Re: A reminder about the facts

From: Richard Stallman <>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 17:10:35 -0400

I just checked the ncurses distribution terms, and was very surprised:
they *do not* give permission for distribution of modified versions.

I had assumed ncurses was free software because "everyone knew" it".
I was under the impression that ncurses was derived from some BSD
software and was distributed under the same terms as BSD. I should
have checked the distribution terms when the FSF first considered
distributing ncurses. I am sorry I failed to do that.

Unfortunately, this means that ncurses is not free software.
The freedom to distribute modified versions, including changes that
the author does not like, is a crucial aspect of free software.

As a result, it is indeed forbidden for Dickey, or any of us, to
distribute modified versions. So I deleted ncurses 4.1 from prep.

I also deleted the other versions of ncurses from prep, because the
FSF exists to develop and distribute free software only. Distributing
a non-free program, even if legally permitted, does not advance our

The free software community is now in a hole. We need a good free
curses package for free operating systems, and the one we thought we
had, we do not have. I can see three possible ways we can come up
with one:

* ESR and Zeyd together can agree to permit distribution of modified
versions and thus make ncurses free software.

* Someone can write a new program which is free software. Perhaps
some of Dickey's code, and other recent contributors' code, can be
used as part of this.

* There may be another good alternative, or at least one that is
better than nothing. Does anyone know?

The first way is best. Perhaps it is possible. ESR spoke of
transferring ncurses to the FSF. If both ESR and Zeyd are willing to
say yes to this, and understand that we would have to change the
distribution terms and thus make ncurses free software, then the FSF
will say yes to it.
Received on Mon Jun 02 1997 - 17:25:34 EDT

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