[TUHS] GNU vs BSD before the lawsuit and before Linux

Warner Losh imp at bsdimp.com
Sun Mar 19 01:19:03 AEST 2017

You're right. The GPL can't be applied in this way. However, there
were a few attempts (accidental it was claimed) to do this back in the
day, mostly by cutting and pasting bits out of NET2 for this or that
GPL thing. I don't recall the specifics, since it was fixed like
25-odd years ago. Accidental, as claimed, or sneaky, the incidents
(and talk of the incident) left a bad taste in people's mouths. A
couple of times the code in question passed from one person to the
next until the knowledge of the original copying was lost until
discovered by someone who was familiar with the original sources and
did a comparison. The reactions and the personalities didn't help to
smooth over the ruffled feathers either.

To be fair, it was a different time. The knowledge of what was and
wasn't permissible simply isn't at all what it is today. For many
people, it tended to fall into "OK to copy" and "NOT OK to copy". The
nuances of license compliance did not have the benefits of the last
two and a half decades of public education. While some people knew and
respected, it wasn't as universal as it is today. So it was natural
that people would just copy and not attribute. It didn't take too many
incidents of that happening for the word to spread it wasn't cool and
that just because you could copy an entire file w/o a problem doesn't
mean you could cut a dozen routines out of it and paste it into your
own work. That's why any projects that started out as a copy from BSD
(or worse AT&T) were thoroughly reworked to expunge that taint and you
don't hear about it today. It stopped being more than an incidental
problem in the mid 90's. And it wasn't just BSD->GPL either, again to
be fair, the same ignorance allowed code to flow the other way a time
or two...


On Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 7:27 AM, Nick Downing <downing.nick at gmail.com> wrote:
> Is this really true, can you give specific examples? AFAIK the GPL cannot be
> applied retrospectively except by the BSD- or commercial licensor, perhaps
> you could GPL your changes but I am not quite sure how this would work
> unless your release was in the form of a patch.
> cheers, Nick
> On Mar 19, 2017 12:07 AM, "Doug McIlroy" <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:
>> > Many of the gnu tools started life as BSD code that was hacked on and
>> > rebranded with the GPL.
>> A small amount of code was likewise adopted from AT&T.
>> Doug

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