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You Can Oppose Copyright and Support Open Source 378

Posted by kdawson
from the point-counterpoint dept.
kfogel writes "I'm submitting 'Supporting Open Source While Opposing Copyright' as a response to Greg Bulmash's piece from yesterday. I think there were a number of flaws and mistaken assumptions in Bulmash's reasoning, and I've tried to address them in this rebuttal, which has undergone review from some colleagues in the copyright-reform community."
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You Can Oppose Copyright and Support Open Source

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  • Food fight! (Score:2, Funny)

    by iminplaya (723125)
    Have fun, y'all.
  • by kungfujesus (969971) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:31PM (#19031637)
    You can support BSD without supporting copyright, as it doesn't take advantage of many copyright protections. You can't support GPL without supporting copyright, as it would be unenforceable without copyright.
    • You can't support GPL without supporting copyright, as it would be unenforceable without copyright.

      Bullshit.

      It's possible to think that copyright is wrong, but accept the GPL as way of enforcing sharing while copyright exists. That's not an opinion I hold, but at least some seem to.
      • by Sam Ritchie (842532) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:18AM (#19031965) Homepage

        I think GP's point is valid: supporting both GPL-style sharing & copyright abolition is inconsistent, as they're mutually exclusive - if you're a genuine copyright abolitionist, you'd support BSD instead. I don't think it would be possible to enforce the particular flavour of sharing currently enabled by the GPL with no copyright. TFA appears to propose some sort of nebulous copyright replacement legislation which would enforce GPL sharing - I might be missing something obvious, but it seems likely that it would just be copyright by a different name.

        I suspect the intention would be for the copyright-that's-not-actually-copyright to tip the scales in favour of consumers, not-for-profit distribution etc, but exactly the same thing could be accomplished via copyright reform, so I'm curious as to how this approach could be copyright abolitionism at anything more than a technical level.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by timmarhy (659436)
          so your claiming the BSD license isn't any kind of copyright? i bet there's a few lawyers over at berkly that disagree...

          bottom line people. copyright is not bad. america's copyright LAWS are bad.

          • I consider it closer to 'no copyright' than the GPL is. Probably a bad example. I should have said "you'd put everything into the public domain" instead.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Daengbo (523424)
              I understand you, but disagree. If there were no copyright, then I could take back from anyone without asking, much like the GPL. I could decompile and use that source however I wanted. BSD works which have been closed under copyright don't allow that.

              See my post [slashdot.org] from the original story. RMS only created the GPL because there was copyright. If there hadn't been copyright, he wouldn't have needed it.
        • Actually on second thought, GPL advocates are just going to claim that the GPL is used to simulate a world with no copyright (I don't think it does), therefore there's no inconsistency. Under this scenario, TFA is definitely on the wrong track when it's going on about new GPL-enforcing laws to replace copyright.
        • by lewp (95638) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:41AM (#19032127) Journal

          Many folks feel that, while copyright is altogether a bad thing, as long as it does exist we should make the best of it by forcing commercial entities -- who grouse about stronger copyright legislation being needed to protect business/"innovation" on the one hand, while shoveling BSD/MIT/Artistic/whatever-licensed code into their products as fast as they can on the other -- onto a level playing field.

          Put another way, while you may want to get rid of copyright altogether when you can, if you are writing code now, you might choose the GPL because you don't want your code to put money into the pockets of the very people who will likely be fighting against you for copyright reform/abolition. Once copyright is gone, everybody has to "fight fair", insofar as anyone can be as "dirty" as they want with respect to using others' code without their sanction.

          I'm not one who has strong opinions for or against the GPL or BSD -- I see the logic on both sides: so you can choose to live as if there were essentially no copyright, the BSD way, and help your "enemy", or turn the law against the people who use it as a cudgel with the GPL -- but most GPL advocates I have talked to seem to be more of the mind that "I'm not going to let my Open Source code contribute to the bottom line of the very people who have forced us into this proprietary hell in the first place", rather than "I want to 'protect my innovation' by taking advantage of copyright law." More simply, it seems to be a defensive choice more than an offensive one.

          Either way, there are people both for and against copyright who choose both licenses regularly. I don't think, ultimately, what you feel about a world where there is no copyright has much to do with what license you choose for software right now. Most projects seem to choose their license with the practical considerations of the system we have in mind, rather than what they might like to see in the future.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by smartr (1035324)
          Neither BSD nor the GPL give a consistant vantage of what a copyright free world would be. The GPL portrays a more idealistic world free of copyright, this is to say people should provide source code for programs. If one was to apply this to the music industry, it would be consistant with forcing you to provide all the individual tracks used to make the music, and force those who wish to distribute new songs all the tracks they used to derive a new song. For the GPL, if you were to get rid of the open sourc
        • by LuYu (519260)

          supporting both GPL-style sharing & copyright abolition is inconsistent, as they're mutually exclusive - if you're a genuine copyright abolitionist, you'd support BSD instead.

          You should think of the GPL as a virtual Public Domain. It basically says, "If you distribute this to one person, you distribute it to everybody." That is exactly like the Public Domain because in the Public Domain, no one would be able to control distribution. The BSD license, however, allows people to take BSD code, modify

          • I'm obviously having difficulty reading, as I'm struggling to make sense of your post. Are you saying that it's not possible to own copyright on a work derived from an item that is in the public domain? Eg if I publish an annotated anthology of Shakespearean plays, I don't hold copyright over reproduction of the full work?

            If I go through your post and replace the term 'Public Domain' with 'world without copyright', I think I glean your intent (and it's one that I've acknowledged here [slashdot.org]. I think it's an exces

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by shaitand (626655)
          'I don't think it would be possible to enforce the particular flavour of sharing currently enabled by the GPL with no copyright.'

          Nonsense, it would be impossible to avoid GPL style sharing without copyright. Without copyright I can literally disassemble your code and use the output in my program. I no longer need you to grant me permission. Everyone's code would be open because anyone with the skills to utilize the code can extract the literal code from the executable.

          'if you're a genuine copyright abolitio
          • by Sam Ritchie (842532) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @03:23AM (#19033047) Homepage

            Without copyright I can literally disassemble your code and use the output in my program.

            ...unless use is restricted to signed binaries on locked hardware. All of a sudden there's none of the GPL v3 protection, because there's no copyright, so I can happily take your community built code, improve it, make a billion dollars and/or become famous but not give you squat in return.

            Law of unintended consequences, people - if there's no copyright, industries that depend upon it for a living are going to need to find another way to make money, and it's probably not going to be one that you'll like.

          • You would be able to use the disassembled code, but without the accompanying documentation and source, it would be much harder. Think how much trouble the Wine folks are having getting Wine to work completely, even knowing the header files and function definitions they must implement. And you propose to use (stripped, optimized, obfuscated) binary without even that level of assistance? It won't work like you hope without copyright and the GPL.

            I apologize if this is an uncharitable interpretation of your
      • I hear what you're saying, but parent has a point that you dont seem to be addressing.
        Seems that the two camps on this issue arent really discussing the same thing.

        Inherent in supporting GPL is a conceptual acceptance of the act of creation giving the creator certain rights over the created, be it software, music, or whatever.

        At the same time, there certainly is something to be said for using the system's own mechanism against itself till it can be overcome, or whatever.

        I'm gonna come down on the side of th
    • by jesdynf (42915)
      Sure I can -- having it both ways isn't inconsistent at all.

      Copyright is intrinsically devoid of worth -- it should be abolished. Terminated. Rendered utterly void.

      What? I can't have that? Fine, I guess I can salvage something from the current system. But I don't like it, and I'm still going to try to undercut the whole scam tomorrow, even if I can realize some minor benefit from it today.
    • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:19AM (#19031971)
      Stating its so doesn't make it so. Score:4, Insightful likewise doesn't make it so. You are exhibiting a point of view that goes like thus: "To a man who only has a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail." The question posed is whether replacing copyright laws with other laws would allow the spirit of the GPL to prevail. Probably the GPL would need to be rewritten to be in accord with a new set of laws.

      Two things irritate me about this topic:

      people who assume that copyright is an inherent right, when it is so obviously not;

      people who think that without our current copyright structure, there could only be chaos.
    • by Poppler (822173)

      You can support BSD without supporting copyright, as it doesn't take advantage of many copyright protections.

      Sure it does, you can't claim that you wrote it. You can repackage it and sell it, but somewhere in there, you have to acknowledge that you're using someone else's code.

      You can't support GPL without supporting copyright, as it would be unenforceable without copyright.

      The GPL would not be necessary if copyright didn't exist. The GPL relies on copyright only to propagate itself. Why would you need a viral license if everything was in the public domain?

      Particularly relevant bit from TFA:

      The basic argument of copyright abolitionists is that people should be free to share when sharing does not result in any diminution of supply. The GPL simply uses copyright law in a jiujitsu-like manner to enforce this principle, in a legal environment where sharing is prohibited by default and must be explicitly permitted to be legal.

      • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @01:13AM (#19032299)

        The GPL would not be necessary if copyright didn't exist. The GPL relies on copyright only to propagate itself. Why would you need a viral license if everything was in the public domain?

        Maybe because we wouldn't be guarranteed access to the source code.

      • You can't support GPL without supporting copyright, as it would be unenforceable without copyright.

        The GPL would not be necessary if copyright didn't exist. The GPL relies on copyright only to propagate itself. Why would you need a viral license if everything was in the public domain?

        The nonexistence of copyright doesn't imply that everything is in the public domain. Unless you enjoy reverse engineering things, it's still valuable to have the original source code.

