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GNU is Not Unix Your Rights Online

You Can't Oppose Copyright and Support Open Source 550

Reader gbulmash sends us to his essay on the fallacy of those who would abolish copyright. The argument is that without copyright granting an author the right to set licensing terms for his/her work, the GPL could not be enforced. The essay concludes that if you support the GPL or any open source license (other than public domain), your fight should be not about how to abolish copyright, but how to reform copyright.
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You Can't Oppose Copyright and Support Open Source

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  • by c0l0 ( 826165 ) * on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:15PM (#19014293) Homepage
    ...it would be possible to have commented disassemblies of everything that a computer can run openly available. That would be a lot better than the situation we have right now in SOME cases (by far not all of course - but please note you could still publish sourcecode in a more high-level language if you felt like it ;)) when there are only legally encumbered BLOBs available for crucial components of a system like, for example, graphics or network drivers, which you may execute, but not touch in any other way (in the US at least, that is).

    Summa summarum, I think it's better to live in a world with copyright in place.
    I just - like many other fellow advocates of Free Software - would wish for more people to publish their works under more permissive and freedom-granting licenses: to have art, culture, knowledge and wisdom spread for the greater good, and not just immediate, monetary profit in the first place.

    Bottom line is: supporting Free Software and/or the GNU GPL does not automagically make you speak out against copyright per se at all.
    • by HeavensBlade23 ( 946140 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:21PM (#19014363)
      It would be *possible* that things would become more open without copyrights, but it wouldn't neccessarily happen. Companies might be come even more secretive about their source code since secrecy would be the only method of protection they have left.
      • Even more? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Peaker ( 72084 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .rekaepung.> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:52PM (#19015191) Homepage
        Even more secretive than "you cannot touch it, reverse-engineer it, and if you ever see it you're NDA'd to hell"? :-)

        I don't think you can be more protective of source code than they are today.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by farnsworth ( 558449 )
          I don't think you can be more protective of source code than they are today.

          A lot of code is only loosely gaurded, because there are legal ways of protecting it. You can easily disassemble a lot of the .net api, or (when java was closed) a lot of the java api. But you can't really use it, because it would be obvious and illegal (or in violation of an agreement).

          If MS and Sun had to be secretive by obfuscating their api or code, we'd be worse off because debugging and stack traces would be much less us

    • Your wish runs counter to the fact that people act for their own self interests. The copyright is just a way to make sure that people have incentive, by (theoretically) allowing the amount of money a person makes to be a result of the quality and usefulness of their labor. Those who publish under the GPL and other licenses are people who either are smart enough to build up companies with their own code, let everyone else look at it and do what they want with it, and basically still make money from those the
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ActionGaz ( 785164 )

        However, the guy who wrote the article is totally and completely batshiat crazy; he assumes that using the system to produce results closest to those that one desires automatically means one doesn't desire a lack of the system.

        I disagree. If a lack of copyright is what you desire for your creations that already exists now within the current system. You simply put them into the public domain. The fact that this isn't what people want to do means that they do, as the author suggests, want to retain some control over their creation and so use the GLP or Creative Commons or some similar system.

      • Societies evolve. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jd ( 1658 )
        So far, in modern society, it has been that the "adaptation" of secrecy/superiority gives an evolutionary advantage over those who share. To conclude from this that this must always be the case, or that humans are "naturally" like that, is as much a fallacy as to declare the opposite. The societies that have the most of the preferred adaptation will naturally do the best and there should be nothing surprising about it.

        If you created an environment in which secrecy/superiority did NOT give an advantage, bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is silly. Copyrights are not necessary. All you need is respect for contracts. Example: a programmer writes code. Then he gives the code to his friend after asking his friend to contract that he will agree to release all his modifications to the source code (or whatever) and that the friend will require anyone he gives the code to to agree to the same contract. Viola. Open source without copyright law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shawb ( 16347 )
        In my opinion, that would be a far worse scenario than copyright law. Anybody purchasing software or media would have to agree to licensing contracts to use it. These contracts would likely be at least as binding as current contracts. The only difference is that there is no expiration on the contracts, and therefore the information would never reach the public domain. Under copyright law, the information in theory will eventually reach the public domain and be usable by society as a whole without an ard
        • by dircha ( 893383 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @09:45PM (#19015573)
          "But without copyright, one would also have no need to enforce the GPL, as any releases made would be into the public domain assuming it is possible to disassemble the software."

