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

Frank Mittelbach <frank.mittelbach@latex-project.org> writes:

> 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).

I look at the actual granularity of the *actual* licenses.  I view
GNU, for example, as more than just any one GNU program, but
nonetheless, the GPL attaches at the level of a particular program,
and not the entire system.  

There is this desperate idea going on that how you (plural) "view"
things has some kind of mystical significance, beyond what the
*actual* licenses say.

Now how you "view" things is an excellent guide to what any sane
hacker will do in modifying the system--but free software is not just
about "sane hacking" but also must allow weird strange corner cases,
think about the very long haul, and the like.

>  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 Debian.

Nobody actually wants to do this, because it would be insane--to do it
now, in present circumstances.  That's not the issue, however.  And
the actual TeX licenses--the actual ones--do not prohibit this, which
is a good thing.

>   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. 

This is a massively inconsistent sentence.  But there is one and only
one way to make it consistent.  The files are in the public
domain--fully, completely--and the rest of the sentence is Knuth's
wishes, his desires, his (excellent) advice, but not a legal

> 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.

How can they be "public domain" and subject to a "copyright page"?
Answer: they can't.  Conclusion: Knuth doesn't understand licensing at

> 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 it.

"and perhaps should"?  Dammit, don't put words in my mouth.

> 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
> and/or
>  - a modified plain.tex (and the resulting TeX format)
> and call the whole thing a TeX installation.

Knuth doesn't understand the law at all, so asking him for a legal
interpretation would be impossible.  Indeed, he doesn't even
understand the difference between excellent advice, his personal
desires and wishes, and legal requirements.


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