Re: TeX Licenses & teTeX (Was: Re: forwarded message from Jeff Licquia)
First, three quotations:
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Thomas Bushnell, BSG)
> Date: 09 Aug 2002 19:01:06 -0700
> 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
> How can they be "public domain" and subject to a "copyright page"?
> Answer: they can't. Conclusion: Knuth doesn't understand licensing at
> 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.
Thomas, I'd be grateful if you do not consider my reply as an
attack. It is a friendly observation. You see, I've been in your
You know, I have been in company of great talents. Several times I had
a honor to talk to the people I considered geniuses. You would be
surprised, but they often sounded strange, incoherent, ignorant or
plainly foolish. I had a great temptation to consider myself smarter
than they -- this was my secret pleasure at that time. Only much later
did I understand that it was *I* who was stupid. You see, they saw
what I saw -- and much more. Their thoughts were too profound for me
to understand. What I saw as a stupid answer to my question was
actually a wise answer to another question -- the one I should ask,
but was too stupid at that time to even think about.
Now you are tempted to consider Knuth to be ignorant -- worse, to be
an evidently stupid person who does not realize he is ignorant and
pontificates about things he has no business to talk about. Well,
since it is established that Knuth is a great talent or maybe even a
genius, this conclusion is highly improbable. If I were you, I'd
consider a much more probable interpretation. Namely, that Knuth
perfectly KNOWS what he is talking about -- but his thoughts are too
profound to be understood without some work.
Now, I do not claim to be a person of Knuth's caliber or even close,
but I have an advantage of spending some time and effort trying to
understand Knuth's words and conditions. What you see as incoherent
babbling makes a perfect sense for me.
As I understand it, Knuth put in the public domain the *code* of TeX,
Metafont, CM fonts etc. Fragments of his code, his creative ideas and
insights are freely used in many derived works. However -- and here is
the most profound idea -- Knuth realizes, that TeX is not a sum of
pieces of code, it is an entity, a whole. This entity is what Knuth
did not want to put in PD. He wanted to retain the full rights on this
The proof that Knuth perfectly understood what he was doing is in the
fact that he trademarked the name TeX -- something that LaTeX3 should
do with respect to LaTeX. For you this trademarking and putting TeX in
public domain may seem contradictory -- for me it makes sense.
Like White Knight from "Through the Looking Glass", Knuth knows the
difference between the song, its name, how the song is called and how
the name is called. He distinguishes TeX and TeX code. White Knight
might seem to be stupid -- but do not be fooled. He is just profound.
If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost.