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Defining Publication · 4890 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Publication is the act of transferring the ownership of private intellectual property to the general public.

Copyright is a grant of a time limited monopoly on reproduction of intellectual property to the private owner in exchange for its publication.

This monopoly is at odds with the public’s ownership of this IP and freedom from restraint to enjoy its own property, including the production of derivative works thereof.

This is exacerbated by the extension of the term of this monopoly from a couple of decades to a couple of centuries.

It is time for the true and original definition of publication to be reasserted:

Publication is the act of transferring the ownership of private intellectual property to the general public, without encumbrance, let or hindrance.

That includes ‘without grant of monopoly over its reproduction’.

This does not conflict with privacy or truth.

Free Culture is not necessarily free · 4868 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Free Culture is not about art that is free of charge, but art that is free from encumbrance or burden.

Free Culture fully embraces the idea of musicians or any other artists, being paid for their work, and being able to sell their work.

Free Culture simply means that people who’ve obtained such work legitimately are not constrained from reproducing it, reselling it, repackaging it, sampling it, or making derivatives, and certainly don’t have any obligation to pay royalties.

Nevertheless, the choice to charge or not charge for their work still remains with the artist. Free Culture does not require that artists must work for nothing, nor that their work and copies thereof can never be charged for. Anyone can walk into a shop, buy a copy of RedHat Linux, produce two copies, keep one, and sell one of them to a friend – without committing a crime. However, they would still be guilty of shoplifting if they didn’t pay for the shop’s copy.

The key distinction of Free Culture is about unconstrained copying and derivation, not that everything must be free of charge. Thus, among other things, the choice to charge or not charge for copies, now rests with the owner of each copy, and not the original artist (a privilege copyright was supposed to confer).

There may well be some obscure puritanical movement that seeks to define a certain sacred form of art that must be prohibited (legally or otherwise) from involvement in any barter or financial transaction throughout its entire lifecycle, whether to the artist’s or anyone else’s benefit. However, that is not the Free Culture movement.

You are always free to charge for Free Culture.

Strypey said 1081 days ago :

There are art movements that encourage people to make and share art through participation not publication or promotion (eg see Hakim Bey’s writing on ‘immediatism’), and political movements like the situationists (and certain flavours of anarchists) who believe that in the ideal society art (and everything) would be shared free of charge. However, in all the cases I’m aware of, they see this as coming about through the majority of people voluntarily changing the social agreements about how art and exchange work, rather than any kind of ban being imposed on currency, markets, and trade.

Even the Soviet Union using rationing tokens of some kind to mediate the exchange of scarce items, and was totally unable to prevent a thriving black market in consumer goods, just as most countries today are totally unable to prevent the black market in recreational drugs.

Crosbie Fitch said 1079 days ago :

It’s really the other way around.

Society is naturally at liberty to share cultural and technological knowledge, and to exchange labour for whatever the market will bear, e.g. to write a song for money.

So it is not society that makes the rules against this natural order, but government, and it does so with the pretence that it is by the will of the people, or by their consent, that the people surrender their liberty to share and build upon their own culture, that the state and its corporations may profit from the consequent monopoly rents they can exact (selling people that which they were born with, their liberty, back to them piecemeal – qv ‘license’).

It is copyright and patent that are ‘black’. Thus a market that ignores or lacks such state monopolies is a free market, not a black market.

Copyright Cannot be Coerced into Kindness · 4863 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Copyright only has teeth if you’re either wealthy or a publisher and your infringer is either wealthy or a publisher (or poor, and you’re a sadist).

90% of the power within copyright enforced copyleft licenses does not come from copyright’s teeth, but from peer pressure and opprobrium. The other 10% comes from fear and superstitious awe of this legal anachronism.

If you’ve no intention of courting or prosecuting a publisher, either now or in the future, then you do not need copyright, you only need peer pressure and opprobrium as backup.

Publish your art as free culture, and the public will protect what’s theirs.

You don’t need to put the frighteners on your fellow man.

Copyright does not respect our human right to artistic freedom.

Freeculture does.

When you set your art free, state this intent clearly.

Solo artists:
This is a work of free culture. It respects all artists equally: those whose work I build upon, myself, and those who build upon my work. I hope some day you’ll join us.

This is a work of free culture. It respects all artists equally: those whose work we build upon, ourselves, and those who build upon our work. We hope some day you’ll join us.

drew Roberts said 4706 days ago :

Personally, I like copyleft.

For a few reasons.

I am not to thrilled at the thought of some big copyright holder making a derivative of my works and closing them off to me and trying to sell them back to me.

BTW, if it is not public domain, it is copyright whether we like it or not in most places right?

Using a copyleft, builds in some incentive for the big players to curtail their constant requests for copyright extensions. They will at some point want to get their hands on the good copyleft works.

I am not sure we have found the best terms yet for copyright works that are not code. (Or code for that matter, but different thoughts come to mind for each.)

