Vintage Software Copyright

Johnny Billquist bqt at
Fri Aug 21 10:27:26 CDT 2015

On 2015-08-21 17:21, Peter Cetinski wrote:
> This discussion on the legality of sharing manuals, PDFs, etc. leads me to think about the vintage computing hobby as a whole.  While we all encourage the hobby to grow, the downside is that as it does, the software copyright holders may start to take notice.  As a developer of modern systems who expects to be paid for my work (except what I share with the community of course) I am in a conundrum because the hobby cannot succeed without the large collection of easily accessible vintage software available yet there is no way to “buy” most of it today.  But, we would also not expect or would we pay 1980s retail prices.  I know some generous copyright owners have allowed unrestricted use of their old software, like Roy Soltoff from Misosys, but many others have not or have disappeared.  I’m fairly new to the hobby so maybe this has already been hashed out years ago.  Just wondering what the community thinks.

My opinion is that people should not try to pretend that their actions 
are legal when they are not. While I support work to preserve things, we 
really need to get permission from copyright owners before just letting 
thing out freely.

I know DEC made a general permission to copy and distribute out-of-print 
manuals. They also made some software freely available. I believe pretty 
much all PDP-8 software is in there. Some restricted distributions of 
PDP-11 software was also made available, but the majority of PDP-11 
software is still under copyright and with no permission to redistribute 
(DEC sold it). PDP-10 software I think were sold off as well. Not sure 
about other parts.

And I don't know much about anything for non-DEC stuff. So while I hope 
there are copies of stuff around, think some before redistributing it.


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