[ntp:questions] Why ntpd is losing out to openntp at BSD (was: Windows - Seven Days Later)

David Woolley david at djwhome.demon.co.uk
Thu Oct 14 20:55:47 UTC 2004

In article <ckkk9f$phc$1 at dewey.udel.edu>, David L. Mills <mills at udel.edu> wrote:

> The most important issue is that the University of Delaware remains the 
> copyright holder of this work 

That is not the issue that they are raising.

>                               with individual authors acknowledged as 
> listed. 

Whilst I'm not a lawyer, to me the licence doesn't require other authors
to surrender copyright.  There is no requirement for contributors to
assign copyright to the University of Delaware.  Unless you have had
contributors of non-trivial changes execute an assignment document
(the Free Software Foundation actually requires a nominal payment, to
form a valid contract, when doing this), I would say contributors own
the copyrights in their non-trivial contributions.

Requiring copyright assignment before inclusion in the official version
would probably be a good idea, as it makes licence changes and licence
enforcement easier.  (Making it a requirement on all versions would
definitely take the software out of the definition of "open source".)

> listed. If somebody wants to rip it off in other products or sell it on 
> a CD, 

Open BSD's lawyer's argument is that the current licence does not permit
this because the phrase "without fee" can be seen as qualifying "and
distribute".  CD's are typically distributed for a fee.  They continue
to distribute the Delaware version from their web site, because no fee
is charged, but exclude it from their CDs, for which a charge is made.
(A number of "freeware" licences explicitly ban supply on paid for CDs,
so it is not unreasonable for their lawyer to assume that this is what
you meant.)

> Just be sure the UDel copyright notice is posted somewhere under the hood.

They wouldn't have a problem with this; it's basically what they
require of code for which they do own the copyright.  In Europe, you
would have a moral right to have such a notice, and even in the USA it
is an open question as to whether it is possible to abandon copyright.
Generally in the sort of open source circles in which BSD operate, not
having a copyright notice would be a problem, as it makes auditting the
copyright licensing difficult.

The consequence of this dispute about the meaning of "without fee" is
that a significant segment of the open source community is ganging up
against ntpd in favour of a poor alternative, which is really SNTP, not
NTP.  This is being fueled by a certain feeling of righteousness, about
being truly open source, but also about Open BSD as well.  Open BSD users
see it as being a very secure system, and are putting that attribute onto
openntp (partly because it is small, because it isn't a full NTP 

The non-legal, non-security, argument that they use is that most people
don't need better than about half a second accuracy (even if the starter
of this thread is complaining about 10ms errors).  If you add on the
demands for sub-second initial time setting, step free response to major
input steps, and cooperating isolated islands (which account for most
of the current FAQs), the official ntpd is at risk of losing out to
poorer substitutes.

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