As to bringing suits, while I may not personally, there would be nothing stopping me from making a deal to assign my copyright to someone who might then do it. The threat is real. In my country now, if my lawer friend explained it to me right, you can get I think 4 or 5 years for being in posession of a knock off CD or DVD which you purchased thinking it was the genuine, approved article.

all the best,


(+1)/10 to send email…

Crosbie Fitch is a Copyright Abolitionist · 4834 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Many people have grown so used to copyright over the last few centuries that this privilege seems to be entrenched in the popular consciousness as an author’s inalienable right.

Anyone challenging copyright is therefore immediately perceived as a sociopathic pariah who would commit the ultimate treason against our creative commonwealth by reducing authors’ rights – what precious few they have remaining.

Au contraire

Copyright is not an author’s right, but a publisher’s privilege!

The true right is the author’s right to copy. This right has been forcibly surrendered by the state from the people en masse in order that publishers may sell it back, piecemeal or to each other.

Copyright abolitionists do not want to remove author’s rights, if anything they seek to restore them by re-establishing freedoms that have steadily been eroded over the last century or so.

There are four human rights:

  1. Life
  2. Privacy
  3. Truth
  4. Freedom

Privacy includes the right an individual has to exclusive control over the fruits of their labour, and those of others they’ve received in exchange, whilst they remain within their private possession.

Publication is the deliberate act of transferring ownership of private intellectual property to the public. The modern idea that a publisher continues to own intellectual property even after they’ve published it is a grievous corruption of the concept of ‘publication’.

Copyright was introduced in a bygone era to interfere with publication in the short-sighted attempt to contrive a collective payment in exchange for the published work. Unfortunately, the relatively brief period in which this was supposed to occur has extended from a few years to over a century – effectively, there is only collective payment and no exchange or delivery of the art to the public – a veritable scam, especially as this now unlimited period applies to each copy, not the first publication date. Who keeps original copies after a couple of centuries?

Truth includes the right an author has to be identified as the author of their own work, and not that of another. This effectively gives them the right to have their works’ integrity preserved, i.e. that another’s derivative of their work is not misrepresented as that of the original author even if by implication, context, or omission.

Freedom includes the right any author has to copy or create derivatives of any other author’s work. Abolishing copyright would restore this right.

I am a copyright abolitionist. I am a proponent of free culture. I would see the rights restored to artists that mankind has enjoyed since we first spoke or sketched symbols in the sand.

Without copyright, the only issue is the matter of collective payment. Fortunately the Internet can enable this to occur in days instead of years.

More fortunately still, we don’t even need to wait for copyright to be abolished, we can self publish our work copyleft today and see it instantaneously diffused among our audience – and with no help needed from traditional publishers.

Copyright is dead. Long live the right to copy!

A Free Culture Quandry · 4833 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

If an artist expects to publish a work copyleft, but publishes a preview under a more restrictive license with an invitation for the audience to collectively purchase its copyleft publication, does that sit well with the principles of Free Culture?

With software we have the GPL which becomes redundant with the abolition of copyright (no incentive to keep s/w dev proprietary or weapons to prosecute this).

However, the deliberate use of copyright to preclude commercial exploitation until the copyleft release fee is paid seems to be a halfway house.

I’m obliquely referring to CC-NC-SA, which is share-alike, but asserts no commercial exploitation. It is effectively saying “By all means build upon my preview, but you won’t be able to make any money until I’ve made mine (unless you deal with me direct)”.

I much prefer the “Publish copyleft first, build up an audience who then fund the artist’s subsequent copyleft releases – without any pre-release phase”. That’s because this still works without copyright.

I’m wary of encouraging a proliferation of non-commercial culture given that this can make it particularly tricky for any artist to chase down the provenance of their work in order to sell their derivative.

One could say that this is what copyright was originally supposed to do, i.e. provide the artist with a few years in which to obtain this collective purchase, after which their ‘preview’ would automatically become public domain, whether they’d received the desired level of revenue or not.

There’s an example of someone releasing a CC-NC-SA preview here:
Free the Pig

Details here: dustrunners.blogspot.com

So, you can read the book, and if you think it’s worth procuring for free culture you can make a $20 pledge – which in this case gets you a physical, signed copy of the book too.

Scott C. said 4831 days ago :

Thanks, Crosbie—this is a great explanation of the problems with the NC clause that will be good to have as a reference—something I can pull out of my pocket to spread the word. (I followed you back here from Mr. Andrews’s web site—looking forward to reading more of your stuff.)

drew Roberts said 4706 days ago :

I think I am just as OK with it as keeping it private until the amout to copyleft it is raised.

I may even experiment with this myself at some point.

For it to be on the level though, the amount should be set and verification of the amount should be in a trusted third parties hands.

It may even need to be a combo time and amount deal so that even if the amount is not raised, the work goes copyleft in 10 years or whatever.

I was trying an experiment with photos with higher res versions going copyleft as certain amounts were collected, this was not viable because of how the CC license license the “work” so I have not puched that experiment much lately.

all the best,


(+1)/10 to send email.

drew Roberts said 4705 days ago :

I have thought about this some more and have a tweak.

I don’t lilke NC much at all as you can see if you care to track down my comments on the CC mailing lists that I am on.

NC-SA is one of the worst.

So, for a closed now, group pay a total of X to copyleft plan, NC-ND might be preferred. This would make things more clear. Don’t even try to build upon this until it goes copyleft.

