Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

How I got permission to post VisiCalc

Author:Dan Bricklin
Posted:7/20/1999; 9:21:30 AM
Topic:How I got permission to post VisiCalc
Msg #:8583
Prev/Next:8582 / 8584

To help people who want to get permission to post "old" software, like I did with VisiCalc, I thought I'd let you know what I went through. It may help you when dealing with the copyright holders.

I had a copy of VisiCalc that still worked on IBM PCs under Windows. I got this copy from various people who were associated with Lotus, the current copyright holder.

When I started my personal web site,, I asked friends at Lotus who I should contact to get permission. I got the name of a lawyer who asked for details of my request. I sent an email saying I wanted to post the copy, along with other material, like scans of reference cards, etc. I made it clear that I wanted to post it legally, with attribution, licensing, etc., if possible. That was in January 1999. Periodically, I received mail saying to be patient, that they were trying to find someone to to handle it. Whenever I saw someone from Lotus (mostly in the legal department or R and D), I mentioned it. Everybody was always supportive. The problem was that they needed to know that none of the code was used in any of their products that they cared about. With the turnover there, and the age of the product (20 years), it was hard to find anybody inside who really knew the answers for sure. But finally in June, through the goodwill of people there and after the normal long back and forth of a large corporation, I got an email that I would get permission. A few weeks later I got an email with the wording of a license agreement to tightly couple with the code.

What do I learn from this? You need people inside the company that holds the copyright to champion it, politely remind them periodically, and be patient. Hopefully others will see the positive reaction to Lotus that this caused, and will follow Lotus' lead. (Lotus has always been good at being the first to do various good things as a corporation.)

-Dan Bricklin

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