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Our old pal, the DikuMUD license.doc
quixadhal
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#1 id:19793 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 9:49 am

I'm sure just about every question about the DikuMUD license has been flogged beyond death over the years, but I find myself with a new one (well, new to me and my 5 minute google search).

In any proper license-compliant Diku-derived codebase, you'll usually find a festering sore known as the "docs" directory.  Buried away in there, among all the other things that haven't been updated since 1994, there is our old friend, license.doc.

Now, if your friend has also been through the Mercification process, there will ALSO be a license.txt file, which is the Merc license addendum.

Back in the 1990's, unix was smart and didn't try to pander to every windows user who wandered by.  Tools like less just opened the file and started paging whatever it was to your terminal, even if it was the kernel. :)

In the age of linux-servers-in-your-toaster though, I see that an attempt to "less license.doc" gives the useful message: No catdoc available.  This is, of course, because it is assuming the file was a microsoft wyrd doc, and I have nothing installed to translate.

My first reaction was to rename the file to avoid such nonsense.... afterall, presumably the guys who wrote the license wanted it to be read, no?  Then I though to myself, but what would a lawyer let me do?

Quote:
  This license must *always* be included "as is" if you copy or give
  away any part of DikuMud (which is to be done as described in this
  document).


Exactly what does "as is" mean for us, legally?  Of course, it means the text within the document can't be altered in content... and one could make the argument that it can't be altered in formatting or even in character set.... but what about the filename?

Could we rename this myterious thing to a more useful name like "DikuMUD_license.txt"?  Could the Merc license also become "Merc_license.txt", rather than the confusing names they bear now?  What say you who know more about legal matters than I?  Is it just the laziness of a decade of hackers who can't be bothered to rename the files, or is there a legitimate reason to keep them named as they are?
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#2 id:19795 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 10:10 am

I would be absolutely astonished if anybody had a problem with a simple renaming meant to allow easy reading without any attempt at obfuscation. The intent in this case is, I feel absolutely unambiguous: they want people to easily read their license, with the text exactly as they wrote it.

What if the file actually were written in some editor format that extremely few people can read today? Would it be reasonable from any perspective to distribute a file that's essentially a waste of space?

Besides, apply the "who cares" standard: if you renamed it to something.txt, who would actually care to complain about you, and would they have any reason to sue you?
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#3 id:19796 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 10:16 am

I'll add now that AFAIK, if you truly want to be a stickler of the letter in "don't rename it", ACK! has never, EVER been compliant.

Looking in my archived copies of ACK!MUD 4.1 and 4.2, neither has a docs folder with ANY licenses at all. 4.3.1 contains the appropriate files, but they are strict ASCII .txt: acklicense.txt, license.txt (the MERC one), and licensediku.txt

So, it (the Diku license you question) is there, in its entirety, but may be breaking the letter, not the spirit, of the law.
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#4 id:19797 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 10:32 am

DavidHaley said:
I would be absolutely astonished if anybody had a problem with a simple renaming meant to allow easy reading without any attempt at obfuscation. The intent in this case is, I feel absolutely unambiguous: they want people to easily read their license, with the text exactly as they wrote it.

What if the file actually were written in some editor format that extremely few people can read today? Would it be reasonable from any perspective to distribute a file that's essentially a waste of space?

Oh, I agree... however we're not talking about what's reasonable, we're talking about what's legal.  :wink:

DavidHaley said:
Besides, apply the "who cares" standard: if you renamed it to something.txt, who would actually care to complain about you, and would they have any reason to sue you?

Heh, well for things on my own hard drive, I don't care.... for things I plan to check in to the RaM repository, I care slightly.

It's just one of those things.  I had wondered why there were both a license.doc and a license.txt, when they were both text files, and it seemed stupid to me that things aren't named for clarity -- and had remained so for over 10 years.
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#5 id:19798 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 10:35 am

Well, believe it or not :wink: but what is reasonable often plays a central role, especially in civil court such as where this would end up if it became a case. In fact, if you pick up a first-year book on tort law, for example, "reasonable" is almost a technical legal term.

My "official opinion" on this question is that nobody should worry about this as long as everything remains clear, nothing is obfuscated, and the original text is preserved. Anybody who would tell you you're violating the license is being silly...
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#6 id:19808 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 11:58 am

Quix, renaming is fine as you're not altering 'the license' which is the content of the file. Changing the file name itself is the same as putting the printed license into a manila folder and naming that 'Diku_license.txt'. The license is un-altered.