I have talked on the CC lists about the possibilities of ‘built in the license’ timed release to copyleft and perhaps I have talked there about money release to copyleft as well.

Nothing much came of it though.

all the best,


(+1)/10 for emailing

Understanding Private vs Public · 4824 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

  • Your private intellectual property is yours.
  • My private intellectual property is mine.
  • When we publish our intellectual property, it belongs to the public.

All private intellectual property is derived from public intellectual property. And yes, even our common DNA is public intellectual property – each person has their own private derivative, which is their own private property until they publish it.

If you privately derive something from a public work, that derivative is your private intellectual property. You are the owner of everything in your private domain. It is wholly yours until you publish it.

I have noticed twice recently, that IP reformists are failing to see the distinction between the private domain and the public domain. It seems that they perceive a problem with intellectual property itself, rather than the inequitous property-like nature of the privilege that copyright grants publishers over public property.

There is no wrong in private entities owning private intellectual property, nor in the public owning public intellectual property. Each is master of their domain. This is the natural order of things.

There are two ways in which this can go wrong:

  1. Private entities attempting to control, or otherwise retain ownership of, the private intellectual property that they publish.
  2. The public attempting to control, or otherwise retain ownership of, public intellectual property in private hands.

If enforcement of such controls is attempted, it is effectively a violation of our human rights to privacy and liberty.

In the last few centuries when only a very few publishers were in a position to distribute or reproduce published works, the economic incentivisation experiment that is copyright wasn’t too widely perceived by the public as significantly impinging upon their privacy or liberty. However, now that everyone is in a position to produce copies or derivative works (privately or publicly), the fact that copyright does indeed impact our liberty and privacy is becoming ever more apparent.

Copyright not only violates our freedom in prohibiting us from publishing reproductions or derivatives of published works, it also violates our privacy by prohibiting us from preparing derivatives of published works in the privacy of our own homes.

What’s Could Possibly be Wrong with Intellectual Property?

Some people don’t think the problem is with copyright, but with the very notion of intellectual property itself. These people say that intellectual property is a figment of the imagination, a contradiction in terms.

I don’t believe this is actually the case, the contradiction only occurs because people have attempted to disassociate publication from relinquishing ownership.

The contradiction in terms occurs when a private entity seeks to assert continued ownership of intellectual property they have published. Copyright would appear to convey some aspects of such control by dint of a privileged monopoly, but without copyright, there is no logical basis upon which such control could be expected. You control what you possess, not that which you have given into the possession of another. And publication is delivering your work to the public.

So when people challenge the very concept of intellectual property, what they should be doing instead is challenging the idea that published works can remain the intellectual property of the publisher. Such works are still intellectual property, but naturally, and in the digital age, inescapably public intellectual property.

The fallacy IP maximalists nefariously propagate is to ascribe some distinct quality of ownership over artistic works in the belief that this can be maintained separately from the works themselves. It is as ridiculous as believing that one can piss in the ocean and yet still retain title to each molecule until it is relinquished. The ocean owns your water as much as the public owns your publications. If you would retain control, don’t publish – keep your product private and it remains yours alone.

Intellectual Property Does Exist

So, intellectual property does indeed exist, and it is most sensible for it to exist.

N. Stephan Kinsella in his thesis Against Intellectual Pproperty seems to miss the clear, physical, property-like characteristics of private intellectual property.

He proposes that property must necessarily be tangible, that intangibles such as ideas or representations of them on an easily copied medium, cannot be apprehended and thus cannot be controlled and consequently do not fit the requirements for property.

I disagree. The nature of property is not so much whether it is tangible or intangible, but whether one can have exclusive physical control over it. This clearly applies to tangible works. However, it also applies to intangible works whilst they remain wholly within the creator’s private demesne.

For example:

I may possess a secret, it is mine to control until I publish it. I may confide it to another, and then two of us possess it – shared ownership if you will. It nevertheless is clearly within our control, and none are clearly entitled to wrest it from us. If someone does seek to obtain it, perhaps to find it recorded within a diary, then they are as much a thief of this secret as a burglar would be of a necklace. However, if either of us choose to publish this secret, it patently transfers ownership of it to the public. What conceit could lead anyone to presume the secret remains theirs to control? How could they think that they should continue to dictate who may tell it to whom, or who may print it?

I will concede that a secret, once published and transformed into public property, cannot easily be returned to the state of private property, but that is simply due to the scale of the distribution, the consequent timescale for any reversal, and typically the reluctance of the public to relinquish its property.

Public Property Does Not Oblige Public Use

Public intellectual property is public precisely in order that it may be freely used in private. It belongs to each citizen to do with as they please. They can privately reproduce it, or make private derivations for their own use or amusement. This is because private use does not remove something from the public, it permits our creative skills free rein without public scrutiny or criticism. The choice to make our private work public is part of our human right to privacy. However much the public may be interested to see the work that is done in private, it has no right to it, irrespective of the fact that all private work is based upon public work.

Just as the creator of a private work has no right to control how the public use it once published, so the public also has no right to control how a citizen uses a public work in private.