    • by jmv (93421)
      You can't support GPL without supporting copyright, as it would be unenforceable without copyright.

      While that's *not* my opinion, one *can* (logically) support the GPL without supporting copyright. That person would then consider that the GPL is a "stop-gap" measure that "prevents some people from taking advantage of copyright law" for a particular piece of software [until copyright law is abolished or something].
    • by wall0159 (881759) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @01:21AM (#19032339)
      Nonsense. You've just made the exact point that the article is refuting. In fact, you've made it completely without evidence. This is 'Insightful' how?

      If you oppose copyright, but can't do anything about the existence of copyright, you can at least put stuff into the public domain without allowing someone to wrap it up in copyright and resell it. That's basically all the GPL does, and I don't see any conflict there at all.

      Maybe if copyright was written differently, or not at all, we wouldn't have _need_ of the GPL, but that's a different story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110)

        You've just made the exact point that the article is refuting.

        The article is completely confused, and simply, completely, wrong.

        It's trying to refute an article that was, in fact, correct.

        If you oppose copyright, but can't do anything about the existence of copyright, you can at least put stuff into the public domain without allowing someone to wrap it up in copyright and resell it. That's basically all the GPL does,

        Nope. The GPL doesn't just allow copying of binaries, it forces you to release your SOURCE

        • HA HA OH WOW (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ayanami Rei (621112) *
          You really didn't read the article, did you. You read it up until the point where you confirmed the position you thought it was taking, and then assumed the rest to be bollocks or whatever.

          THE POINT was that the GPL would need to be changed if copyright laws were changed. The spirit of the GPL (Cohesion and Continuity, per the article) would be enforced by other clauses that would be created in light of whatever law takes the place of copyright, again per the article, "... be enforced using laws so drastica
    • by Eivind (15695)
      Nonsense. It's perfectly possible, for example, to be of the opinion that the best choice would be no copyrigth, and the second-best choice would be GPL.

      Which makes it perfectly logical to choose GPL today, and at the same time oppose copyrigth today.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Abolishing copyright abolishes the ability to enforce GPL. End of story. Even though the orignial article is flawed, the fact still remains. You can't control distribultion using the GPL without copyright law.
    • by Bronster (13157) <slashdot@brong.net> on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:45PM (#19031737) Homepage
      No, but you could theoretically build a new GPL on top of something which wasn't copyright but provided the protections that the GPL needs. Copyright is not the _only_ set of base rules on which a GPL could exist, it's just the current one.
      • by jkabbe (631234)
        Copyright is not the _only_ set of base rules on which a GPL could exist, it's just the current one.

        True. But for the GPL to work the alternative set of rules would have to be one of two things:

        1) the GPL, enacted as legislation applying to all computer code (or as opt-in)
        2) a set of laws regarding creative works that allows the creator to control what consumers of the work do with the work

        It shouldn't surprise anyone that the second things is usually referred to as "copyright." It's true that copyright c
        • And yet strangely enough, the GPL doesn't "force you to do certain things if you choose to use my work", although that is a common misconception. The GPL itself even states this fact explicitly:

          Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by runnin

      • Not at all. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:08AM (#19031915)
        The difference between BSDL and GPL is that GPL forces other (linked) code into the open. You need some sort of property rights (ie copyright) to stake a claim on your code and assert this bargaining power. With no copyright you would not have rights and thus not have the bargaining power and GPL would be dead.
      • by Rutulian (171771)
        Also, I can't find it right now, but there used to be a blurb on the GNU page talking specifically about this. Basically, without copyright law, there would be no need for the gpl to exist. It wouldn't be possible for software released under the public domain to be made proprietary. I know the original article made some sort of reference to using drm, but I can't really see how this would work, unless it is tied to a piece of hardware.
    • by bstadil (7110) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:03AM (#19031867) Homepage
      There would be little point in enforcing the GPL if no copyright existed. You would have all the rights to use whatever code you wanted or could get hold of. Traditional "stealing" would be a perfectly legitimate way.
      • by melikamp (631205)
        I think it would still be better if we had just the public domain and a free software copyright law (limited to a sane number of years) -- that is, "GPL or nothing" kind of deal. This would be one law I could live with. I am quite enjoying the fact that MS cannot just appropriate GNU+Linux+Wine and release it as Vista SP2 for gazillion dollars per copy. Without copyright, they wouldn't have to share source, and they could have made the system really crippled (a la Steam) without being authenticated.
      • There would be little point in enforcing the GPL if no copyright existed. You would have all the rights to use whatever code you wanted or could get hold of.

        See, the "could get hold of" part is the problem. If you think DRM is bad now, think of it in a world where there are no restrictions on copying. If there are no legal protections to prevent me from copying your work, the only possible restrictions are technological.

