xserver code license question

Adam Jackson ajax at nwnk.net
Thu Mar 7 19:59:06 UTC 2019

On Thu, 2019-03-07 at 16:38 +0000, Pinegar, Kent T wrote:
> All,
> There are two files in the xserver source code called xf86i2c.h and
> xf86i2c.c.  They contain copyrights by Itai Nahshon and Michael
> Schimek; however, the top-level Xserve license on github does not
> mention these two developers.  Does anyone know what license would
> cover these files.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm certainly not your lawyer, so
this is all just semi-informed guesswork.

Short answer: not really, but probably MIT-like.

Longer answer: that code seems to have come into being somewhere
between XFree86 3.3.6 and 4.0. The contemporary documentation [1] says:

"XFree86[tm] code without an explicit copyright or not explicitly
marked as being in the public domain is covered by the XFree86
copyright/license as shown below."

Where the license so mentioned [2] is a typical MIT variant. The "or"
in that sentence is doing a lot of work, since the xf86i2c files _do_
have explicit copyright statements but no explicit license statement;
the question is whether you believe a bare copyright statement means
"obviously I meant the XFree86 license" or "obviously I meant the
insane you-have-no-rights-to-this-work-at-all default that copyright
lawyers foisted upon the world". The position of pretty much everybody
distributing an XFree86-derived server since March 2000 (when 4.0 was
released) has apparently been the former. Estoppel would (I would
think, but again IANAL) preclude the named copyright holders from
suddenly retroactively applying more restrictive terms. If you want
stronger assurance than that, get your lawyers to track down the named

If it makes you feel better, on a modern Linux system using a KMS
driver, you do not end up using that code at all, so you could probably
safely excise it from your own builds.

[1] - http://www.xfree86.org/4.0/LICENSE1.html#1
[2] - http://www.xfree86.org/4.0/LICENSE2.html

- ajax

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