The public may not restrict private use of its property, nor place obligations upon the private user.

GPL v3 must not be seduced into violation of privacy

GPL v3 is in danger of overreaching its remit, by exploiting copyright’s reach into the private domain.

Copyright prohibits private copies and derivatives, irrespective of how feasible the policing of this may be. How can one artist publish a work and thenceforth have not only control over it in the public domain, but also have control over it in everyone’s private domain? It is an intrinsic violation of privacy. Everyone should be free to create, duplicate, or derive any works of art in their private domain. No-one should have a right to invade or violate another’s privacy in order to police the use of their published work.

Because GPL v3 is based on copyright, and is being steered by some towards an agenda that compels public visibility at all costs, even over an individual’s freedom and privacy, it may take advantage of copyright’s intrinsic privacy violations to accomplish this.

GPL v2 was good in that it didn’t seek to control private use, it merely required that any published copy or derivative work retained the same freedoms as the original. GPL v2 effectively neutered copyright, by not only removing restrictions on free use and derivation, but also ensuring that no-one could re-instate them. GPL v2 emancipated software. This was better than the BSD license, which didn’t prevent re-instatement of copyright on derivatives.

Unfortunately, some people have decided that the GPL should mandate openness, rather than freedom. They see the strength of the GPL not in nullifying copyright, but in obliging visible, collaborative development processes. I’d suggest that visible, collaborative development processes are simply a natural consequence of copyright’s nullification, and do not need to be enforced. There is no further encouragement needed, or restriction to be removed. To actually go so far as to seek to prohibit private use and development is to lose sight of the ‘free’ in free software, and stoop to churlishness.

There are some who believe that it is inherently wrong or unfair for private entities to exploit public intellectual property. I call these people ‘gift economists’, people who believe that GPL software is necessarily created by gifted labour, and is consequently the proprietary property of the development community, and should not be commercially exploited by any private business without authorisation, e.g. purchase of a commercial use license. This is simply the proprietary mentality switched round, and just as bad. Given copyright has been with us so long, it shouldn’t be too surprising that people continue to have difficulty with the idea that they do not have a right to control how other’s use their published intellectual property. So, there are some GPL advocates who believe the goal of the GPL is to permit a public community to possess intellectual property and retain control over how it is used in private.

GPL v3 is in danger of appeasing these advocates by exploiting the restrictions copyright grants even over private use. One of these is in requiring private derivatives to preserve any mechanism that obliges on-demand delivery of source code to any user. How on earth is a restriction on private derivative use increasing the people’s freedom? Especially one that deliberately compromises their privacy.

One argument is that public use of a private derivative is unfair exploitation unless this derivative is published. These are the gift economists talking again, pursuing reciprocity rather than freedom “You can’t use our IP unless you pay in kind”.

Another argument is that public use should be included within the definition of publication. However, this doesn’t logically follow. Just as public use of a machine is not publication of the machine’s designs, so public use of software is not publication of the software (source code or binary derivatives). If the machine was ‘published’ by being reproduced and sold, then each machine could be considered to represent an instance of the design and each new owner should be entitled to it. However, if the machine remains in private hands, then neither it nor its design is being published.

Keep Free Software Free!

The freedom free software should be concerned with is that of the public. This also means respecting their privacy, and their right to freedom within it. The GPL should grant freedoms to the public, and prevent their removal from subsequent publications. It should certainly not impose restrictions on private derivation in order to serve some other agenda that pursues source code visibility or IP equity rather than freedom.

Free software belongs to the public who are free to do anything with it they want in public or private, but may not introduce restrictions on publications of their copies or derivatives (which includes withholding or obscuring the source code).

John Cowan said 4823 days ago :

I think you seriously overstate the case against the GPLv3, which does not by any means require the publication of private source code, and is in fact much more careful not to do so than many free software licenses.

It merely permits someone else to impose such a restriction on modified code without making it incompatible with the GPLv3. So if Alice writes a web application with a “Push here for source code” button, and requires that this button be functional in all derivative works (which is a requirement the GPLv3 does not make), Bob can safely incorporate Alice’s work into his larger work published under the GPLv3, and Alice’s requirement is imposed on him and anyone who wishes to modify his work.

But if Bob doesn’t use Alice’s work, he need have no such button.

Crosbie Fitch said 4823 days ago :

Unlike GPLv2, GPLv3 is permitting a new class of software that has fewer freedoms. This new class of software seeks to enforce a restriction even on private derivatives.

Just that fact alone, that the GPLv3 would encroach into the private domain, is a dismaying development.

The idea of the GPL is to preserve freedom in software and in PUBLICATION of derivatives, not simply to give people the choice as to whether to do so (as the BSD does).

To even permit some users of the GPL to add clauses that restrict private derivatives is a departure from the principles in GPLv2.

I really do think the Affero license and the GPL should remain distinct as the former seeks to prevent private use or derivation, i.e. it obliges continuous publication.

Obviously license harmonisation leads to a simpler life, but if you take it too far you’ll end up with the BSD.

