Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Thu Jul 17 17:41:58 UTC 2008

Rick Stevens wrote:
>> Yup.  But IIRC back then BSD was still largely encumbered by AT&T UNIX
>> code.  Otherwise GNU might have never been started as such: BSD could
>> have been the Free operating system of choice.
> Technically BSD was built at the University of California, Berkeley from
> UNIX System 7 source from Bell Labs (then part of AT&T).  Since they
> made changes and such, the Regents of University of California held
> copyright over what was then called "Berkeley Standard Distribution" or
> BSD.  Note that anyone using BSD could NOT call their OS "Unix" as they
> did NOT have permission from AT&T.

The history is really much more complex than this.  Wikipedia has a nice 
graphic of how the open/commercial parts developed at 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix.  But basically since the 
government-regulated monopoly (AT&T) that did the initial work could not 
sell it directly, they licensed it for research purposes to universities 
where the original BSD additions were components that had to be 
installed on top of the AT&T code.

> This is what gave rise to SunOS,
> Solaris, Ultrix, Irix, AIX, and damned near every other thing that
> sounded vaguely like Unix and had an "x" in it.  They're all BSD
> derivatives and carried a license from the Regents.

When the AT&T monopoly was sensibly split up, it was then able to 
license directly to the other commercial vendors and developed its own 
retail version.  Subsequently the BSD contributions were incorporated 
into AT&T's SysVr4 which became the base for most of the commercially 
licensed versions and simultaneously the *bsd side rewrote the original 
AT&T portions to have a freely distributable version.  An AT&T lawsuit 
against BSDI over this failed, but greatly hampered acceptance and use 
of this free code at precisely the time that Linux became available and 
almost worked.  You probably know the rest.

   Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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