Current Status    (KB)

Background    (LV)

NLS/Augment has a long and varied history. Over the years, it was known by two separate names: NLS and Augment. It has had at least seven corporate entities considered as possible owner, through various spin-offs, acquisitions and sales of divisions and companies that at one time may have had ownership of the copyrights of NLS/Augment.    (KC)

The name "NLS" was used only at SRI (1960s until 1977). SRI appears to have kept ownership of the NLS name and sold off rights to use the codebase to Tymshare, under the name of "Augment". The existing NLS programming team were also moved to Tymshare. It seems clear that Augment can be considered a "fork" of NLS, although NLS development itself essentially stopped when Augment started.    (LW)

SRI claims right of ownership to the NLS software, documentation, technical reports, journals and other documents that were created prior to the 1977 fork. Thanks to efforts by the NLS restoration project, SRI was contacted, and SRI has graciously agreed to donate the entire corpus of copywritten materials of NLS (whatever we can manage to find) to the public domain.    (LX)

After several years of hard work and searching, we have still not been able to conclusively determine the copyright owner of Augment. In fact, much to our disappointment and frustration, whomever is the real copyright owner apparently is not aware of it themselves and is unable to determine their own status. We have done full due diligence, by spending an enormous amount of effort to contact each and every company that may have possibly (or not) owned the copyright to Augment at some point in time. In each case, our search has turned up empty.    (KD)

Due to the a major change in copyright law that appeared in Copyright Act of 1976, works may optionally continue to be registered with the US Copyright Office, although according to Section 408, "Such registration is not a condition of copyright protection." An unfortunate side effect of this Act is that it created what is called an "orphan work." An orphan work is a copyrighted work where it is impossible to contact the copyright holder. For museums and organizations interested in preserving works, this is a disaster because it is officially illegal to distribute the work even though there is no one (no copyright owner) to contact to request permission. This causes many older works to literally disappear over time since the law does not provide any way to save these works.    (M2)

Augment is clearly an orphan work. The Computer History Museum is researching the legal ramifications of releasing Augment for the good of society, to learn about, study from, and document this important historical work. We want to save NLS/Augment before it disappears forever.    (LY)

Release Letters    (KE)

We initially requested, from each company that still exists, a release to their claim of copyright ownership. While we were unable to obtain formal renunciation of their possible copyright ownership, we did get informal approval (in written form) that they will not assert legal assistance against the Computer History Museum for using the software in a non-commercial manner for the good of society.    (KF)

Release Letter from SRI    (KQ)

The text of both pages one and two of the release letter from SRI is reproduced here:    (KR)

 May 22, 2006    (KT)
 Mr. John Toole
 Executive Director
 Computer History Museum
 1401 North Shoreline Boulevard
 Mountain View, CA 94043    (KU)
 RE: NLS Copyright    (KV)
 Dear Mr. Toole:    (KW)
 SRI International (SRI) supports the Computer History Museum's NLS 
 restoration project. As a non profit public benefit corporation, one 
 of SRI's chartered purposes is to aid in the advancement of 
 scientific investigation and of pure and applied research, and your 
 project is consonant with that purpose.    (KX)
 SRI held the copyright of certain material created by the NLS team 
 at SRI. SRI desires to ensure that the NLS system itself and related 
 documents and designs are preserved and accessible for study and use 
 by the public. Therefore, SRI hereby dedicates whatever copyrights it 
 may hold in the work of authorship of this material to the public 
 domain for the benefit of the public at large, including but not 
 limited to:    (KY)
  1. The source code for the NLS system created by the NLS team at SRI.    (KZ)
  2. Executable instructions and documentation derived from the NLS 
     source code.    (L0)
  3. System documentation, technical reports, journals and other 
     documents created by the NLS team at SRI.    (L1)
  4. Designs, schematics, and related material for NLS related hardware 
     created by the NLS team at SRI.    (L2)
  5. Multimedia material, including video and sound recordings, 
     produced by the NLS team at SRI.    (L3)
 The works covered by any such copyright held by SRI may be freely 
 reproduced, distributed, transmitted, used, modified, built upon, or 
 otherwise exploited by anyone for any non commercial purpose, and in 
 any way, including by methods that have not yet been invented or 
 conceived. SRI makes no warranties about any specific copyrighted 
 material and disclaims any liability resulting from the use of any 
 such material.    (L4)
 Sincerely,    (L5)
 Richard A. Cramer
 Assistant General Counsel
 SRI International    (L6)

Release Letter from Boeing    (KG)

The text of the release letter from Boeing is reproduced here:    (KH)

 March 17, 2006    (KI)
 Mr. John Toole
 Executive Director
 Computer History Museum
 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.
 Mountain View, CA 94043    (KJ)
 RE: AUGMENT Trademark & Software    (KK)
 Dear Mr. Toole:    (KL)
 Boeing believes that ownership of NLS/Augment passed with other 
 assets formerly from McDonnell Douglas Corporation 
 to British Telecommunications PLC in late 1989, prior to Boeing's 
 acquisition of McDonnell Douglas.    (KM)
 As far as Boeing is concerned, we have no issue with the Computer 
 History Museum using such NLS/Augment copyrights in a not-for-profit 
 capacity for the benefit of the general public. Boeing makes no 
 representation or warranty as to such use.    (KN)
 Regards,    (KO)
 Robert J. (Bob) Nadalet
 Director, Intellectual Property Business
 Boeing Management Company    (KP)