        Say you are writing software and want to make profit without copyright. You need to make

        • If you think DRM is bad now, think of it in a world where there are no restrictions on copying. If there are no legal protections to prevent me from copying your work, the only possible restrictions are technological.

          There's always EULAs that give legal protections. In an environment where EULA's are the only protection, I'd expect them to develop into something that can definately be enforced (think along the lines of having to actually sign paperwork).
          You'll also see more vertical monopolies - companies

    • by TheLink (130905)
      You can oppose copyright and even support GPL.

      Haven't you heard of migration plans and "temporary workarounds" (and even politics[1] ;) )?

      Go look at the real world sometime and learn how it works.

      I think for a start copyright terms should be a lot shorter (just a few years), and fair use needs some fixing by wise and good people.

      [1] Lots of companies support BOTH the two main US parties at the same time, who are allegedly against each other.
    • How about this thought? If it were illegal to sell binaries without also distributing source code along with them, and there was no copyright protection, would a GPL be necessary? The "you can't control distribution w/o copyright" really means, "control of distribution wouldn't be the same if it were done differently." Well, yeah. Thats the point.
    • by phidipides (59938)
      Abolishing copyright abolishes the ability to enforce GPL

      Agreed. The linked article seems to me to be trying to defend theft of the hard work of others, and that's not cool. We live in a world that has decided it is beneficial to encourage people to create, and to do so creators are given the right to control their creations for a limited time. As a content creator, that is my right. If I create something and tell people they can use it under certain conditions, they have the choice to use my work or n
      • The linked article seems to me to be trying to defend theft of the hard work of others, and that's not cool.

        The article I read had nothing to do with copyright infringement. It was simple pointing out that the GPL (or something like it) could exist in a legal framework outside of copyright. I don't recall any portion of it that advocated violating legally valid terms of use.

        If you don't like the rules you can work to change them or find somewhere else to live.

        No one doubts that copyright is currently the law of the land. In the meantime, this is what working to change the rules looks like.

      • by kfogel (1041) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @03:37AM (#19033107) Homepage
        A lot of the responses say this same thing; I'm replying here, but this reply could apply equally well to many of the other responses.

        The whole point the copyright abolitionists are trying to make is that it is not necessarily good that an author be able control the distribution and use of their work. I know that seems unbelievable, almost immoral, to many people, and yet it is how creativity was for most of human history. Open source pretty much works that way now (it's the infamous "right to fork", even against the author's wishes).

        The abolitionists are perfectly aware of what copyright law *is* today, they're just trying to change that. I'm not sure why this is so hard to understand: there's a law, some people don't like it, they try to change it. That doesn't mean they don't understand the law, it means they *do* understand it but want something different.
        • by Garwulf (708651) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @11:22AM (#19037385) Homepage
          "The abolitionists are perfectly aware of what copyright law *is* today, they're just trying to change that."

          Bullshit. I'm a professional writer - part of my job requires me to have a working understanding of the law and what it does. My academic training is primarily that of a historian - and that gives me some insight as to how societies develop. And, frankly, I read your article very carefully (both of them, in fact), and you failed to understand copyright law on the reading comprehension level. I'm not surprised that you haven't thought through it. And, frankly, denying that it's there when somebody has simply summarized the letter of the law is one hell of an ostrich impression. You're the one who should be discussing whether it "should be there." Arguing that it isn't there when it's protected under the US Constitution from the get-go, has a history of case law, is recognized by international treaty, and has several other pieces of legislation that have passed in every western country in the world, is just embarrassingly stupid.

          I've been reading Slashdot now for a couple of years, and I've seen lots of misconceptions from the copyright abolitionists - so you're not alone. These aren't arguments against the law, or against the theory of the law - and most of these are failures on the reading comprehension level. Here are a few of the more interesting ones, and they're all bullshit:

          1. That having something under copyright keeps it away from society.

          This one I find rather funny - there are abolitionists out there who really think that authors sit around creating work under copyright, and then cackle as they put them in a box and never let anybody see them. If you're a pro writer, it's publish or perish.

          Sometimes, they expand this to mean that something can go out of print and then is harder to get your hands on, but what they keep missing is that this has to do with book sales, not with whether the book is under copyright or public domain. In most, if not all cases, royalties to an author make up very little of the total cost of printing the book. Contacting the author or his/her estate tends to be easy - the recluse author that nobody can contact is pretty much an urban legend at this point. The fact is that when a work enters the public domain, whether it gets printed is dictated by whether it will be profitable to print it, and that is dictated by how well it has stood the test of time. So, life of the author + 50 years in the here and now has very little impact on availability of a work.

          (And, don't get me started on fair use, which is guaranteed under copyright law.)