          I think there's some confusion here about Open Source and Free Software. The GPL is just a license that uses a technique called Copyleft to proliferate Free Software in the current legal setting. But there is plenty of non-Copylefted Free Software.

          The FSF advocates that all software should be Free Software; software that satisfies the 4 essential freedoms of software users (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html). But Free Softare is not in any way dependent on copyright law. The definition of Free Software makes no reference to copyright. And you don't need to settle for copyright vs. essential freedoms and resort to relying on disassembling software or something like that.

          Instead, you can advocate that software should be covered by law that mandates the 4 essential freedoms of software users, in addition to, or in place of copyright.

          The FSF (the publisher of the GPL) is not anti-copyright per se. It is pro-software freedom. It is a logically sound position. If this position is appealing to you, read up on it. Don't let blogger prattle throw you like that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by umofomia ( 639418 )
        In essence, your idea is no different than a trade secret and your contracts become NDAs. However, if your code ever leaks to someone without a contract, they will be able to do whatever they want with it and you will have no legal recourse, which is the point the article is trying to make.
      • The only difference between that and copyright is that you don't need to be a lawyer to use copyright effectively.
      • Open source without copyright law.

        No, not really.

        If you don't have copyright (or patent) to your code, I receive no consideration when I take your code and use it in my project. Once I have seen the code, I have all that I need. I can simply ignore what your contract says, state that I have been given nothing of value to compel me to release what I do in kind.

        The day-to-day effect of OSS would be the same -- free as in beer software, because there's no law that keeps you from handing your buddy a DVD-R with every piece of software you own. Copyleft, however, would disappear.

        (Remember that, if you nullified copyright today, it would apply to every OSS project in existence. MS could take Linux with impunity, Apple could (and would) give a big finger to BSD, and everyone from IBM to Dell would never pay another dollar to an out-of-house software developer ever again -- because they've already got all that they need.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

          Remember that, if you nullified copyright today, it would apply to every OSS project in existence. MS could take Linux with impunity...

          And the community could take Windows with impunity too! That street runs both ways, you know. Sure, the source code would have to leak first, but that happens anyway despite copyright law and NDAs, and could only become more frequent without the threat of prosecution for criminal copyright infringement.

          Besides, without copyright, Microsoft's business model collapses anywa

    • I just - like many other fellow advocates of Free Software - would wish for more people to publish their works under more permissive and freedom-granting licenses: to have art, culture, knowledge and wisdom spread for the greater good, and not just immediate, monetary profit in the first place.

      Immediate, monetary profit is what copyright-reform advocates want to protect. As a current example, I think Sony/Marvel/etc. should have the right to make as much dough as they can on the recently released Spider-Man 3 for the next 10 years. After that, it should enter the public domain. The same, I think, should apply to software, books, etc. I could probably be convinced that a reasonable compromise would be 20 years (at least until corporations actually get used to having to create instead of indefinitely rehash). Any longer than that, with high-speed distribution (get the product out) and the availability of numerous and sophisticated marketing methods (let people know about the product), actually serves to stifle creativity more than it helps.
    • GPL != Open source (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:54PM (#19014681)
      Yes, GPL does use copyright law to do its heavy lifting, and the removal of copyright would break GPL. For anti-copyright/pro-GPL people this is not necessarily inconsistent as it is somewhat like legal Jujitsu - using the enemies strength to defeat themselves.

      However there are other forms of open source software too, many of which do not rely on copyright in any shape or form.

      Ultimately, open source software is a philosophy and changing the legal tools will not change too much. The GPL is also just a tool and even if the GPL was to be ruled invalid (or was invalidated by the removal of copyright laws) not much would change. When the Shroud of Turin was shown to be fake the nuns didn't commit mass suicide; similarly open source software will continue, with or without copyright, GPL or whatever icons.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by samkass ( 174571 )
      This article seems to equate "open source" with the GPL. BSD and Apache licenses would have much less problem with lack of copyright.
  • abolish copyright (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nefarity ( 633456 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:16PM (#19014301)
    Who are these amazing people that want to abolish copyright?
    • by omeomi ( 675045 )
      I was wondering the same thing. Even in the open-source community, I don't think there are all that many people who want to completely do away with copyright. If I make something, why shouldn't I have the right to choose whether to make it freely available or not? Seems perfectly logical to me...
      • by catbutt ( 469582 )

        If I make something, why shouldn't I have the right to choose whether to make it freely available or not? Seems perfectly logical to me...
        Although, doesn't that same logic apply to patents as well? The slashdot crowd certainly seems to be pretty strongly anti-patent.