Affero and GPLv2 are incompatible in their respect for privacy. It is a mistake for GPLv3 to attempt to become Affero compatible.

dave crossland said 4725 days ago :

For me, GPLv3 represents fixing the ways that GPLv2 has become broken over time. Proprietary interests have worked out several ways to break the spirit of the GPL without the exact legal terms, and fixing it is very important.

One of the most basic ways that proprietary interests have broken the General Public License, that defends the public’s rights to freedom in the software they use, is to use networks to evade the distribution clauses of GPLv2.

A developer can receive GPLv2 software, modify and improve it with new powerful features, and allow the public to use their modified version, without offering the corresponding source code. How can this be? They hide in the shadow of “private” modification, despite conveying their software the public, because the software interacts with its users through a network, but runs on their private computers. This is widely known as the ‘Application Service Provider loophole’.

In my opinion it is unethical and unsustainable, just like proprietary software would be on my own computer.

In 2002 this issue first surfaced with the publication of the Affero GPL.
—8<—Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 09:24:38 -0700 (MST)
From: Richard Stallman rms@gnu.org
To: nelson@crynwr.com
CC: bruce@perens.com, brian@collab.net, license-discuss@opensource.org,
moglen@columbia.edu, board@opensource.org, rms@gnu.org
Subject: Re: OSD modification regarding what license can require of user

The reason we’ve decided that this ASP requirement is legitimate is
that it is a matter of requiring making the modified source code
available in a case of public use. It extends existing GPL
requirements coherently to a new scenario of usage.

It would be wrong to require publication of modified versions
that are used privately, but inviting the public to use a server
is not private use.—8<—- http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Licensing_and_Law/gplv3-plans.html

However, the FSF attitude appears to have changed:

“any attempt to interfere with the right to keep those subsequent modifications private, interferes with the right of private execution and private modification, rights that are not to be tampered with.”

– http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3/barcelona-moglen-transcript.en.html
(I know this is slightly out of context)


“We thought about putting some kind of clause like that into GPL version 3 but we decided that would be too drastic to put it on all GPL covered programs”

– http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3/barcelona-rms-transcript.en.html#affero-clause

I understand that this clause remains a controversial requirement both in the individual and corporate free software communities, but I wonder why it is felt to be too drastic.

To me, the final paragraph of Richard’s email is quite straightforward, while Eben’s comment is in error, because Affero clauses ought not to intefere with the right to keep those subsequent modifications private; they should only intefere with the right to use the software publically in a way which denies the public its rights – just as the GPL has always done.

Unfortunately, the current wording of this section is flawed in this way, because “through a computer network” is too broad. As Eben has said, “the right of private execution and private modification … are not to be tampered with”. Instead it could simply be “through a public computer network”; this would clearly defend truely private modification.

While you also make this distinction, you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Also, defining clearly what “network session” means is also important. Perhaps this could be “any of the applicable methods in section (6)”, as would ‘network session’ include a bittorrent download? New forms of distribution like Bittorrent have also broken the GPLv2, and are being fixed in GPLv3. No doubt more new forms will emerge in the future.

Perhaps “users” needs defining too – I woudl say, “a user is some one who uses the software” – it must not be able to be broken to mean a person who uses the softare on his local machine, and in some way exclude people who use the software through the network.

Summary: I am sad to see this clause as optional and not included in the main text of GPLv3. It also has some problems but these can be easily fixed.

I am saddened that the FSF no longer feels the ASP requirement is legitimate. I do not understand why its attitude has changed, why it is now felt to be ‘too drastic’. I feel it should be part of the GPLv3 as standard, or at least the reasons for the FSFs change in attitude published.

Though I’d readily accept a private explanation if it was thought to be too political to publicly announce. Might it be “too political” or “too drastic” because it would disenfranchise corporate patrons like Google? I’ve met Free Software developers who have declined to discuss this because of who their current employer is.

Crosbie Fitch said 4725 days ago :

Dave, you say “A developer can receive GPLv2 software, modify and improve it with new powerful features, and allow the public to use their modified version, without offering the corresponding source code.”

However, no software has actually been distributed to the public user. The GPL is not about ensuring users of software get copies of it, but about ensuring that people who do receive copies or derivative copies of software aren’t constrained by law, DRM or obfuscation as to what they can do with it.

In your case, the user has not been given a copy of the software that enables them to provide this interactive service on their own server.

Because they don’t have a copy, the user’s freedom is not being constrained by an artifical economic incentive or commercial privilege (copyright, patent, DMCA). They have a choice to use the service or purchase a copy. The GPL does not require copies to be given away free of charge (not free beer).

The developer is enjoying their freedom to demonstrate, exploit, or sell their private modifications for any price they can get for them. Free software as in liberty, not as in free of charge. If the private mods are so good they’re worth paying for, then buy them. You have no right to demand that the developer surrender their work free of charge, nor to prevent them exploiting the fruits of their labour.

So, if a user accepts an invitation to interact with someone else’s private computing facilities through a terminal, then they accept the constraint that private facilities are being used that remain inaccessible to them. If the user requires a copy of the software behind the facilities then they can purchase a copy, and thanks to the GPL, consequently enjoy complete freedom to exploit them in the same way, or if they really want to, publish that software free of charge.