          2. That you can copyright an idea.

          The sad thing is that while the first one at least is a take on a speculative issue (and, I will concede, possibly not a failure on the reading comprehension level), this one is disproven just by reading the SUMMARY of the law. You cannot copyright an idea (it's PATENT law that allows you to lay claim to an idea). For that matter, in the entire three hundred year history of copyright law, you have never been able to copyright an idea. So anybody who thinks this has obviously never read the law, or failed to understand it on the reading comprehension level.

          3. That copyright is more artificial than any other right.

          This one requires people to have little or no concept of history. Or current events. The people who claim that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are natural rights seem to be missing the fact that at least half of the world's population lives in places without those rights. They're also missing the fact that the US Constitution was a remarkable document because it DID enshrine those rights in the highest law of the land, making them inalienable in the United States - and that hadn't happened anywhere in the Western world before the American Revolution.

          To make things even more ridiculous, the concept of a work of literature as a property protected under law pre-dates the US Constitution by arou
    • Why on earth would I give a crap about enforcing the GPL if there were no copyright law?
  • by SEAL (88488) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:40PM (#19031711)
    "I'm submitting 'Supporting Open Source While Opposing Copyright' as a response to Greg Bulmash's piece from yesterday.

    Then why not make the title of this article: "Supporting Open Source While Opposing Copyright", instead of repeating the same title from the previous article?

    People who just scan titles, esp on RSS, are going to think this is a dupe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:42PM (#19031723)
    Richard Stallman puts it so much better. I disagree with a lot of what Stallman says, but the man has thought about his message and tries not to waste words. I respect that.

    I tire of the "here are 10-15 different arguments on my side, if any of them sticks then I win" style of debate.
  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:51PM (#19031785)
    Quoth TFA:

    imagine if we had laws that did away with most prohibitions against sharing, but that enforced crediting and permitted authors to enforce GPL-like provisions requiring sharing.


    So basically it seems like this guy doesn't want to do away with copyright, he just wants to change it so that any non-GPL-style license is prohibited.

    The previous article suggested libertarian style freedom (free as in free to shoot your neighbor if he steps on your land), while this guy suggests communist style freedom (free as in "show your papers to get in line for free bread comrade").
    • by shark72 (702619) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:01AM (#19031857)

      "So basically it seems like this guy doesn't want to do away with copyright, he just wants to change it so that any non-GPL-style license is prohibited."

      You can see the appeal here. All the free music and movies you want, but nobody gets to mess with your FOSS project in a way you don't want. Since most of us are coders, and not musicians or moviemakers (or, we're more likely to have friends who are the former, not the latter), it's an attractive idea to many Slashdotters.

  • the real issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:57PM (#19031835) Homepage

    It's a little pointless arguing what copyleft would be like in a world without copyright, because we're never going to live in a world without copyright.

    Let's focus on what we might really be able to achieve:

    1. Under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act [wikipedia.org], US copyrights will start expiring again in 2017. We need to make sure that when that day comes, there isn't yet another copyright extension.
    2. We need to work against software patents, business method patents, and abuse of the patent system. We need to work for institutional change in the US patent office so they'll start rejecting completely bogus patents.
    3. We need to repeal the DMCA.
    4. We need to work to keep fair use legally healthy, and prevent it from being more and more circumscribed and forgotten.
    5. We should work to change the law so that orphaned works can't remain copyrighted for a century, during which nobody is allowed to publish them.
    • by corsec67 (627446)
      Under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, US copyrights will start expiring again in 2017. We need to make sure that when that day comes, there isn't yet another copyright extension.

      Or, how about Copyright laws revert to something reasonable, like 15 years. The copyright length was originally 14 or 28 years, per United States copyright law [wikipedia.org]. If 28 years was enough time in the late 1700s, when printing was a slow process, and dissemination of information was slow, why on EARTH would we need authors l
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        We can dance around the issue and pretend that it's about credit or whatever, but we're all adults here and can just say: The reason copyright exists is because property is still valuable. Had Lewis Caroll or someone else had a life+70 on their work, imagine the potential riches their estate would have.

        The speed of getting information out has nothing to do with how valuable it is.

        The crux of these sorts of arguments seems to be that after your suggested 15 years JK Rowling should just be told that anyone c
      • by Eivind (15695)
        That is a very uncomfortable point for the MPAA/RIAA et al.

        Fact: Copyrigth exists at all in order to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts".

        So, the relevant question is, if we cut copyrigth to say 15 years, would that actually result in less progress in science and the useful arts ? That is, is it likely that production of creative works would actually be seriously harmed by this ?

        For software, the answer is a pretty definitive "no". There's no way in hell anyone will write a new progra

    • Especially we need to repeal the DMCA!
  • Miss the obvious (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:00AM (#19031847) Homepage
    Both of you miss the obvious.

    Bulmash misses the point that without copyright, I can find the appropriate place in your machine code to insert my functions and then distribute the modified versions to my friends. That's 90% of the GPL right there... And the right redistribute everything is probably more valuable than being able to see your sloppy undocumented source code anyway.