        Seems to me the whole issue of intellectual property revolves around people wanting to draw sharp lines on things that are inherently blurry.
        • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @09:27PM (#19015453)

          The slashdot crowd certainly seems to be pretty strongly anti-patent.
          I don't think most of the Slashdot crowd is anti-patent, just as they aren't anti-copyright. I think most of the Slashdot crowd just wants copyright and patents to be handled the way they were originally intended. Copyrights are supposed to expire after a specific, relatively short period of time, guaranteeing that the work would be incorporated into society as a whole, for society's benefit. I think you'll find a lot more people that want 25-year copyrights instead of 100-year copyrights than you'll find people that want no copyrights. Patents would probably get a similar response, with most people wanting 15-year patents on useful, non-obvious inventions, instead of the tons of patents on business methods and interface designs that we get now.
      • If I make something, why shouldn't I have the right to choose whether to make it freely available or not? Seems perfectly logical to me

        Let me paraphrase that:

        If recombine other people's ideas, and distribute my particular combination, shouldn't I have a right to demand that the government forcibly prevent others from copying or recombining those ideas further?

        That is the most emphatic form of the argument against you. Remember, all ideas are based on previous ones, from Shakespeare's plots to sort

      • I think that the typical argument is that IP restrictions (copyright and patents) prevent society from exploiting good ideas fully. A good example is the situation with AIDS drugs. If there were no copyrights or patents covering those drugs, they would be far more accessible. The only really good argument I've ever heard in favor of IP is that it can encourage more innovation by guaranteeing inventors a chance to profit from their inventions. Because of the success of open source software, we now know that
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by solevita ( 967690 )
      Terrorists and Linux users. The "and" in that previous sentence was probably superfluous.
    • by radish ( 98371 )
      Look on any thread involving the RIAA, MPAA or BitTorrent - they're everywhere. Anyone who supports the unrestricted duplication of (recently created) commercial copyrighted works is, IMHO, arguing for the abolition of copyright. I'm all for restricting the length of copyright, fair use exemptions, etc. However, I have a firm belief that someone who creates something should have some say about how it is distributed and the right, if they so choose, to demand compensation for it's use.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Babbster ( 107076 )

        Anyone who supports the unrestricted duplication of (recently created) commercial copyrighted works is, IMHO, arguing for the abolition of copyright.

        I don't know about that. If I, for example, steal someone's car I'm not necessary against property rights in general; I'm just a thieving bastard. :)
    • by Baldur_of_Asgard ( 854321 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:37PM (#19014523)
      I've kept up with this issue for years, and I can't think of anyone who wants to abolish copyright outright.

      Ensure Fair Use? Sure.

      Restrict copyright to a reasonable 20 or 30 years (even though 5 years would probably be sufficient for most purposes)? Sure.

      Abolish it entirely? Well, it probably wouldn't hurt as much as some people think it would, but it wouldn't be especially useful either, as long as Fair Use is allowed and it expires after a reasonable 20 or 30 years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I've kept up with this issue for years, and I can't think of anyone who wants to abolish copyright outright.

        Allow me to be the first to discuss this underrepresented side with you then!

        Part of the intent of copyright law is to allow a content producer control over how the information they create is distributed. This is done so profit isn't "lost", and to prevent plagiarism, and in the case of GPL (article topic) to keep information open (among other things). But consider if those problems that were once s
    • Re:abolish copyright (Score:4, Informative)

      by KutuluWare ( 791333 ) <kutulu@NOspAm.kutulu.org> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:19PM (#19014917) Homepage
      The author of TFA is seriously confused about a lot of things, one of those things being the goals of the Free Software Foundation. Stallman is probably one of the most extreme ultra-liberal people to ever sit at a keyboard, and yet I don't think he's ever once pushed for total abolition of copyright.