This has been the same for any GPL program. You can take a GPL program, privately modify it, and use it say to manage accounts for many clients. None of those clients has a right to a copy of your private modifications simply because their receipts and invoices are data input, and the software’s output is given to them as a print-out.

Producing an interactive service that simulates the experience of a locally running application is nevertheless distinct from having a locally running application. Either purchase GPL software for a locally running application, or if you would like to offer a local application simulation service then purchase such a GPL based local application simulation service.

Not having access to someone’s private domain is NOT an imposition on your liberty, it’s simply the boundary of the public domain within which the GPL assures your freedom. The GPL does not grant you access to everyone’s private domain (nor should it).

The reason that SaaS (software as a service) is considered unfair only arises from a reciprocation perspective (which is not the same as emancipation). If you consider you donate your private modifications to the public free of charge on the understanding that everyone else’s private modifications will be donated to the public free of charge in turn, THEN you would indeed have a legitimate grievance with SaaS being in conflict with your expectations. However, this reciprocation is a distinct concept from liberty, it would involve a social contract, a bargain that all people agree to. Copyright is another such social contract, i.e. that we all agree not to make copies, but to buy them or borrow them.

Liberating the public from the social contracts of copyright, patents, and DMCA, is what free software is about. If you want to go further and prohibit public exploitation of private modifications, then you need a distinct license such as the APL or HPL that exploits copyright’s unethical reach into the private domain to prohibit private derivatives (forces them to be published on demand and free of charge).

drew Roberts said 4705 days ago :

“The developer is enjoying their freedom to demonstrate, exploit, or sell their private modifications for any price they can get for them.”

And I think I agree with the developer that is honestly doing this being OK. I have a problem with the developer who has not intention of selling the mods at any price but rather of making his profits from the “demonstrations.”

I am not sure I agree with the exploit word in your above thought.

If someone were to do that to GPL programs that I have released, I would feel that they were exploiting me in ways that I do not wish to be exploited. I would be happy to see this “loophole” plugged.

I am not sure I have thought it through fully, but I see private mods as properly being mods that are used privately by the entity.

How would one write a clause that would allow good faith demonstrations while not allowing the ASP option as the main plan?

“You have no right to demand that the developer surrender their work free of charge, nor to prevent them exploiting the fruits of their labour.”

Ah, yes I do if it based on my code. A legal right in any case, once I release my underlying work with a license that spells things out. If that developer want additional rights, he can negotiate with me. What right does he have to demand more from me for free?

“This has been the same for any GPL program. You can take a GPL program, privately modify it, and use it say to manage accounts for many clients.”

This is not in any way similar to the case I object to. (It is to my mind, a straw man.) Bully for you if you can do this. You are doing the work. leasing out my software for your clients to do the work on is another matter.

Look, I think that using your theory, the GPL could be totally gutted by just having an entity put GPL programs that have been provately modified on their computers, and then leasing those computers to clients with the computers to be installed on the clients premises.

“They have a choice to use the service or purchase a copy. The GPL does not require copies to be given away free of charge (not free beer).”

Wher is it a given that there will be a copy available to purchase? I do not, and rightly so, have to sell anyone a copy of my provately modified GPL programs.

I look forward to this discussion.

all the best,


(+1)/10 to send email…

IP is Indeed Property · 4813 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Property is that which you physically and exclusively control, and have created or otherwise have a natural right to. It is something that you can exchange or can give to another. Try not to focus beyond that.

To make it easier to explain, an example of such property is a secret formula you write in a diary.

You could sell this formula to someone if they were convinced only you had it and it was valuable. Once you’ve sold it, it is no longer your secret.

It doesn’t matter that you haven’t destroyed your diary. The property was the secret, and you no longer have that secret.

It doesn’t matter that what you sold was transformed in the process of exchange (from a secret to a ‘restricted knowledge distribution’), you and the purchaser considered the exchange equitable. You now have more money instead of a secret. They have a formula which they didn’t have before, and less money.

This buyer, could instead have burgled your house, taken a photo of your diary, and thereby STOLEN your secret.
It doesn’t matter whether you knew about this or not, the fact remains that the burglar had to breach your privacy and property in order to remove something of value from you. You lost the secret.

Naturally, owners of secrets are conscious that they may be stolen without their knowledge and are sensitive to clues that theft may have occurred, e.g. previously keen purchasers suddenly claiming they’ve found someone else who also has a good formula.

Unfortunately, copyright makes people think that all intellectual property is a pretence, even private intellectual property. This is because copyright is about pretending that public intellectual property is still privately owned when it plainly isn’t. So, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when you ignore copyright. You’re reclaiming the public’s rightful ownership of published intellectual property, you are not also claiming ownership of people’s private intellectual property – that’s still theirs to keep or sell.

drew Roberts said 4656 days ago :

“Property is that which you physically and exclusively control, and have created or otherwise have a natural right to. It is something that you can exchange or can give to another. Try not to focus beyond that.”

Sorry, I want to focus beyond that.

The problem I have is that what you are calling property here cannot be stolen from you.

Unless, perhaps, you are willing to stipulate that is is the secretness itself and not the subject matter of the secret which is your property?