    Kfogel misses the point that without copyright the computer industry would have grown an entirely different direction from way back in the '70s. Without specific protection for the software component, companies would have tied software to the hardware. Think: dedicated Pac Man machines in the arcades. You can copy the Microsoft Office ROMS all you want, but it uses the registers and I/O devices only present on the patented Microsoft Office machine. No *general purpose* computers... Copyright is what made the general purpose computer sociologically possible. That world, by the way, would suck.
    • "Bulmash misses the point that without copyright, I can find the appropriate place in your machine code to insert my functions and then distribute the modified versions to my friends. That's 90% of the GPL right there..."

      Yes! Someone who gets it! It would make for a very different world.

      I'm not sure about your second point, though, because I think that the efficiency of having universal computing devices would be enough to (eventually) bring about convergence. We certainly didn't have to let criminals b
      • by Spazmania (174582)
        I think that the efficiency of having universal computing devices would be enough to (eventually) bring about convergence.

        Maybe. But consider that even here it took 20 years for someone to write MAME, software for a general-purpose computer that could run the original Pac Man code instead of requiring a rewrite from scratch. That was with improvements in general-purpose computer hardware being driven primarily by the development of commercial copyright-protected software. Hobbyists contributed little to Moo
    • Without specific protection for the software component, companies would have tied software to the hardware. ... You can copy the Microsoft Office ROMS all you want, but it uses the registers and I/O devices only present on the patented Microsoft Office machine. No *general purpose* computers... Copyright is what made the general purpose computer sociologically possible. That world, by the way, would suck.

      That's so backward - general purpose computers are more valuable without copy restrictions than they

    • by Temporal (96070)

      I can find the appropriate place in your machine code to insert my functions and then distribute the modified versions to my friends. That's 90% of the GPL right there... And the right redistribute everything is probably more valuable than being able to see your sloppy undocumented source code anyway.

      You're kidding, right? Can you point to any significant improvement made to a binary-only program ever by this method? Surely if it is reasonably easy to do, people would have done it, right? (No, copy pro

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DTemp (1086779) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:04AM (#19031877)
    You can support copyright and NOT support ABUSE of copyright. Its the ABUSE of copyright that pisses people off.

    As a professional photographer, if I take a good photograph, I don't want someone putting my picture up on their website and saying someone else took the photo. This is NOT me abusing my copyright.

    If, however, a newspaper ran my photo on the front page, but I refused to allow anyone to cut out the photo and hang it on their refrigerator, and went from house to house inspecting refrigerators... THAT would be abusing my copyright. Sound vaguely similar to the MAFIAAs?

    I hope you see the difference. Copyright is actually a good thing when not abused.
    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spud603 (832173) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:25AM (#19032025)
      You may have misread the article:
      kfogel argues the distinction between "the right to be credited for a work, and the right to control distribution of that work." So under his paradigm, in a world without copyright folks would still be breaking the law for posting your picture uncredited or miscredited, but they'd be allowed to post the picture on their site with your name under it. I'm not sure if this would still bug you, properly credited, but that's the gist of TFA.
      • by blibbler (15793)
        I don't want to speak for the original poster, but he probably also wants to be compensated for his work. If I were a professional photographer, and a newspaper ran my photo on the front page, I would probably want to be paid for it.

        At the moment there is nothing inherently illegal about putting up a photo without attribution or with a misattribution... so long as you have the rights. If you have the rights to a photo, you can say it was taken by whomever you want.
  • Once you accept that restrictions on private business, weather having sex or exchanging information, between two people is unnatural, how can you require people to distribute source to their work if they don't want to? Only if we accept copyright it makes sense to require the owner to release the source after a while so that other people can create derivative works in exchange for accepting the restrictions for limited time. But if you give away the binary without any obligations, neither should you have an
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:24AM (#19032005)
    "I'm submitting 'Girls Are The Ones' as a response to my sister's piece, 'Boys Have Cooties,' from yesterday. I think there were a number of flaws and mistaken assumptions in my sister's reasoning, and I've tried to address them in this rebuttal, which has undergone review from some colleagues in the 'Girls Have Cooties' community."

    While easier to get reviewed by people who already broadly support your viewpoint, review tends to gain its power when those idealogically opposed to you review it and still can't find flaws in it.
  • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:26AM (#19032029) Homepage Journal
    As with a lot of "there is no such thing as property" groups, QuestionCopyright.org* seems to not understand the purpose of copyright. Copyright is a legal construct created to encourage authors and other creative types to make their works public (e.g., published, performed, broadcast, etc.) by letting them retain legal control of the work. The import point is the person who creates the work gets to control its use.

    People are motivated to create such works for any number of reasons. Some want the money that comes from charging for copies or viewing a performance, others just want credit. In any case, copyright is what lets the author determine who can access his or her works and under what terms. If we, as a society, don't give authors this control, there is a reasonable likelihood that a number of people who would otherwise create such a work will not because they don't want to see the fruits of their labor taken advantage of by others in ways they don't approve.