      What RMS and ideologically similar people have proposed is this: software should not be covered under copyright law. You can see this ideal most clearly if you head over to http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html [gnu.org] and read the two articles called "Why Software Should {Be Free,Not Have Owners}". While I disagree with his philosophy, he makes a pretty solid empirical case for why software should not be "owned" in the same sense that books are "owned" by their author or art is "owned" by the artist.

      The author of the article also fails to pick up on a key point about the GPL and why it exists: because there is copyright law, the FSF must use copyright law to accomplish their goals. If software was suddenly declared ineligible for copyright, there'd be no need for the GPL because no proprietary software company could prevent people with access to their source code from modifying or redistributing it, nor could they prevent people from modifying or distributing binary copies of the software. This is a small step back from the current state where the group of people with access to the GPL'd source code includes everyone with a copy of the binary, but it's a giant leap forward in eliminating all the complex legal issues around who can copy what and where.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:16PM (#19014317)
    Funny, I've never heard anyone say BSD wasn't open source.
  • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:17PM (#19014323) Homepage
    The dangers of linking to someone taking a mental dump in their blog.

    The author in question cites an ethereal 'anti-copyright crowd' and proposes that this 'crowd' are those who would license their software under the GNU/GPL.

    I don't think I really need to point out that the reality is very different.
  • I've said it before (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) * <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:19PM (#19014335) Homepage Journal
    And I've been modded down by some shifty Microsoft lovers that lurk here on this peaceful website. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE..

    Anyway, the GPL is like a Judo move. It rests on the strength of copyright law. If you make copyright stronger, then you make the GPL stronger. It's like a Judo master using his opponent's strength against him.
  • Ahh, straw men (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z0mb1eman ( 629653 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:19PM (#19014341) Homepage
    "How can I get people to read my blog... I know, I'll pick an extreme opinion that few people actually hold, combine it with a more popular but unrelated opinion, and write a long argument to shoot the whole thing down as self-contradictory."

    Yes, mod me down -1 cynical.
  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:20PM (#19014349)
    From his blog:

    Brain Handles © 2007 All Rights Reserved.
    Looks like an objective opinion to me.
  • It's a fundamentally good idea; people who create something have exclusive rights to sell it. Where things go wrong is when people decide to meddle with it, like continuously extending the period that it applies. Something like a 5 year limit would be appropriate in today's fast paced world. Just think; who here wants to buy a DVD or CD that is over 5 years old? Not unless it was originally issued in some other format, right? Don't confuse copyright with the fallacy of "intellectual property". Intellectua
    • While I am inclined to agree with 5 years you must consider the world is not that fast. Take for example classic radio stations, most of them play music 20-30 or even 40 years old hour after hour. Do we write these off or take them into account in this 5 years?

      5 years sounds nice but it does not apply to everything. I mean sure for films 5 years may work but music is a different beast and paintings even more so. How do you balance all of these mediums and not punish artists who get dropped from their label
      • Mickey Mouse copyrights no longer support Walt, they support a business. That is not what they were meant to do. When Walt died, copyrights are gone, end of story. business interests should not be able to inherit the rights of individuals. If Walt sold the copyrights to his company, they should still fall to public domain when he dies, no arguing. If you want to argue that he should be able to bequeath such benefits to his children, I might compromise at 5 years past death, but at that point they fall to pu
  • Wow, I've never seen a blog post described as an "essay" before. If only my old university markers were as generous as Slashdot editors!

    I don't even want to get started on the content of this so-called essay, let's just say that I thought there were some holes in it; but considering content or not, this was one of the worst "essays" I've ever read. I doubt it will become the victim of copyright infringement...
  • We only need GPL because of copyright. When it's all gone, all will be well. Trust me on this one. The only thing to be concerned about is plagiarism. Everything else is fluff. No matter who "takes" the code, they can't stop you from using it also. And without copyright restrictions you are free to build on the works of others and everybody will be given the opportunity to do just that. There is so much superior tech(Alpha chip!) being locked down and kept off the streets because of copyright. This must end
  • Copyright (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nlitement ( 1098451 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:22PM (#19014377)
    Copyright is fine as long as it doesn't go to idiotic extremities such as DMCA, causing obscure censoring like that recently on Digg or Wikipedia. Everything's good in moderation.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:23PM (#19014383) Homepage Journal
    It's Sunday again, and there's another out-of-left-field editorial about Open Source just like last week. I wonder if Slashdot editors have a "flame schedule" to amp up the readership during what would otherwise be slow periods.