Or unless perhaps I steal the diary with the secret formula and you have actually forgotten it?

Otherwise, I can wrongly convert your secret knowledge to public knowledge, but I cannot take the knowledge itself from you.

What other property behaves in this fashion?

all the best,


Thomas Jefferson Agrees · 4809 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac McPherson, Monticello, August 13, 1813

An Artist's Hippocratic Oath · 4807 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

I wonder if perhaps it’s not only art that should be identified as free of encumbrance, but artists too?

Perhaps artists should be able to declare themselves fully committed proponents of free culture?

After all, isn’t it an artist whose reputation is at stake, not merely their art?

We need some oath that declares an absolute respect for truth, privacy, and artistic freedom.

I mentioned something similar on SlashDot recently. Perhaps something could be refined along these lines?

“I will not accept the enslavement of my fellow man, nor any imposition upon his liberty, as reward for the publication of my art”

This can be fleshed out, e.g. having qualifications that copyright will not be used except in order to preserve artistic freedom, that patents would not be used except in order to prevent the exercise of derivative patents, that DRM/DMCA would never be used, etc.

However, we’d need to emphasise the respect for accurate attribution (which includes respect for laudable use of trademarks), and the privacy of other people (artists) and their organisations.

For some strange reason some people think commercial secrets are inherently evil, and yet they have no impact upon the freedom of the public – unless you believe people should have the freedom to violate another’s right to privacy. So, we’d need to clarify a respect for commercial secrets (as for all undisclosed information). This is obviously distinct from any ethical argument concerning whistle-blowers acting in the public good. We’d need to clarify that ‘liberating’ a pre-production release of Star Wars Episode 7 does not actually count as acting in the public good…

Scott C. said 4806 days ago :

Perhaps artists should be able to declare themselves fully committed proponents of free culture?

Of course they should be able to, if they want to.

Although, if an employer is an abuser of software patents, I would hope that any employee who is committed to free software would be looking for another employer ASAP. I don’t think there is a need for an oath to quit immediately. Maybe I’m just being safe and pragmatic. Still, I think you can be committed to free software and culture without putting your livelihood at stake on a moment’s notice.

What would you hope to gain with this oath—to put some pressure on a company to behave better?

Freedom is on the March! (Or at least in the planning stages…)

Crosbie Fitch said 4806 days ago :

Putting one’s livelihood on the line might as well be declared up front as a declaration of integrity, and not least a warning to less scrupulous employers or clients that the artist does actually have scruples.

It won’t be for everyone, by any means, but some people may be happy to advertise their principles, and be judged by them.

Scott C. said 4806 days ago :

I’m happy to advertise my belief in free software and a free society, but perhaps my idealism is qualified and my principles compromised if I don’t want to make that oath and stand by it. Of course, I’m just getting started with freedom practitioning and agitation and maybe haven’t read enough Eben Moglen yet to let go of my inhibitions.

I can say I absolutely wouldn’t work for a company that abused software patents. I think software patents are a huge threat to freedom. And we should probably flee from this kind of company anyway, for more pragmatic reasons if nothing else, if we agree with what Paul Graham said:

“A company that sues competitors for patent infringement is like a defender who has been beaten so thoroughly that he turns to plead with the referee. You don’t do that if you can still reach the ball, even if you genuinely believe you’ve been fouled. So a company threatening patent suits is a company in trouble.”

Using the GPL is not a loss of rights, but a restoration · 4792 days ago by Crosbie Fitch

Anyone who uses the GPL does not give any of their rights away.

Rights are inalienable.

If you can remember your history lessons, the state in its arrogant wisdom decided to trample upon people’s rights by instituting copyright – this suspended the public’s right to copy or derive new works from published works for a ‘limited time’, in order to incentivise publication.

There are a variety of approaches you, as a software developer, can take to make amends, but all you can do is to license back more or less of the public’s rights to the work you publish. You cannot actually give away any of the rights you already have, and you certainly can’t wrest back, simply by fiat, your rights that have been suspended by the state.

Your options:

  1. If you don’t publish, if you don’t let anyone see your work, that’s you enjoying your right to privacy. However, if you are making copies or derivatives from someone else’s published work without their permission, copyright still prohibits this. In this way, copyright even impacts your right to privacy.
  2. If you fully utilise copyright when you publish your work (you don’t provide any license), you’re exploiting copyright’s suspension of the public’s right to copy or modify your work.
  3. If you provide a typical proprietary license, you may be graciously permitting a backup copy or consequent use of a software patent, say, but you’re generally still exploiting copyright’s suspension of others’ rights to the software you’ve published.
  4. If you utilise the BSD license, you’re only restoring each licensee’s rights and not preserving the restoration of those rights for the public. You’re instead giving each licensee the choice as to whether to do this, how to license their copies or derivatives, i.e. giving them permission to keep suspended the public’s rights to make copies or derivatives.
  5. If you dedicate the software to the public domain, it’s not much different from the BSD, except that you make every member of the public a licensee in one fell swoop, and you’re also surrendering your status as copyright owner.
  6. If you utilise the GPL, you’re not only restoring licensees’ rights to your software that were removed by copyright or any software patents you may have, but are also ensuring they remain preserved to licensees of any copies or derivatives. When publishing GPL software, you effectively restore the public’s rights to it.