    This brings us to open source software (OSS) and copyright. Some people license their work under a BSD license, some people put their work into the public domain, some license their work under the GPL and there are a number of other possible licenses. That there are a number of different OSS licenses and developers freely choose which license to release their project under means that the developers are making a conscious choice as to what kinds of restrictions they want on what they have created. This brings us to the GPL and similar licenses.

    The GPL isn't just about attribution. People who just want attribution publish under a BSD license or something similar. The GPL is about creating a body of free software that stays free. As a number of court cases have demonstrated, there are all too many people out there who are more than willing to abscond with GPLed source for their proprietary products. Copyright law is what gives the GPL teeth to prevent this.

    You can have free software without copyrights but it's going to be "free as in beer" software. Unfortunately, just like with beer, when the beer runs out, it doesn't matter if it's free. You still can't have any. If people aren't willing to develop without some level of control of the work after it's released, there won't be much free software. Copyright and the GPL means that at least some software will be "free as in speech" and, chances are, developers who continue to contribute to what they see is a greater good.

    I guess I should rephrase what I said and say that you can have free software without copyrights but just not for very long. Lots of developers won't put up with having their work taken advantage of and will simply no longer create. Thus, the argument comes back to where I started, protection of an author's work is what incentivizes an author to create. Even if that incentive is just recognition by the developer community and knowledge that what they have created will stay free.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    * I will give them a point for at least being philosophically consistent. Once you grant anyone the right to restrict the use of a creative work then it becomes difficult to draw a line as to when a restriction is benign or even beneficial (e.g., the GPL) and when it's not (please remit $0.25 (aka, two bits) to me for enjoying the above discourse).
    • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @12:51AM (#19032179)
      You left off the all important "for a limited time." Copyright wouldn't be such a problem if it lasted for 6 months to a few years, and source code had to be deposited at the time you applied for the copyright (to then be made public.)
    • "fruits of their labor taken advantage of by others in ways they don't approve."

      Lets see. How can you take advantage of a book? Other than ignoring it, burning it, restricting it or fraudlently stealing and selling the manuscripts. Sure it would be bad if neohitler loved your book, but theres really nothing you can do about that.

      How is music or movies any different? who loses but me if I dont see a movie? The creator already has seen his creation come to life. That should give him emmense joy. Its not a t

    • by Eivind (15695)
      Copyright is a legal construct created to encourage authors and other creative types to make their works public (e.g., published, performed, broadcast, etc.) by letting them retain legal control of the work. The import point is the person who creates the work gets to control its use.

      Uhm. No. Try again. Copyrigth allows the copyrigth-holder to control *copying*. (honestly, the name is a dead give-away, amazing you didn't get that. It's called *COPY*-rigth for a reason !) The creater gets to control copyin

    • Thus, the argument comes back to where I started, protection of an author's work is what incentivizes an author to create.

      That is the heart of your argument, and it is categorically wrong.

      Ignoring the people who create for creation's sake, as you have, what really incents creation is the opportunity for compensation for the work done. Copyright protection is one possible way to provide an opportunity for compensation.

      It may not even be the best way, it certainly has its downsides, not the least of which is

  • From the article:

    "All these problems can be seen at once in a paragraph near the opening of his article:

    "The problem with a large part of the anti-copyright crowd is that they don't understand or won't admit what copyright entails as a concept. That is the right of the creator of a work to exert some control over how it's used, who can copy and distribute it, and a right to have their authorship acknowledged.

    "Notice the rhetorical sleight-of-hand there: he presents copy control
    • by r6144 (544027)
      He disagrees with the law (including the Berne Convention), period. There is no inconsistency in this.
  • A licence is permission. Usually is is used when some activity could be dangerous if done poorly, such as driving or practicing medicine. It can also be permission to use something, like a fishing licence. I think that an EULA is like a fishing licence, permission to use enforced scarcity. The GPL is more like a licence to preach where one has to be reasonably free of heresy to be granted the licence, it is basically about competence.

    It is the same word, but the sense can be quite different.
    --
    Solar po
  • Stealing time... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @01:04AM (#19032255)

    First of all, I support the GPL. I think that the concept of community supported software is great. I also like how someone can make modifications to code and be obligated to give back to the community.

    Having said that, I think people who preach that we should abolish copyright are basically lazy and cheap. Oh sure they will serve us some leftist bullshit to legitimize their position, and they will throw some "Well it's not stealing because even after giving a copy of some software to a friend, the original owner still has the use of said software - NO HARM, NO FOUL!"

