[Ed. note: Characterisations of cited software were true as of the posting date. At the end of 2007, however, Prof. Bernstein asserted that most of his software, including qmail and djbdns, was henceforth, by his own fiat, "public domain" software.]



Date: Sun, 19 Dec 2004 13:52:31 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
To: spf-devel@v2.listbox.com
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040722i
Subject: [spf-devel] Re: DJB-Software, Free or Not?

Quoting James Couzens:

> It is. There are restrictions as to how it may be packaged. All of the
> FUD surrounding DJB software appears to have originally been started by
> Bernard Rosenkraenzer of Red Hat and further perpetuated by Rick Moen
> (rick@linuxmafia.com).

It is regrettable that I cannot write about software and licensing without being the subject of ongoing personal attack, but I've come to expect this of a certain software fan club. And, hey, at least it's better than being sent legal threats — but I'll get to that later.

James quotes Prof. Bernstein:

> - Rick Moen says you can revoke these permissions by changing your
> Web page!
> - Wait, now Rick Moen says he never said that!

And thus James, like Prof. Bernstein, disposes of my license critique without addressing it at all. I'll be charitable and assume that James, unlike Prof. Bernstein, simply misread (or failed to read) what I wrote. By contrast, I strongly suspect that Prof. Bernstein was well aware of pulling a fast one in ignoring the substance of my essay by distracting people's attention, since I've observed him doing it frequently with other licence critics, since then. That is an unfortunate habit, as it interferes with clarity about relevant facts.

My essay is at:
http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/faq/?page=warez#djb

My follow-on essay, from which Prof. Bernstein selectively quotes in an attempt to assert my dishonesty, merely points out that I had not claimed Bernstein could withdraw his permissions by removing his Web page, and furthermore it links to where I had prominently corrected in public people who had so claimed.

It also points out that this irrelevant digression sadly ignores the point of the antecedent, earlier essay — almost as if Prof. Bernstein were trying to evade the point by posting a non-sequitur personal attack as a diversion. (Gasp! Could it be?)

> This ENTIRE issue honestly appears to be based in ego-land.

Thus illustrating Moen's First Law of Debate (http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/lexicon.html#moenslaw-debate1): "No matter what the issue, someone will try to turn it into a personality dispute."

No, actually, the entire issue is based in licensing and code.

> What pissed Bernard, Moen, and others appears to be purely rooted
> within this issue of 'renaming files and directories'.

No, actually:

1. Moen isn't pissed off — although getting a legal threat from Prof. Bernstein for "libelling" his software, and, when I politely referred him to my attorney, watching him drop that tactic and switch to character assassination, didn't endear me to the gentleman. All I attempted to do in my essay was create a URL to refer people to, because I'd become tired of repeatedly explaining why I personally don't like or use Prof. Bernstein's software.

2. Moen is perfectly happy with other people liking that software. That's entirely their concern.



So, let's dispose of all of the above idiotic and time-wasting posturing and irrelevant rhetorical side-shows — which insult everyone's intelligence, James — and get back to the point:

>> What we need to know is DJBDNS free or not?

> It is.

The notion of "free" (aka open source) in the software context basically boils down to access to source code, the legal right to fork it, and the right to create and redistribute derivative works and use them for any purpose. (There are details that have cropped up, as clever people have tried to find ways to apparently grant those rights while denying their substance, resulting in codifications like the Open Source Definition, http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php. And copyleft restrictions within reason are not considered to prevent the software from being "free".)

One major consequence of software not being "free" in that sense is that, absent the right to fork, the project dies completely when the developer retires or loses interest, as nobody else has the legal right to create and distribute derivative works, and the software becomes in practice unmaintainable. (Yes, you can continue to swap source patches of your own authorship, e.g., netqmail, but that's no way to run a project.)

qmail, like most other of Prof. Bernstein's packages, was distributed under a very generous licence that, however, lacks the legal right to fork (to create derivative works and new versions), which right is reserved by default operation of copyright law to the copyright holder.

Thus it is not "free" by all conventional meanings of that term. It is gratis for usage — and those who like it (which happens not to include yr. humble correspondent) owe Prof. Bernstein a debt of gratitude.

For their sake, I hope Prof. Bernstein continues to maintain his proprietary (if free-of-charge) code for a long time — since, afterwards, it's doomed to be gradually left behind.

...as a consequence of it being non-free (aka proprietary), you see.

> It makes absolute sense. As a software developer myself, it's a
> nightmare trying to get accurate information when a new bug arrives
> when its only happening on certain distros and OSes, and yes I have
> personally expensed several hours that I'll never get back helping a
> user who, if he had only simply installed my software as it was
> intended, with the intended names and locations, never would have
> had any problems, and even if he did, troubleshooting would have been
> very easy.

Then, you presumably don't issue code under a free (aka "open source") licence. It's your perfect right to have those views, exactly as it is Prof. Bernstein's.

But then your software is not under a free / open-source licence, and you should get used to people like me saying so, perhaps even on Web pages. If you make legal threats about our "libelling" your software, however, please expect to be politely referred to our attorneys and ignored.

And so, no, it's not free. I'd say I suspect you already knew that, but that would be uncharitable.

-- 
Cheers,   There are 10 types of people in this world, those who know quaternary,
Rick Moen those who only recently figured out Ron Fabre's "ternary" .sig, those
          who're completely confused, and those who hate self-referential jokes.