[TUHS] My EuroBSDcon talk (preview for commentary)

Theodore Y. Ts'o tytso at mit.edu
Mon Sep 16 13:36:18 AEST 2019

On Sun, Sep 15, 2019 at 05:46:42PM -0400, Clem Cole wrote:
> By the time of V7, the clones do start showing up. Minux which everyone
> agreed was original, as well as Mark William's Coherent, which in the end
> AT&T backed off. But as Dennis said at the time something to the effect,
> that it was not clear they had directly used AT&T sources to build it, as
> much as the authors clearly had *seen/had access to UNIX operating and used
> it to build Coherent, plus they probably had seen the UNIX sources* at some
> point (this was important later when AT&T would make 'Trade Secret' claims).

One really interesting anecdote about the "Trade Secret" claims, is
that the MIT Unix license never had the "methods and concepts" clause
in it.  The MIT Administration/Lawyers considered in unconscionable
the brains of MIT students might get encumbered by AT&T, and outright
rejected that clause.  Apparently MIT had a lot more clout (and
probably alumni in high places at AT&T), so MIT was able to make the
"no methods and concepts" clause stick.  For each new version of Unix
from AT&T, this issue would come up, and eventually, the Unix license
would get included in Grant contracts where AT&T really, really wanted
MIT to do research in some area, and apparently MIT had enough
leverage to get successive Unix license updates, all without the
infamous "methods and concepts" clause.

At one point, even though MIT had the necessary licenses so it could
be allowed to receive Ultrix or OSF/1 sources, AT&T's licensing
division refused to confirm (or deny) whether or not MIT had a valid
Unix source license, and so this caused problems for MIT to be able to
get an official version of Ultrix or OSF/1 sources.  No matter, MIT
had even more alumni and connections which Digital, so when a tape was
eventually installed in Project Athena's AFS cell, it was apparently
an active source tree from some engineering directory, completely with
core dumps and editor backup files....

So while I have looked at BSD 4.3 sources when I was a student systems
programmer, I have it on good authority from people who were staff
members on Project Athena at the time, that my brain was not owned by
AT&T due to that nasty "methods and concepts" clause --- because the
MIT Unix source license didn't have that nonsense.

    	 		       	    	 - Ted

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