announcing the availability of 4.3BSD Usenix manuals

Charles Hedrick root at topaz.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Oct 1 15:11:50 AEST 1986

Our 4.2 documentation says that it is copyright and can be reproduced
only under license.  Contrary to what others have said, I don't know
of many computer vendors who allow you to reproduce their manuals
without charge.  However I think that in this case the issue is not
one of charge, but of copyright control.  I believe that selling these
manuals in University bookstores to the public is technically a
violation of the license agreement.  If you check the various
licenses, you will probably find that the University is only allowed
to sell manuals to its students and employees.  This is carried out by
giving the manuals to the bookstore and instructing the manager's pet
poodle to make sure that no one other than authorized people buy the
manual.  The poodle wags its tail, and that is all there is to it.
Since it is not very pratical to check for student ID cards when
selling manuals, and nobody is damaged by having others get copies, no
one worries about any more stringent enforcement.  However there are a
set of people who if you ask them are required to say that the
restriction exists, and who if you notify them of violations may be
required to attempt to stop them (on the legal grounds that if
somebody knows that their rights are being violated and does nothing
about them, they may to a certain extent be considered to be waiving
them).  This means that if enough of a stink is made about this
subject, somebody in ATT may at the very least feel it necessary to
notify the poodle that he has not been carrying out his job.  I think
you will find that the online man pages came on a tape that says it is
copyright and refers to your binary license agreement.  That agreement
almost certainly says that you may produce copies of the documentation
only for your own use.

The problem as I understand it is that some lawyers are afraid that if
you let people reproduce and distribute things without control, you
can lose your copyright.  This can lead to practices such as vendors
asking you to place a notice on the cover saying "Only available to
Rutgers students, faculty, and staff", but not to make any attempt to
enforce it, or to license fees of $0.01 per copy (not per page -- per
copy of the entire document) for which no one bothers to issue an
invoice.  From what I know of the licensing agreements, Usenix is
correctly interpreting them.  If I were a Usenix officer, I would
continue to follow a strict interpretation of the agreements.  Usenix
might ask the relevant lawyers how much enforcement they want.
Perhaps it could be agreed that it would be enough to say in all
announcements that these manuals are available only to users at
licensed sites.  This would solve the problem of getting things to
individual Usenix members.

I will not discuss in this forum what I think of a legal system that
requires this kind of malarky.

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