1. Content
  2. Index
  3. Search
  4. RSS/Subscribe

The Seduction of Social Sanctity · Friday August 10, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch

I am concerned about the elevation of the GPL’s aphoristic pursuit of freedom into holy dogma without due diligence.

My concern is that because the GPL restores the liberty suspended by copyright (which is jolly good) and preserves its restoration (excellent), people think that the GPL is perfect and holy in every respect and should be enshrined in law.

I’m trying to point out that actually, the GPL should only repair copyright’s damage. It should not be used to claim a right to extend ‘liberty’ beyond the public domain into the private domain.

Copyright does cause damage to culture by disincentivising sale of source materials (given a monopoly in functionally equivalent but far less useful derivatives), and the GPL’s compulsory disclosure of source is forgivable in addressing this damage. However, that doesn’t mean that if copyright was abolished we’d still need a legal compulsion to disclose source. A free market provides a quite satisfactory and effective incentive.

So, if the GPL was to be wholly ethical, instead of exploiting copyright’s ability to police the private domain it should completely nullify it. Otherwise, as I’m beginning to notice, there’s a risk of people being seduced into thinking they should indeed have a right to compel disclosure of source.

This is because, despite nullifying it to a large extent, the GPL does reserve a mild privacy violation in terms of its compulsory disclosure of private source code in published derivatives.

Now, this is quite consistent with using copyright against itself, but only if it is directed against those who would seek to re-suspend someone’s liberty or violate their privacy. However, people are beginning to believe that they have a right to seize the source code of anyone who publishes a GPL binary (mostly, the same people who believe copyright is a right rather than an unethical privilege).

This belief in a right to source code also betrays the motivation behind the Affero license and the AGPL which go even further to compel disclosure of source.

Want vs Freedom

There is a difference between:

  1. having a published work and not having freedom to it, and
  2. not having an unpublished work and yet wanting to have it.

Richard Stallman’s four freedoms should have been called three freedoms and a want.

  • Freedom 0: To run/use.
  • Want 1: To have the source code
  • Freedom 2: To copy/share.
  • Freedom 3: To modify.

Copyright doesn’t suspend freedom 0, although some licenses may exchange constraint upon use in exchange for partial restoration of freedom to copy/modify. Copyright only suspends freedoms 2 and 3.

The thing that suspends ‘want 1′ is not copyright, but privacy. The thing to remedy this is not compulsion or confiscation, but purchase (or gift).

This leads us to a somewhat more ethical set of principles concerning freedom:

  • Freedom 0: To use purchased/gifted software in any way.
  • Freedom 1: To be able to obtain source code for study or modification via a free market in which authors can offer to exchange their source code for money/goodwill offered by those who want it.
  • Freedom 2: To copy, share, sell, redistribute purchased/gifted software.
  • Freedom 3: To study, reverse engineer, or modify puchased/gifted binaries or source code, and use/share/sell/publish derivatives, etc.

All the above now need make no impairment to truth or privacy, nor should they.

No doubt one could also enumerate several things that arise out of rights to truth and privacy, but that’s for another day.

We can call truth & privacy respecting software that adheres to this revised set of ‘freedoms’ as ‘Ethical Software’.

‘Ethical Software’ as in ‘Software published in a free market by an author who may speak freely, is accurately attributed, and does not have their privacy violated except in order to protect life’.

Unfortunately, until the monopolies of copyright and patent are abolished we won’t have a free market.

Crosbie Fitch said 4275 days ago :

I would like to add that this post has been derived from a comment I posted on Rob Myer’s blog article Copyright and Marxism

Laurel L. Russwurm said 2844 days ago :

“people are beginning to believe that they have a right to seize the source code of anyone who publishes a GPL binary”

I don’t go along with seizing, but software published as a binary without including or making source code available is publishing something crippled. Although the binary may run without the source, it is incomplete.

Copyright does cause damage to culture by disincentivising the use of source materials. Once upon a time, culture existed without sales at all. You know, before the Statute of Anne.

Sales have nothing to do with it, beyond providing the motivation for copyright maximalism.

Copyright on published books gives the reader a published work without the freedom to use it as they choose. Just as a binary published without source code does.

Copyright was created as a method to enforce payment for use. Withholding the source code for additional payment does much the same thing.

Crosbie Fitch said 2840 days ago :

Well Laurel, there’s free culture as in free beer and free culture as in free speech. I only recognise the latter as natural and ethical.

I still can’t help recognising that a software engineer has a right to exchange their work for whatever price the market will bear. If you feel culture suffers as a consequence of such commercially driven selfishness, well, that’s an interesting contention, but I don’t think it outweighs an individual’s privacy, the author’s exclusive right to their writings.



 

About

Contact

Recent Articles

Recent Comments

Topics

Rights

Natural Right

Legal Rights

Life

Equality

Fraternity

Violence

Privacy

Being Privy

Confidentiality

Personal Data

Publication

Truth

Attribution

Authenticity

Moral Rights

Plagiarism

Representation

Veracity

Liberty

Censorship

Disclosure

Freedom of Speech

Freedom vs Liberty

Official Secrets Act

Piracy

Property

Apprehensibility

Facility

Identifiability

Copyright

Copyfarleft

Ineffectiveness

Modulation

Neutralisation

Patent

Software

US Constitution

'exclusive right'

Sanction

Contract

Inalienability

Licensing

NDA

Abolition

GPL

Business

Models

Incorporation

Immortality

No Rights

Regulation

Culture

Miscellany

Links

Principles

Amnesty International

Copyleft (Wikipedia)

Electronic Frontier

Free Culture F'n

Free Culture UK

Free S/w Foundation

Pontification

Against Monopoly

One Small Voice

Open...

P2Pnet

Question Copyright

Paragons

GratisVibes

Jamendo

SourceForge

Wikipedia

Protagonists

Downhill Battle

Publishers vs Public

Proof

Rethinking Copyright

Papers

Against Monopoly

Ecstasy of Influence

Libertarian Case

Post-Copyright

Practitioners

Janet Hawtin

Nina Paley

Rob Myers

Scott Carpenter