    His argument is putting up a straw man that doesn't really represent what RMS and FSF think, and then knocking it down.

    The FSF stance is that good software comes with source code and with a particular set of rights which should be yours regardless of whether copyright can be used to enforce those rights or not. Perhaps it would be some other sort of law, or perhaps an ethical norm.

    But IMO it would make about 100 times more sense to argue about software patents at the moment, because they are by far the worse evil.


  • Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:24PM (#19014391)
    That's the whole point of the GPL. It's there to simulate the "no copyright" world within the existing copyright system. Go read some Stallman.
  • Wait (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:24PM (#19014395) Homepage
    I thought the author was going to make the mistake of saying that without copyright the GPL would be useless, but he actually makes a good point. I think the problem with licenses like the GPL and the Creative Commons are all about sticking it to The Man and a sort of social statement to the effect that IP ownership laws are broken, but they rely on an imagined legal and social framework that simply does not exist yet - and probably never will, though that's just my opinion. The efectiveness of these licenses (which overwhelmingly deal with distribution rather than use) wobbles on top of the very foundation they are trying to destroy. And none of them have addressed just what exactly is going to happen after they manage to topple it down.

    I'm not a big fan of the GPL, but I don't think public domain or a BSD-type deal is going to work either. But for everything I've ever read from Stallman and friends, I don't really think they have it down, either. It's as if they are sitting there hoping something will happen that will validate their position and everything will be kumbaya and honky dory. What that is they have no idea.

    Stallman can rewrite his license until the cows come home, but without some real change in the legal area it won't really make much difference. And piling restrictions up on top of the GPL can only go so far. Not his fault - that's just reality.

    And that's just for software... wait 'til you get into music and images and whatnot. The Creative Commons are in the same bind.

  • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:26PM (#19014421)
    For the purpose of software only, what about limiting copyright for a period of no more than seven years? Allow a company to milk the product for all it is worth, then allow the intellectual property to be public domain. Maybe seven years is too short. Perhaps ten years is better.

    How many of us use Windows 98 anymore still? How many think it should become public domain next year?
    • That's absurd. Look at software we're still using from the 70s. Compilers, TeX, windowing libraries, custom software [chip design for instance], etc, etc. Just because something is old doesn't mean it's not of value. If I spend time/money making a software library that I can use in products for years to come, doesn't mean I should public domain it just because it's not new anymore.

      The real issue is the openness of the software. vendor lockin is a very real problem that people seem to skim over. Which i
      • Let me change my idea.

        What about letting copyrights expire on software that is no longer being sold? I don't know if abandonware is the correct term.
        • It can. The owners have to decide to give it out as public domain. It's *their* choice.

          Otherwise, this would just give companies motive to put other companies under and then steal their wares.

      • TeX is public domain and always has been
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:27PM (#19014427)
    Copyright was meant to give an incentive to creators while guaranteeing the creation would become public domain at some date.

    Because of that, pure binary data that has no meaning for a human being should have no copyright protection, only creations that a human can understand. No copyrights for binary executable files or data that has been copy protected or encrypted in any form, only for source code or data such as video or music that is published in a format that is open and unencumbered by any form of copy protection or secrecy.

    Otherwise, how can the creation ever come into the public domain? How will one be able to read those DVDs when (and if!!!) their copyright ever expires? What's the point of granting a copyright for something that has never been published, such as the source code of commercial software?

    If you use copy protection in any form, either by encryption or by a trade secret, then you are able to protect your own intellectual property, you don't need the protection that the state grants you in the form of patents and copyrights.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
      Mmm so many naive questions and ideas.

