Is this better for tomsrtbt?

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Wed Apr 25 21:25:37 UTC 2001

on Wed, Apr 25, 2001 at 07:44:56AM -0400, Tom Oehser (tom at wrote:
> >     here with bzip2, I get 51,200 bytes for BSD, GPL, and LGPL, tarred.
> >     That should be acceptable for a TRB distribution archive, no?
> It breaks one of the primary design goals, which is that the tarball
> can be created from the floppy and vice versa in a completely
> symmetrical way, because there is no distribution archive content that
> isn't available on the floppy, currently, which is desirable.  So,
> even if I do it the way you are suggesting, it means that it is
> illegal to make a copy of a any tomsrtbt floppy and give it to
> someone.  Adding the 51K to the archive is, given how tomsrtbt is
> used, irrelevant, and adding it to the floppy image itself is
> problematic at best.

Technical aspects are understood.  Even without knowing or understanding
the technical wizardry involved in making tomsrtbt, I'm damned
impressed.  It's a featureful toolkit.

Note, however, that technical and legal requirements don't always mesh.
And in a world governed by both, there may be two masters to serve.

The "out", if you will, is that you aren't responsible for enforcing
downstream compliance with the GPL (section 6), nor, I believe, the
LGPL, or BSD, nor are downstream distributors answerable to your
compliance status (GPL section 4).  

Breaking technical symmetry by distributing an archive with licenses,
but creating a floppy (and then from it an archive) without them, may be
a non-symmetric, but acceptable, hack.  Notice on the floppy that
distribution requires inclusion of the license(s) (electronic or hardcopy
form should work) may be sufficient or recommended.  I don't see casual
distribution as the concern in any event, it's large-scale distribution
which matters (e.g.: mirror sites, inclusion in other packages such as
the LinuxCare BBC).

Another hack might be to wrap the tarball itself in another tarball
containing the licenses, a README, and the tomsrtbt tarball.  Which
leaves your symmetry problem intact by encapsulating it in a larger

> If my download link is the only way I distribute it, and if my
> download link has the tarball and the licenses, then I am in fact
> distributing the licenses with the programs, 

This is your interpretation, RMS and/or the copyright holder may feel
differently.  A related situation is the Debian distribution, in which
several licenses, including the GPL, LGPL, BSD, and Artistic License,
are distributed as a separate archive than the software to which they
apply.  Linkage is via the Debian packaging system, or so the argument
goes.  My understanding is that this is acceptable to RMS, he'd raised
the issue at some point last year.  So you might be right. 

It seems clear to me that the licenses should be prominently included on
the archive site, with instructions that both tomsrtbt *and* the
licenses need to be distributed, if this route is taken.

> the risk of non-compliance is with anyone who then might RE-distribute
> it thinking they could create the tarball from the floppy and then
> distribute that tarball without the licenses.  I think I am OK on that
> risk with just a one-line notice pointing out that I have distributed
> X licenses along with the distribution (and all the mirrors do the
> same, that is, they have those top level files in the SAME ARCHIVE as
> the tarball),

Note, as above, third party compliance isn't your concern under the
three licenses in question.

> and that if you re-distribute it, you had better do the same.  I can
> just picture a user fest where they have a box of tomsrtbt floppies
> and a box of license floppies and they clip one of each together with
> a paperclip in order to give you tomsrtbt, and then every time they
> hand such a bundle to a user group attendee that person hands back the
> license floppy, having received it.  Maybe I should distribute it
> that way, as a 2 diskette package, where the licenses are on diskette
> 2?

That's a thought.

...or very small print on a floppy label.... ;-)

Here's a thought for a niche business:  floppy disk envelopes printed
with readable copies of the Debian common-licenses:  GPL, LGPL, BSD,
Artistic, to satisfy licensing requirements.  Probably as a fold-out of
some sort.

> > support, and list it as a source tarball.  The advantage is that by
> Unifying the makefiles into one source tarball that can be build with
> one 'make' command is in the plan.  I am getting married on 5/7, and
> have already a mortgage and 2 children (we've been engaged for 8
> years), so this is not going to be something that happens quickly.  I
> am going to focus any short term time on plugging any non-compliant
> behavior.

The standard for GPL is that "[t]he source code for a work means the
preferred form of the work for making modifications to the
scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable"
-- your existing build process, whatever it is, is the preferred form,
and should be sufficient, if not necessarily clean.

> Now, again, as I read it, if I provide an http or ftp directory, which
> contains 10 files, and one of those has all the licenses, and one is
> the tarball that makes the floppy, and one is an html file that
> clearly lists both and explains what they are and why, then *I* am in
> compliance with:
>  ... give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License
>      along with the Program.
> Now, if someone chooses to copy 1 from column A and 0 from column B to
> their system, they are fine, unless and until they decide to
> redistribute it.  I will make sure all the licenses are distributed
> clearly with the program (that is, any place you have an opportunity
> to get the program from me will also have the licenses shown in the
> same package or directory), and I will add notices to the affect that
> the tomsrtbt floppy *by itself* cannot be copied or distributed,
> because it does not include the license.  Heck, I'll put a prompt
> right in the clone.s script.

I'm going to run this discussion past RMS.  I'm concerned both for you
and for compliance with the GPL.  There is a balance in here somewhere.

> And if it really becomes necessary to replace emacs with 2^17 bytes of
> licenses on the actual floppy, there will be a certain balanced irony.
> And I'll still have vi.

;-)   I'm going to add that to my fortune file as one of the better
summations of why license proliferation is a Bad Thing®.  Cogent.

> -Tom

IANAL, this is not legal advice.


Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
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