    Of course this is Slashdot and I will get some hostile replies, but face it people who preach that we should abolish copyright are proclaiming that GPL doesn't work. They are frustrated that they don't have the time or money to make a commercial quality software, so they just want to be able to legally steal it. Basically these people rather spend their time trying to accomplish something that will never happen, rather than putting effort in a legitimate movement like GPL.

    It all boils down to this. If you believe software should be free, then nothing is preventing you from using GPL license software. Hell, if you really believe software should be free, then create a GPL program. If you can't code and you can't find the software that you need, then I guess you'll have to spend money. Sponsor someone to write your GPL program, or just break down and purchase a legitimate licensed copy.

    But if you just plain pirate all your software, then your just a leech and offer nothing to support your cause.

    What we should be concentrating on is abolishing software patents...

    • I think people who oppose copyright fall more into two categories:

      1) People who just don't want to have to pay for software/music/movie, i.e. leeches. These people would probably whine loudly if most of the content went away because no one was paying for it. Others may be willing to put up with the resulting economics of this, which would be the fall of any industry relying on copyrights. They may prefer this to the current state of affairs.

      2) People who are so used to copyright being abused as a matter of
  • sure.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danielk1982 (868580) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @01:19AM (#19032337)
    The author is playing with words. At the end of the day a viral license like the GPL cannot exist without laws that acknowledge the "specialness" of intellectual property. You can't GPL a hammer.

    >Imagine if we had laws that did away with most prohibitions against sharing, but that enforced crediting and permitted authors to enforce GPL-like provisions requiring sharing.

    Considering that copyright law has no prohibition against sharing (after all, releasing your work as creative commons is as simple as cut-pasting a line of text) and thanks to GPL and similar licenses, copyright can have provisions to enforce sharing - I think I can imagine a world such as this - we live in it. What the author is arguing is that every work should be released with a mandatory GPL-like or maybe Creative Commons-type license.

    >Thus, to say that the GPL depends on copyright is like saying that reading depends on scribes.

    No.. the GPL is a license tested in court and found wholly within the realm of current copyright law.

    >The basic argument of copyright abolitionists is that people should be free to share when sharing does not result in any diminution of supply.

    I understand that argument even though I don't agree with it, but there's another point here. Is "free to share" the same as "forced to share"? After all, people are free to share MIT licensed code, but are forced to share GPL licensed code (provided that they made changes to it and distributed the binary .. yadda yadda..). The former doesn't need any copyright law, the latter certainly does. I think "copyright abolitionists" are trying to have it both ways here. The author certainly looks like a guy who is trying to reconcile something like the GPL (which I'm sure is perceived as a very good thing in the circles he hangs out) with his ideological beliefs about copyright. At the end of it all, it comes off as a clumsy argument.
  • Copyright abuse is not about crediting work vs. the control of that work. RIAA/MPAA couldn't give a shit about actually controlling the work except as a means to an end. The struggle is actually about monetary compensation for the work. This is why they're willing to throw people into jail for 5 years for backing up their damned DVD - it takes away their potential profit.

    What we need is a system that:

    1) Financially compensates the creator, not the middle man. Make it unprofitable to be a middle-man and inst
    • by shark72 (702619)

      Those are some interesting ideas. I have a question for you:

      "What we need is a system that financially compensates the creator, not the middle man. Make it unprofitable to be a middle-man and institutions like RIAA/MPAA go away. There should be a cap on what anyone else can make from selling a person's creation."

      One of my favorite sites right now is istockphoto. It's really great -- I can buy some often really great quality work for a buck or two an image, which is far less than Corbis and the rest ch

  • Copyright law under pins all legal protection over the rights on a piece of work. By attaching Copyright to a piece of work you are also staking a claim to ownership to be able to then license the use of the work from that legal vantage point.

    The concept of "Public Domain" only exists from the vantage point of the original Copyright holder accepting continued legal liability for any future plagerism claim that may occur in relation to that piece of work (by puting their name to it); but then explicitly gra
  • You can't deny IP(not support copywright) and criminalize open source. After all, if everything is free, how can you make it a criminal act to use one free chunk of software to make another free chunk of software?
  • by leereyno (32197) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @04:24AM (#19033291) Homepage Journal
    I oppose discussions of copyright and open source period.

    Copyrights are a good idea when applied in moderation.

    Open source is a means to an end, not an end unto it self.

    Neither are particularly interesting to read about on Slashdot because both issues are plagued with juvenile whining by 35 year old virgins who still live with their parents.

  • by kalidasa (577403) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @07:38AM (#19034135) Journal
    Without *some* kind of copyright protection, there would be no financial incentive to create content, and we'd be subjected to a whole world of reality TV and groupsourced "literature" and wikipedias - or all premium content would be "members only" and something like copyright would be enforced on a case-by-case basis with individual contracts that would have even worse terms than existing copyright laws. The problem is that copyright has been perverted into a dead hand; we need to reform the terms of copyright, not eliminate it. We also need to reform patents.

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