PDP-11 UNIX Source License Petition - Status

2nd July 1997

Details about the petition was announced by direct email to several dozens of interested people, and on several Usenet newsgroups. Roughly 100 email addresses from the Source Code License Survey were added to the petition, except where the person which filled in the survey disagreed with aspects of the petition.

I informally announced the existence of the petition to a contact of mine at SCO, who said that it was ``an excellent idea'', and that he ``will certainly be an advocate on this''.

In a ``not speaking for SCO, just for myself'' reply, my contact said:

We are happy for you guys to have this source code (possibly with some nominal payment that helps cover our costs) but we don't want to lose any legal control of the ``secrets''. It may be that we (SCO) still have obligations inherited from other, ancient contracts with various technology suppliers about such matters, etc. Looking at your proposed license terms (strictly an amateur review; I am not a lawyer :-) I think they seem very fair and plausible. I will see if our legal staff can find time to research this. I agree that it would certainly be an excellent PR action for SCO to take, as the flag carrier of the UNIX heritage.

2nd to 6th July 1997

Many people emailed me indicating that they have signed and/or have passed the details of the petition on to other people. I emailed out a special request to about two dozen people who were heavily involved with the development or use of these old UNIX systems, asking if they would also sign. Some of them have!

Several people sent me suggestions on how the petition can be made better via a bit of rewording. None of the suggestions changed the thrust of the petition, so I made nearly all of the suggested changes.

7th July 1997

The number of signatures on the petition exceeds 200.

9th July 1997

I sent a reminder message out to the Usenet newsgroups where I had earlier posted a message about the petition.

I decided that 200+ signatures was pretty good, and sent an email formally passing the petition to SCO via Dion L. Johnson II and Mike Tilson. A Return-Receipt came back from Dion's and Mike's mailboxes.

10th July 1997

First reply back is from Dion: ``Looks good. I am hitting on our legal guys and a bunch of other executives here.''

11th July 1997

The number of signatures on the petition exceeds 250.

20th July 1997

The number of signatures on the petition exceeds 300.

24th July 1997

I asked Dion Johnson to tell me how things at SCO were progressing. He replied:
SCO is pleased to entertain this request from so many loyal and famous fans of UNIX. We are looking into how we can provide this source code. No promises at this time, since there are some intellectual property issues that must be resolved, but we will do what we can.
He also mentions that there is support from some people inside SCO on the proposal, and that we might hear a response in a week or so.

27th August 1997

I've received a non-legal draft version of the proposed UNIX source/binary license from SCO. I'm waiting on permission from SCO to publish it here, but it essentially meets all the requirements that were given in the petition, and the price is also reasonable. It seems to be all that we asked for!

I don't know when the final license wording will be finalised, when the licenses will go on sale, nor how we can go about buying them. I'll keep this page updated as I find out.

18th September 1997

The first legal draft of the proposed UNIX source/binary license came in from SCO today. Again, I have been asked by SCO not to make it public. It covers what we want, with some restrictive conditions. Only UNIX Editions 1 to 7 are covered, which excludes PWB/UNIX, Mini UNIX and 32V. The software can only be used on one CPU, and you may only use the software in one country. The latter prevents you from passing the software to licensees in other countries.

I believe that the existing binary license from SCO renders the single CPU condition void, and I have mentioned my concerns about the single country condition to SCO by email.

20th September 1997

It seems that the single country and single CPU restrictions are a `cut & paste' legacy from the old AT&T source licenses, and they will be removed. The license will cover any (PDP-11?) computers which a single person owns. The license should also cover any PDP-11 UNIX version before System III. We may even be lucky enough to be permitted academic use of the source code, but don't hold your breath.

Things are still fluid, but the removal of single country and single CPU restrictions (and the addition of all versions before System III) brings the proposed license closer to what we have been petitioning for.

14th October 1997

Word from contacts at SCO is that the legal folk are dragging their heels over the license issue, but several people are fighting for our cause. We need to wait a bit longer ...

24th November 1997

I emailed Dion Johnson last week about licenses, but I didn't get a reply. A fellow employee told me that:
If you can bear with us, we are both submitting your case to the powers that be within SCO. However SCO has a fair bit of other work to cope with keeping the evil empire at bay and rolling out some significant new technologies [ ... ], which is slowing down non critical decisions such as this one.

Oh well, so much for my Christmas present ...

24th February 1998

I've just received the next draft of the proposed PDP-11 UNIX Source License from SCO. To me it looks good, and I'd be happy to sign it. I have passed a copy over to Steven Schultz: his 2.11BSD work is a derivative which could be affected by the license clauses.

I've asked SCO how long it will take before licenses go on sale, once we've agreed with the draft license terms.

Early March 1998

We passed the license back to SCO with very minor changes, and it is currently in the works. I am busily preparing a list of email addresses to whom the announcement will go to, when it comes. I've also written step-by-step instructions on how to obtain the license, with help from SCO.

SCO isn't going to distribute source code or any media. Volunteers in the PDP-11 Unix Preservation Society are going to burn CDs and cut tapes to distribute to licensees, but I suspect we are going to be overwhelmed by the demand. If you plan on buying a license, and can volunteer to help out, we would appreciate it very much.

11th March 1998

I have received the final license from SCO, which I can make publicly available. Dion Johnson at SCO says: ``As far as I understand things, we are ready to go when you are. That is, we can accept license applications any time.''

I've included intructions on how to get a source license from SCO on the PUPS home page, and I'm just about to send an announcement e-mail to over 470 mail addresses. Thanks to everybody who helped us to make licenses available again.

Warren Toomey, wkt@cs.adfa.edu.au