[TUHS] unix non disclosure clauses

Kurt Wall kwall at kurtwerks.com
Wed Apr 20 22:28:20 AEST 2005

On Wednesday 20 April 2005 04:55, martin hardie enlightened us thusly:
> Hi i joined this list as I found some intersting stuff in its
> archives and I am working on my Phd in law concerning the logic and
> rhetoric of FOSS and i thought maybe the list would be a good source
> of
> knowledgable information.
> I am currently  proofing a draft thesis chapter I have put together
> on the early history of Unix and have a question or two arising from
> text of the early  licences.
> The 1974 licence to the Catholic University in Holland (I guess this
> was to Andy Tanenbaum) has a confidentiality clause in it. I presume
> this was a standard clause.
> That is interesting from lots of perspectives - the myth of a unix
> commons, which we both know  is a myth in the GNUish sense although
> people like Lessig still say it in their tomes; and from the
> perspective that copyright or patents where not used to cover the
> code but confidential inofrmation - this resonates with my work with
> Aboriginal  artists in Australia and their communal system of
> knowledge production and with the notion of trust and equity which I
> am building towards in this research.
> But right now what interests me is a bit more in the context of
> contemporary "licence fetishism" or the way licences and IP were
> viewed back then. I am sort of trying to deal with the way that many
> commentators (like Lessig, Wayner and even Raymond) credit changes in
> unix and linux to legal command. I just don't buy that but position
> them more in the context of the globalisation of production.
> Anyway, the question -  the licences prohibited dissemination of Unix
> to third parties - eg in the case of universities the system could
> only  be given/shown to students and employees.

The 1956 consent decree required AT&T to provide licenses
to patented technology when asked. It isn't hard to imagine that the
seven years of anti-trust litigation, culminating in the consent
decree, cast a long shadow when it came to how AT&T wrote and
enforced the UNIX licenses.

> How then was the question of bugs, fixes and updates dealt with? Did
> everything come back to Bell and then get dealt with from there.  IE
> the question of who controllled "R&D"? Did universities talk directly
> to each other? And if so when did this become a problem for AT&T? If
> at all? If they did was there any conception that they  were breaking
> the licence conditions?
> I am also intrigued about Raymond's comment that Ken quietly shipped
> out copies of the program with a note "love Ken". Is this based in
> fact? was it a covert operation? And is it tied into the matter of
> turning a blind eye to licence conditions eg the unis talking to each
> other directly?

Judge for yourself whether it is fact or not: 
See particularly Chapter 3, which establishes pretty clearly that
almost all of the users of the UNIX system were talking to each

> Is that clear? If the uni's were talking to each other and Ken was
> sending out gift wrapped parcels ......... maybe there was a commons
> but not one annointed by law.....


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