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Re: PennMUSH license concerns.



On Sat, Sep 20, 2003 at 01:39:30PM -0400, Ervin Hearn III wrote:
> Concern has been expressed on the debian-devel list about license status of 
> PennMUSH and its legitimacy. PennMUSH was relicensed under the Artistic 
> License as of version 1.7.6p0 in November 2002. Aspects of PennMUSH's code 
> have been drawn from, of course, it's TinyMUD roots as well as its 
> 'sibling' codebase, TinyMUSH (2.0, 2.2, 3.0).
> 
> I spoke with the PennMUSH source maintainer and one of the 
> developers/upstream authors, Alan Schwartz (aka Javelin), about any 
> information regarding how the relicensing was handled and the concerns 
> expressed about it. This is what he said in response:
> 
> 
> TinyMUSH 2.0, whose authors relicensed all their code in 1995 to a BSD 
> license, so that's clean. We also contacted the TM 2.0 authors (Joseph 
> Traub and Glenn Crocker) and got their agreement anyway. The next bit is 
> TinyMUSH 2.2, which their devteam (Jean Marie Diaz, Lydia Leong, Devin 
> Hooker) all agreed to relicense under Artistic (from 2.2.5, I believe), and 
> I have their email saying so. Then there's the PennMUSH copyright holder 
> (me, Talek, Raevnos), and we all agreed. So Penn's clean. TM 3.0's dev team 
> also switched to Artistic (as did tinymux, I believe) at the same time. I 
> don't know anything about 2.2.4unoff, which we've never incorporated code 
> from to my knowledge.

One of the 2.2 devteam is an SO; to the best of her knowlege, all of the
2.2 changes up to 2.2.4 (at least, those in the mainline distribution) were
licensed under a BSD license, at least origionally.

However, I hereby assert that 2.2.5 and at least the initial 3.x releases
both contained code taken from 2.2.4 Unofficial Release 1 (released by
myself and Jay Grizzard) significant enough to warrant copyright status,
and that what I personally know of the license handling by Lydia Leong (who
took over primary maintenence of 2.2 during its later releases) and David
Passmore (who joined Lydia as the initial devteam of 3.0) is... sloppy.

I cannot speak to PennMUSH directly, except under your claim that it uses
code from 2.2 and 3.0, making it potentially contaminated *if* it used any
code which wasn't handled properly - which is, unfortunately, difficult to
determine.

I *can* say that I released the code in 2.2.4 U1 under the same license
that TinyMUSH had at that time - which was, unfortunately, a mix that
included non-commercial requirements (and, further, that the license in
question permitted it's reuse in 2.2.5 and 3.x; I know Lydia spoke with me,
and I believe she spoke with Mr. Grizzard, about using some of it). Given
that I currently release all of my code under the Artistic or 3-clause BSD
licenses, I'm happy enough to formally relicense, and I doubt Mr. Grizzard
would object (and I can ask him).

The concern is, thus, not that I mind my code being used under such
licenses, but that I know, firsthand, that the license handling was treated
in a very... casual... fashion. Which was, frankly, not uncommon during the
time and culture TinyMUSH and it's closest siblings were coded.

> He has also stated that he did track down all authors which followed 
> TinyMUD, which was cleanly licensed under the BSD license, to get their 
> approval, and has emails from them granting permission.
> 
> I would appreciate any comments regarding whether concerns about PennMUSH's 
> legitimacy under the Artistic License are valid, and legal obstacles for 
> its inclusion as a Debian package.

See above; the concern is not over any specific piece of code (in that the
only ones I can point to, I'm fairly sure the license can be clarified
for), but in whether debian-legal is willing to accept the statements of
(in particular) Lydia Leong and David Passmore on the matter, since they
can be demonstrated as false in at least one circumstance, today.

In fairness, in terms of *probability*, any random bit of code taken from
2.2.5 is *likely* to be under an acceptable license, stipulating that the
2.0 relicense is acceptable (which I'm not contradicting); the 3.x code,
even moreso (since much of the reason 2.2.5 was released had to do with
updates Unoff 1 made after a long period of issues with the maintenence of
the official 2.2 series, but the 3.x series rewrote a significant amount of
code). Unless PennMUSH happened to get a poison pill, it wouldn't actually
have any problems (unlike TinyMUSH 3.x, which, last I looked, still did).

To be honest, I have my doubts as to whether it would even be possible to
track down every possible incidence, and I suspect that the only practical
solution, given the code history, would be to take a "solve problems as
they appear" approach - if someone asserts an issue, either get them to
relicense the code, or have upstream replace the code.

If debian-legal is comfortable with that approach, I'm certainly happy to
bribe, cajole, and nerf-bat Mr. Grizzard until he agrees to a relicense
under suitable terms, and thus resolve the only outstanding issue I have
concrete evidence of (this d-l decision would presumably also apply to the
ITP for TinyMUSH 3, as well).
-- 
Joel Baker <fenton@debian.org>                                        ,''`.
Debian GNU NetBSD/i386 porter                                        : :' :
                                                                     `. `'
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