So, let’s get this straight. No-one gives any of their rights away. You simply decide how many of the public’s rights to your published work should remain suspended by copyright.

The GPL restores and preserves ALL of the public’s rights to your published work. When you utilise the GPL you are truly publishing your work in the original unadulterated sense of the word.

Until copyright and software patents are abolished, the GPL is thus the most ethical license to use when publishing your software. This is because it restores the public’s rights, and keeps it that way.

So, the GPL is not so much about your rights, but about everyone else’s. Nevertheless, you do restore to yourself your rights (as a member of the public) to everyone else’s published derivatives of your work. So, in a way, one can say that the GPL also restores rights back to you that are otherwise removed by default (under copyright).

This is why it’s ‘free’ – it restores the public’s freedom (and yours as a member of the public).

The GPL is an ethical license: “I believe the public should be free to enjoy my work, and should remain free – I PERMIT this by providing this license”

Note that while I think the GPL is useful for software, I do not think licensing is the best strategy for freeing culture in general. For that I recommend simply stating that one’s published work is free culture.

Scott C. said 4791 days ago :

No comment really about the GPL—I agree that it is a good and ethical license. Whenever I see those letters used in connection with software it makes me glad. (Like last night, when looking for an FTP client for the Mac, I found Cyberduck which appears to work great. I immediately felt at home seeing they were using the GPL and it certainly affected my decision to try—or in this case recommend someone else try—that particular program out of many that were listed at download.com. It still needs to prove itself as good software, of course, but I’m not the one using and evaluating it.)

In reference to your last note, I’ve thought about this for my own blog. I like the Creative Commons Share-Alike license and also admire the simplicity of your free culture statement. But I’m not sure what your statement means; if it tells us what it means to offer something as free culture. I think I know from reading your comments here and elsewhere what you mean, but your intention is ambiguous to me based only on the statement. I don’t know if it’s necessary to get hung up on a long legal license, but should we worry about potential misinterpretations of what it means to declare something is a work of free culture? Does it provide a loophole for those who don’t respect all artists equally? I suspect your answer might refer back to your Copyright Cannot be Coerced into Kindness post, that lawsuits wouldn’t be as effective as peer pressure anyways.

It gives me something to think about. Are we living in a world where we have to spell it out in legalese? One thing I like about the CC license is that when I visit sites with the CC logo, it is easy for me to check the url and quickly see what is being offered. (Unfortunately very often what is being offered are the Non-Commercial or No Derivatives clauses.) But maybe this is just a personal need to be rigidly analytical about it or a desire to pigeonhole.

Of course we’d like to live in a society where it’s just understood that anything published is free to be reused. That (again, published or expressed) ideas can’t be owned and controlled. Will we see this in our lifetime, or is it going to take a hundred years and a revolution or two?

Crosbie Fitch said 4791 days ago :

Thanks for picking me up on the ‘this is free culture’ issue. Perhaps one could build up an implicit association between an artist’s declaration and the CC-SA – for the benefit of lawyers or those worried by lawyers?

It’s time that artists and their audiences started rejecting the idea that they need to be worried about litigation when enjoying, exploring or evolving human culture.

As long as you don’t violate the truth or someone’s privacy, you should be free to enjoy culture. Perhaps if we start refusing to recognise anything except free culture, then non-free culture will wither on the vine? :-)

The thing is, people are now the publishers and people don’t need to prosecute traditional publishers, they simply reject any attempt by anyone to remove the public’s rights to free culture.

Scott C. said 4791 days ago :

Let’s hope non-freedom whithers away. ‘The Promise of a Post-Copyright World’ (which you linked to recently) describes how the stream of freely available material will get bigger and the proprietary stream won’t survive forever. There’s just this intermediate period where things are in question, and timelines are uncertain. People need to be aware of the history of copyright to start seeing why it should be an historical artifact and that we can do things better now. The “people are now publishers.” We may still need printers, but they don’t need the power that publishers formerly enjoyed. Now what we need are new filtering mechanisms to find the good stuff. Publishers used to help with this service, but again it doesn’t justify their power. And it wasn’t a great way to filter. It seems that post-publication filtering has to be better than pre-publication. Everyone should get to have their say. It’s up to the filters to help people find what is worth listening to.

drew Roberts said 4706 days ago :

To Scott C.

I am a GPL and CC BY-SA boy myself.

“but should we worry about potential misinterpretations of what it means to declare something is a work of free culture?”

Unfortunately, I think we do need to worry about this. And CC’s range of rights lumped under one common umbrella is not helping.

I have called repeatedly (it seems to me at least) for CC to adopt a Free CC logo etc. to allow those of us CC users who are concerned with Free to workd together without having to look at the link all the time to weed out those NC and ND works that personally just waste my time.

So far no response.

“Will we see this in our lifetime, or is it going to take a hundred years and a revolution or two?”

Well, I think the more the copyleft pool of works builds up, the more likely we are to see the copyright laws become more sensible.

all the best,


(+1)/10 to send email.




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