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Re: ircII is now free.

On Tue, Jun 09, 1998 at 09:04:59AM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> As bad form as it may be to follow up to my own post...

And once again... :)

I've talked to Igor, somewhat appropriately, on IRC [irc.debian.org,
#debian], and have modified my draft somewhat in response to that. Since
there haven't been any firm "do this one", or "no, anything but that!"
responses on these lists, I'll begin forwarding the following to various
places fairly shortly.

The Debian GNU/Linux Distribution 
Free Software: Playing by the Book
June 8, 1998

Michael Sandrof, Troy Rollo and Matthew Green, the authors of the
ircII IRC client, have rereleased it under a modified BSD license. In
so doing, they ensured ircII and the clients based on it --- including
BitchX, epic and tkIRC --- may remain free in every sense of the word.

On Saturday, April 25th 1998, Igor Grobman, a Debian developer,
reopened a bug report against Debian's prepackaged version of ircII,
which included the following passage as part of its copyright:

	``IRC II is copyright (c) 1990 by Michael Sandrof.  You have
	the right to copy, compile, and maintain this software.  You
	also have the right to make modifcations to this code for
	local use only.''

This fails the third point of the Debian Free Software Guidelines, in
that it does not explicitly permit the redistribution of modified
versions of Michael Sandrof's client. In the absence of such
permission, modified versions of the client (including the current
ircII, and derivatives such as BitchX, epic and tkIRC) may not be

David Welton, the maintainer of the Debian prepackaged versions of
epic and epic4, took the time to contact the current developer of
ircII, Matthew Green, to determine the intended meaning of the
problematic license statement. 

Mr Green replied that while he was unable to change Mr Sandrof's
copyright, the intended reading of it was to be permissive rather than
restrictive: to indicate that you could make local changes and *not*
redistribute them if you desired.

Troy Rollo, the maintainer following Mr Sandrof and preceeding Mr
Green, was then contacted to further clarify the licensing issues. Mr
Rollo pointed out that when he had taken over development of ircII
there had been a legitimate, though informal, transfer of rights, and
that the original copyright was intended to have been superseded. He
also pointed out that something more formal is usually expected now,
and passed on the physical contact details of Mr Sandrof.

Numerous telephone conversations and email exchanges ensued to obtain
a license that was both formal enough to avoid questions like this in
the future and that would also ensure ircII was as free as the authors
had always intended.

Finally, on the 8th of June, David Welton posted a message to the
Debian Developers mailing list, entitled ``ircII is now free'',
presenting the new, free, BSD-like license of ircII.

Debian takes free software very seriously, and has a social contract
to clarify this commitment. The social contract includes the Debian
Free Software Guidelines, which Debian uses to define just what it
means by Free Software. These Guidelines have since been used as the
basis of the Open Source Definition.

Other examples of Debian's commitment to free software include
convincing the authors of Enlightenment to allow all users use of
their software --- even Microsoft employees; convincing the author of
noweb to allow derived works to be sold; and convincing the author of
ncftp to honour the GPL license of libreadline and place ncftp under
the GPL.

Debian produces Debian GNU/Linux, a free distribution of the GNU/Linux
operating system, maintained and updated over the Internet by many
users who volunteer their time and support. Debian is currently in the
final stages of testing the 2.0 release of Debian GNU/Linux.

For more information on issues in licensing Free Software, please see
the Free Software Foundation's Web Pages.

Please contact <press@debian.org> for more details.

Other resources:

ircII:			ftp://ircii.warped.com/pub/ircII/
ircII License:          ftp://ircii.warped.com/pub/ircII/ircii-current/

Debian:                 http://www.debian.org/

Debian Social Contract (including the Debian Free Software 
Guidelines):            http://www.debian.org/social_contract.html

Open Source Definition: http://www.opensource.org/osd.html

The Free Software Foundation (GNU):


Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. PGP encrypted mail preferred.

      ``It's not a vision, or a fear. It's just a thought.''

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