      Of course binaries should be copyrighted. I mean we were copyrighting movies long before computers existed and they're not written text. Binaries are of value to customers and therefore should be protected from rampant copying without rights. Otherwise, what's the incentive to write software? Sure you can switch the business model around, but how many people would honestly pre-order software which they've never seen before? Video games being the exception. I know
  • No duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@gmCOMMAail.com minus punct> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:31PM (#19014459) Homepage
    The FSF and OSS movements were NEVER about abolishing copyright. They were about abolishing vendor-lockin and proprietary messes [re: file formats for instance].

    GPL was always a copyright license, in fact, ALL licenses are copyright driven. The only terms which are not is the public domain which cannot, by definition, have a copyright applied to it.

    Anyone who thinks OSS is about abolishing copyright doesn't know what they are talking about.

  • Right.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bky1701 ( 979071 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:32PM (#19014473) Homepage
    This is kind of like saying that if you are against socialism you should be against unions, or if you are for the death penalties for murder you should be for it for assault as well.

    Just because you support the GPL as a good fix in the current climate does not mean you approve of the current climate. BSD fails for many projects because a company will walk in, grab the code, edit it a little to add proprietary components, sell it and hurt the development of the free project. See wine.

    While the GPL isn't ideal, it defeats the "I am going to take your code, make a small change and call it mine" that wouldn't exist if no copyright existed in the first place. If copyright didn't exist, decompiling and DRM cracks would quickly negate any attempts to restrict use of code/programs.

    Take music for example. Some guy makes a background track under the GPL; people use it in their GPL songs or pay (for the development of more free background tracks) to use it in non-free songs. Then take one who puts it under something BSD-ish. The RIAA comes in, sticks Brittney Spears on top of it, makes millions of $$$ and goes around suing people that didn't pay them for what they only edited.

    Not to say that's likely, but it's a good example. If all open projects used the BSD, it's more likely than not MS/Apple would have just taken the best, stuck it in a proprietary package and sold it, making it so open projects could never get ahead or even catch up. Hell Apple already did this, with BSD itself none the less. How many times do people on slashdot alone say that they used to use Linux/BSD until OS X came around that had all the best of open software, except the fact that it was truly open?

    So far as I care, the only reason I use the GPL and not BSD is because I don't want someone else having a full copyright on something using what I created. That's not why I created it.
  • by mehgul ( 654410 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:33PM (#19014481)
    is that I can't buy a certain book published in 1900, because nobody's printing it anymore. But I can't legally copy it from the library or download it from Google books, because the author died in 1956, and therefore it won't fall into the public domain before 2026. That's the problem with copyright, not its existence.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
      The owner of the rights could have released it under a free license, or gave it to the public domain.

      Get angry at the authors/publishers for abusing copyright terms. Not the law.

      • by frogstar_robot ( 926792 ) <frogstar_robot@yahoo.com> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:50PM (#19014645)
        The law continually gets more and more unreasonable and is pretty much abuse-by-default at this point. Mickey Mouse Preservation Act anyone? But you are right. Getting angry at the law is stupid but getting VERY angry at the tools that were greased into passing laws written for them by some lobbyist isn't.
        • Well yeah. But my point is as a copyright owner you have the right to declare your creation as public domain. Disney could, for example, make steamboat willy public domain if they wanted. They choose not to, and moreso, to fight the terms by "Greasing the politicians."

          • by mehgul ( 654410 )
            Tell me about it... If you're a scientific author, in most scientific fields (not everybody can publish in PLoS Biology, for example if you're a physicist that woulnd't be so useful), you are pretty much required to relinquish you rights for publication to companies like Elsevier if you want to be published. Those companies then sell the publications for insane amounts of money, and will keep the selling rights weel into the 21st century, when we have flying cars and AI.
            Of course you have the right to shut
            • Depends on the text I guess. My first book was public domain originally. I decided to get it published and it only sold a couple thousand copies. Definitely not worth it.

              If you think your text or results should be freely available, just forgo a publication and just distribute it yourself.

              Getting your name on the cover of a printed book isn't the be-all of existence.