To be even safer, in the RaM license, state exactly the naming change. Not a lawyer disclaimer here.
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#7 id:19810 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 11:59 am

You should never do this because it quite clearly violates the license agreement.

The proper thing to do is to put your own stuff in license.pdf and if that's no option in license.htm or license.rtf. Be a little creative people.
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#8 id:19817 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 3:55 pm

Well if this is actually an issue, I've never seen it brought up before. And I guess us Smaug people are all in deep #### because the files in the doc directory have all been renamed already. Of course, I think the "who gives a crap" test probably applies here since it's pretty clear the text of the actual files haven't been altered.

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#9 id:19823 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 7:52 pm

Samson said:
Of course, I think the "who gives a crap" test probably applies here since it's pretty clear the text of the actual files haven't been altered.

license.wgac  :evil:
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#10 id:19829 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 9:25 pm

The real issue seems to be that 'less' is broken.
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#11 id:19830 Posted Feb 8, 2009, 9:44 pm


Tyche said:
The real issue seems to be that 'less' is broken.


Yes, it is. :)

However, it also makes no sense to have the various legacy license files named so that one has to play pin-the-tail-on-the-filename to figure out which is which.  It would be like putting your legal documents in various coloured folders and tossing them in a filing cabinet, with no labels or ordering.
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#12 id:19834 Posted Feb 9, 2009, 1:12 am

Now if they'd have used file magic...

$ file /muds/Merc22/doc/license.txt
/muds/Merc22/doc/license.txt: ASCII English text

$ file /muds/Merc22/doc/license.doc
/muds/Merc22/doc/license.doc: ASCII C program text

Clearly license.doc is a C program, so 'less license.doc' should either invoke your favorite editor or run the GNU C compiler.

$ file /docs/a_word.doc
/docs/a_word.doc: Microsoft Installer

I guess file magic is mostly useless and broken as well.

But back to the question at hand...
I've seen the GPL stored as LICENSE, COPYING, COPYRIGHT, GPL, GPL_V2 and other flavors as well.  It also has the no alteration clause.

So I've been toying with the idea of renaming it to.
STALLMAN_IS_A_BIG_FAT_COMMIE_PRICK.DOC
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#13 id:19835 Posted Feb 9, 2009, 1:47 am

quixadhal said:
Could we rename this myterious thing to a more useful name like "DikuMUD_license.txt"?  Could the Merc license also become "Merc_license.txt", rather than the confusing names they bear now?  What say you who know more about legal matters than I?  Is it just the laziness of a decade of hackers who can't be bothered to rename the files, or is there a legitimate reason to keep them named as they are?

One problem that is that the files are explicitly referenced by name elsewhere - in particular, the copyright header at the top of each Merc file contains the following section:

Code (text):
*  In order to use any part of this Merc Diku Mud, you must comply with  *
*  both the original Diku license in 'license.doc' as well the Merc      *
*  license in 'license.txt'.  In particular, you may not remove either of *
*  these copyright notices.                                              *


And license.txt opens with the following:

Code (text):
=== Copyright and License Terms

Diku Mud is copyright (C) 1990, 1991 by Sebastian Hammer, Michael Seifert,
Hans Henrik St{rfeldt, Tom Madsen, and Katja Nyboe.  Their license agreement
is in the file 'license.doc'.


So either you leave references to files which no longer exist, or you modify the copyright notices and the Merc licence.


Kline said:
I'll add now that AFAIK, if you truly want to be a stickler of the letter in "don't rename it", ACK! has never, EVER been compliant.

What more do you expect from a licence which includes such laughable clauses as "All area files created through the use of this codebase become the property of the game administrator and not the property of the builder"? :P
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#14 id:19836 Posted Feb 9, 2009, 5:16 am

KaVir said:
What more do you expect from a licence which includes such laughable clauses as "All area files created through the use of this codebase become the property of the game administrator and not the property of the builder"? :P

This doesn't seem laughable in the slightest as a general principle, although it does seem odd to enforce it as part of the game license, rather than an agreement between the admins and the builders. Perhaps you meant the latter?
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#15 id:19837 Posted Feb 9, 2009, 5:40 am


DavidHaley said:
This doesn't seem laughable in the slightest as a general principle....

The humor in that might depend on how many copyrights you hold, and what the value of each is.
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