Release Letter from British Telecom    (L7)

The text of the release letter from British Telecom is reproduced here:    (L8)

 Our Ref: X91659    (L9)
 John C. Toole
 Executive Director and CEO
 Computer History Museum
 1401 N Shoreline Blvd
 Mountain View
 CA 94043
 U.S.A.    (LA)
 06 March 2006    (LB)
 NLS / Augment    (LC)
 Dear Mr. Toole,    (LD)
 We refer to your letter to BT dated 21st February 2006 concerning 
 your investigations into tracing the copyrights of NLS / Augment and 
 your Software Collection Committee's use of those copyrights.    (LE)
 In your letter you request that BT provide you with a written 
 statement concerning BT's rights in NLS / Augment and BT's attitude
 toward the Computer History Museum's use of those copyrights in a 
 not-for-profit public service capacity.    (LF)
 BT believes that any intellectual property rights it held in the 
 NLS / Augment technology passed with other assetts to MCI in the 
 1990's. However, and with respect to any such IPR's retained by BT 
 then so far as BT is concerned BT has no issue with the Computer 
 History Museum using the NLS / Augment copyrights in a not-for-profit 
 capacity for the benefit of the general public. BT however makes no 
 representation on or warranty as to it actually retaining any such 
 IPR's; the Computer History Museum's reliance on this letter; or the 
 Computer History Museums use of NLS / Augment.    (LG)
 Peter A Ratcliffe
 Solicitor / Attorney at Law
 Divisional Manager IPR Department
 BT plc.    (LH)

Release Letter from Verizon    (LI)

The text of the release letter from Verizon is reproduced here:    (LJ)

 Philip Gust
 Nouveau Systems, Inc.
 3120 De La Cruz Blvd., Suite 120
 Santa Clara, CA 95054    (LK)
 Dear Phil:    (LL)
 I am sending you this note at the request of Vint Cerf. I understand 
 that the Computer History Museum wishes to make use, in a 
 not-for-profit capacity, of the copyrights in a piece of software 
 known as NLS/Augment, which I am told is a PDP-10 emulator 
 ("NLS/Augment").    (LM)
 I also understand from emails that Vint has provided me that 
 ownership of the intellectual property rights in NLS/Augment is said 
 to have passed at various times from SRI to McDonnell 
 Douglas to British Telecom and, ultimately, to MCI. MCI did acquire 
 certain assets from British Telecom's North American subsidiary in a 
 transaction that closed in January 1994. It does not appear, however, 
 that MCI acquired ownership of intellectual property rights in 
 NLS/Augment as a result of that transaction, although based on the 
 documents available to me it is not possible to conclusively determine 
 what rights MCI may or may not have in NLS/Augment.    (LN)
 In any case, Verizon Business Network Services, Inc., as the successor
 to MCI Telecommunications Corporation, Inc., has no objection to the 
 Computer History Museum's use, for not-for-profit purposes for the 
 benefit of the general public, of whatever copyrights may exist in 
 NLS/Augment.    (LO)
 This communication is not intended, however, nor should it be 
 construed, as a representation or warranty as to the rights that 
 Verizon Business Network Services, Inc. or any predecessor entity 
 may or may not have in NLS/Augment, or as to the appropriateness of 
 the Computer History Museum's intended use of NLS/Augment. Verizon 
 Business Network Services, Inc. makes no such representations or 
 warranties, and this note is provided to you without liability on 
 the part of Verizon Business Network Services, Inc. or any related 
 entity.    (LP)
 Very truly yours,    (LQ)
 Robert A. Peterson
 Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
 Verizon Business    (LR)
 Cc: John Toole
     Executive Director
     Computer History Museum
     1401 Shoreline Blvd.
     Mountain View, CA 94043    (LS)

Possible Copyright Owners    (DZ)

 SRI                  1962(?) - 1977       [sold NLS to Tymshare]
 Tymshare             1977    - 1979       [spun off Tymnet]
 Tymnet               1979    - 1984       [acquired by McDonnell Douglas]
 McDonnell Douglas    1984    - 1989       [sold Tymnet]
 British Telecom      1989    - 1993       [sold assets from Tymnet]
 MCI                  1993    - 2005       [acquired Tymnet from BT] {nid E0}
 Verizon              2005    - present    [acquired MCI]    (KS)

MCI renamed Tymnet to be Concert, and now CPS (Concert Packet-switching Services).    (E1)

Other facts:    (LZ)

 * SRI claims it owns copyright to NLS (code prior to 1977).
 * Augment (forked version of NLS) code and development team was sold to Boeing (Tymshare).
 * Boeing believes that any rights it had were passed to BT.
 * BT believes that any rights it had were passed to MCI.
 * Verizon believes that BT never passed them (MCI) any rights.    (M0)

Other useful documents and links    (GJ)