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Re: Ironies abound

Scripsit Josh Triplett <josh@freedesktop.org>

> To the best of my knowledge, TeX is explicitly in the public domain,

But the only source we have for that seems to be the article by Knuth
that you cite (I have also searched the web without getting anywhere

> Some searching around led to an article "The Future of TeX and
> Metafont", written by Knuth, a copy of which is available at
> <http://www.tug.org/tex-archive/digests/tex-mag/v5.n1>.  From this article:
>> I have put these systems into the public domain so that people
>> everywhere can use the ideas freely if they wish.
> [...]
>> anybody can make use of my programs in whatever way they wish, as
>> long as they do not use the names TeX, Metafont, or Computer Modern.

> [followed by conditions for using the names based on a test suite]

We're usually cautious, with good reason, when an author claims to
have put something into the public domain, and proceed immediately by
giving restrictions on how one can change it. Ordinarily we conclude
that the author's declaration must have used a different meaning of
"public domain" that the common one (perhaps "gratis").

In fact, when Knuth writes in the continuation:

| In particular, any person or group who wants to produce a program
| superior to mine is free to do so. However, nobody is allowed to
| call a system TeX or Metafont unless that system conforms 100% to my
| own programs, as I have specified in the manuals for the trip and
| trap tests.

it seems that he merely purports to "allow" any person or group to
produce a better program by writing it from scratch; there is no
indication in the text that he is authorizing anybody to derive it
from his source from TeX.

> Further searching reveals several sources that indicate the American
> Mathematical Society obtained a trademark on the name TeX for the
> purposes of enforcing those conditions.  Given the limitations on the
> scope of such a trademark, I don't believe this can render the program
> non-free.

I agree that trademarks probably cannot by themselves make software
non-free, but I'm questioning whether the _copyright_ status of the
work is OK.

Henning Makholm                                  "The bread says TOAAAAAST."

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