To Al Kossow at bitsavers

Johnny Billquist bqt at
Sun Nov 15 07:09:31 CST 2015

This is a long response, but I beg all people interested to read all of it.

And to start with, I generally agree with Paul. Especially about the 
fact that just because you don't know who the owner is does in no way 
make something "abandonware" (and this is not specifically you, Ian.)
But more below...

On 2015-11-15 05:25, Ian Finder wrote:
> It seems to me that Paul Koning's attitude will lead  retrocomputing to die. We can't all own computers that can do interesting things with front-panel programming alone.

What is "retrocomputing"? And how do you mean it will die because some 
people think that it is not above the law?

> By his definition, I have committed a lot of "theft" in my days to restore systems I had no other options left to deal with, due to restrictive licensing, incommunicado business entities, or IP situations with no well understood outcomes.

I don't know exactly what you have done, so I can't really comment on 
it. But in general, yes, it is a sad problem that sometimes it is hard 
to figure out the legal status and who is the owner of software.

But that is not the case with the PDP-11 software talked about in this 

> I am always happy to pay, but that's not always an option.

Agreed. But that is still not the case here.

> I agree the proper routes should always be pursued when possible, but bits are fading fast and without dark archives that may run afoul of present day copyright laws and original EULAs, many things will be lost permanently.

Very true. But not the case in this specific thread.

> I find the mindset of considering all abandonware scenarios "theft" to be pedantic, toxic, shortsighted, and counterproductive- as well as logically and legally baseless.

I disagree with almost all of the above, with the exception of "theft". 
As others mentioned, the word "theft" is not a good word to use here, 
and it has been promoted by organizations that wants to associate the 
"problem" with something that people will react emotionally to.

But for software that in general you can't find the owner, and even the 
legal status is hard to figure out, I think that at least some basic 
effort to preserve and share things can be nice.

However, people who use your argument, Ian, tend to start applying it to 
anything they want, which is, for me, crossing a line that I do not 
agree with. In the specific example of the PDP-11 software that this 
thread is about, it's not even "abandonware". The term "abandonware" is 
in it self really problematic, because it is very much a subjective 
term. If you cannot get access or permission, and you also don't get any 
response, you consider the software to be "abandonware", which might be 
very far from the truth. The owner might not want to talk to you. The 
owner might not want anyone else to know he is the owner. The owner 
might be busy, have a bad spamfilter, or whatever. That do not make the 
software "abandonware". If you want to claim that something is 
"abandonware", then you should first do a *very* thorough work trying to 
locate the owner, and document everything that you find, or don't find, 
and really show that you tried everything. If that still turns up 
nothing, then I can agree that *maybe* the term "abandonware" might be 

I agree that I have a hard time calling software theft "theft". For me 
as well, "theft" involves denying the rightful owner access/use of the 
item. Intellectual property is a weird concept.

However (and I hope people actually reads this far), XX2247 decided to 
buy the software from Mentec. There is an easy trail to follow, showing 
that there is a legal entity that still owns this software. And even if 
you disagree with the "theft" thing, consider this: the owner of XX2247 
made an effort that cost money, in order to preserve this software for 
the future (an effort people here use as an argument for their actions 
that might not be legal). By doing what XX2247 did, they agreed to 
follow the DEC-Mentec agreement. If people put the PDP-11 software up in 
general, they are violating copyright laws (and possibly IP rights). In 
addition to themselves potentially breaking the law, they are 
potentially also setting XX2247 up, since the owners of the IP rights 
could argue that XX2247 are also guilty for not protecting those IP rights.
So in the end, you might be setting the person who tried to preserve 
this software up for legal effects that he certainly do not deserve.

Now, what do you think is the right way to deal with this?

Me personally, I think we need to get HP to release it all. After that, 
I'm pretty sure people would find it much easier to get access to PDP-11 


> - I
> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Nov 14, 2015, at 20:11, geneb <geneb at> wrote:
>>> On Sat, 14 Nov 2015, Paul Koning wrote:
>>> "Abandonware" is a term invented as an excuse to steal other people's property.  Let's not try to apply it here.
>> Copyright infringement is not theft... at least according to the Supreme Court, but then again, what do they know?
>> g.
>> --
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Johnny Billquist                  || "I'm on a bus
                                   ||  on a psychedelic trip
email: bqt at             ||  Reading murder books
pdp is alive!                     ||  tryin' to stay hip" - B. Idol

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