are grievously corrupted. The incompatible fonts must be banished
from all computer systems that hope to be compatible with legitimate
installations of TeX.
Look at the first paragraph: he thinks that distributing changed fonts under
their original names is a violation of the copyright page of Volume E.
Look at the last sentence of the last paragraph: he say (as far as I can tell)
that installations of TeX that contain in place of original Computer Modern
fonts some replacements (under the same name) are not "legitimate
installations of TeX".
In my understanding the whole text clearly shows what he considers a TeX
system (more than just the executable) and also what he thinks he is allowing
everybody to do all kind of changes, produce new fonts and or new systems as
long as they change the name(s).
He is clearly misguided in using the words "put these fonts into the public
domain" as he technically hasn't put them into public domain --- my
understanding is that he used "public domain" as "free of charge free to
change except for" (which isn't what the term legally means but what a lot of
people believe it means).
The text also shows that he personally doesn't want to fight any court cases
over the stuff and prefers:
This compatibility must be enforced by peer pressure (boycotts, bad
publicity, etc.), to anybody who breaks the rules.
Which brings me back to my original posting (for which I got so much beating,
as my concern clearly can't be anything Debian people ever wish to do) where I
I also think that you should have no problems distributing TeX etc, as I
think they are free under DSFG (you can freely change the stuff, reuse parts
of it, etc as long as you rename the resulting files). However I think it
would be a poor solution to argue legally that you are able to ignore Don's
explicit wishes simply because he is a Computer Scientist rather than a
lawyer and was unable to write it up in legal lingua without potential
I think Thomas and others are exactly doing that if they claim that one can
(and perhaps should) produce a debian package consisting of the executable tex
(program program only) plus replacements for the Computer Modern fonts so that
if Don Knuth would install Debian (main) onto his computer he would get
something that identifies itself as "TeX" but would result in producing
different output (linebreaks, look etc) when he is running TAOCP (volume 4) on
> > There was no court case; rather Slackware chose to switch to
> > teTeX. I never had heard of NTeX thereafter.
> I don't know if the switch had anything to do with the font
> fiasco... teTeX was just better.
it is quite possible that teTeX was just better (beside containing a TeX that
Don considers as being legitimate TeX), the question right now is: does Debian
wants to cripple teTeX to something that Don feels obliged to write another
web page that people should not use that distribution because it violates his
Branden Robinson writes:
> On Thu, Aug 08, 2002 at 05:22:14PM -0400, Alan Shutko wrote:
> > I doubt it's that. I think it more likely that Thomas is arguing
> > against your insistence that TeX be removed wholly from Debian by
> > explaining his interpretation of the issues. In his interpretation,
> > TeX is DSFG-free, and in yours, it's apparently not, so it seems to
> > me that you're trying to get TeX removed from Debian. (Why, I'm not
> > sure.)
> Well, the reason is pretty obvious to me, as it should be to anyone
> who's read his messages.
> It's obvious to me that Boris wants TeX martyred at the hands of the
> DFSG, presumably so he can editorialize on how Debian has lost its way
> from the "true freedom" that is represented by TeX.
so no Branden, we really don't want TeX martyred or claim that Debian has lost
its way from the "true freedom". Not at all. All we want is that Debian
accepts Don Knuth understanding of his freedom as "his freedom" and either
- come to the understanding that it is also acceptable under the DSFG
- come to the conclusion that it is not compatible with DSFG, in which case
honouring Don's understanding of freedom would be to put teTeX out of main
but not to explicitly undercut his wish by splitting what he considers "TeX"
In my opinion the link provided by Alan, clearly shows what Don doesn't wish
to happen, but if you don't think so, then I suggest that you explicitly ask
him if he thinks it would be okay to package
- an executable that identifies itself as TeX 3.14...
- replacements for CM fonts under the original names
- a modified plain.tex (and the resulting TeX format)
and call the whole thing a TeX installation.