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The Ultimate EULA · Friday February 27, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Cory Doctorow suggests that the ‘ultimate EULA’ is simply “Don’t violate copyright law”. That seems to be a mixture of “Don’t violate an author’s rights”, “Don’t infringe copyright”, and “Obey the law”. The first is sufficient, but it is an admonition, not a license.

A license restores liberty to the purchaser/owner of the copy that is otherwise suspended by copyright.

A license is not a contract of sale, nor a means of the copyright holder being able to reach out and bind passers by.

The purchaser of the copy already has the copy and their liberty (save that derogated from it by copyright). The license can only restore their liberty, in whole or part, even if with conditions. It cannot further suspend the purchaser’s liberty. After all, liberty is inalienable, one could not contract it away even if one wanted to.

A license may also contain or have attached a pro-forma contract that the owner of the copy could agree to at any future date should they wish to (assuming it to be valid), but by the definition of ‘agreement’ or ‘contract’, the purchaser cannot be coerced, or tricked into it by dint of an action they are at liberty to perform in any case.

The shortest license is no license.

The fairest license is a copyleft license.

The shortest, fairest, and simplest license is the libertarian license: You are free to take any liberties you wish with my published work, with but one constraint: The liberties you take may not be withheld from those to whom you give my work (or your combined/derivative work), who you must similarly constrain.

Even better and simpler would be to abolish copyright.

Steve R. said 3129 days ago :

It may seem simple and has motherhood appeal. What is not obvious is that copyright law has been evolving to favor the content creator at the expense of the content consumer. A law that is to be respected, must be based on a recognition that both sides have rights that should not be violated.

Crosbie Fitch said 3129 days ago :

I agree, Steve.

Law does not precede rights. Law follows from rights and is intended to specify how those rights should be protected and violations remedied. Law cannot create ‘rights’, only privileges. People respect each others’ rights and the law that protects their rights equally, they cannot respect a law that privileges publishers.

So, in addition to recognising their natural rights, people should also recognise that they should not have their rights derogated by the state to privilege publishers, nor can they reserve, or unreserve their rights, which would still be intuitive if their rights hadn’t been polluted by transferable privileges abusively termed as ‘rights’.

Someone recently ‘explained’ to me that no system of rights could be without inherent conflict (commerce vs liberty) – as if this was sufficient excuse for publishing corporations to wield copyright against innocent families (guilty only of enjoying their cultural liberty). On the contrary, natural rights are a priori without inherent conflict. Conflict can only then occur between people, rather than between their natural rights and ‘legal rights’ (privileges).

And this is why it’s time to abolish those ‘legal rights’ of copyright and patent that inherently conflict with people’s natural right to liberty.

 

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