              • by mehgul ( 654410 )
                Again from the POV of a researcher, try getting grant money with publications on the website of your institution/company. And I'm pretty sure most researchers wouldn't mind their papers being freely disseminated, as that would get them more recognition from their peers, but a vast majority can't do that.
                But as you say, depends on the text.
      • by mehgul ( 654410 )
        The author: - was an archeologist who was publishing for the dissemination of knowledge and academic credit. He probably didn't put much into thinking about copyright, especially since it was in 1900. - the author/publishers were not the ones who voted an extension of copyright from 50 years to 70 years post-mortem. I have nothing against reasonable laws. That's when they become unreasonable that one can get 'angry' (it's more like I'm annoyed, and it's not like I didn't already illegally copy the book).
    • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:06PM (#19014809) Journal
      In this case you're wrong; anything published before 1923 is now in the public domain, regardless of when the author died. Source: Cornell [cornell.edu]
  • In other words: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:42PM (#19014571) Homepage
    If you're a libertarian, you can't be for government reform.
    If you're a green-peace activist, you can't drive to rallys.
    If you're a vegetarian, you can't eat yogurt.

    Now to be fair, the article has points that aren't drowned in sensationalism. Like, for example, how non-copyrighted works could be taken away and used by corporations. Which, in a copyright-free environment, would be perfectly OK.

    The opening "joke" is key to understanding the logic. Either you'd sleep with someone for money OR you wouldn't, price is irrelevant to whether you're a whore or not. Similarly, either you'd never use copyright for anything OR you would, context be damned. So Open Source advocates who see OS as the only way to make something work under the current system are tarred with the same impractical black-and-white brush as a woman who would sleep with someone for enough money to guarantee a college education and financial security for her children.

    Utter lack of taste or tact aside, this is just one philosopher shouting that a different philosopher should change their symbols, with no grounding in utility or practicality.
  • The GPL is in place because without it, somebody would take some open source code, make a derivative work of it, copyright the derivative work, and charging for it or place other tight restrictions of it. For example, look what Apple did with BSD.

    Without copyright, somebody could make and distribute derivative works of open source code, but they wouldn't be able to copyright the derivative work or impose restrictions on its distribution or modification.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:51PM (#19014659) Journal
    at least in my opinion. Remember, my opinion is worth what you paid for it.

    Nobody is against copyright per se. What people are against is how copyright is used to damage the principle for which it was founded. Artists should have copyright to their work. Distribution companies should not. If you write some really nifty software you should have copyrights to it, not a patent unless it seems to revolutionize the software industry or some part of it.

    What people (/. in general) are against is using that copyright authority to run roughshod over the public with it. Nobody really wants musicians to give their art away for free. What we see today is a backlash on the business model of the RIAA and their member companies. I don't think that there are many people that aren't willing to pay a modest/reasonable price for a CD. They do however want to be able to use that CD and its content where ever they want to, including loaning it to a friend, reselling it, or making backup copies so they don't have to purchase it multiple times. These issues have nothing to do with copyright and everything to do with how the **AA (and consequently the government) abuse copyright law to line their own pockets.

    The people who write OSS software deserve the copyrights to that, and I often contribute to those projects that I feel I use and enjoy. Hell, I even once bought a copy of winzip. As far as patents go, even the USPTO/courts are starting to realize that the patent situation is totally out of control, and harming business interests as well as damaging the public good that it was meant to foster. Notice that recent rulings may invalidate the patents that Verizon holds that were used to nearly drive Vonage out of business. That is exactly the opposite of what they were meant to do.

    To say that the F/OSS community in general doesn't like copyright or patents is absurd. What they don't like (and I'm taking liberties in speaking for them) is how they are used to drive unjust revenues at the expense of the public and the original content producers. iTMS is evidence that people will pay for content if it is usable, though I have some questions about how ultimately useful iTunes DRM'ed music actually is.

    If patents and copyrights were applied in a logical and fair manner, producing the productivity and benefits they are supposed to, nobody on /. would have much of a problem. This truly is a case of the people speaking with one mind, even if there are people who can't figure out what is being said.
  • I'm surprised this argument is still around considering how many times it's been shot down in flames. It looks like the author has no idea how politics works.

    A person who aims at an extreme will first support more moderate positions that have a greater chance of being accepted. Imagine that there is a nation that contains monarchists, republicans, and anarchists. If the monarchists are in power, the republicans and the anarchists will likely ally to bring them down. If a state of anarchy exists, the republi
  • by Vasco Bardo ( 931460 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:05PM (#19014789)
    As everybody has already commented, this article is based on fundamentally flawed logic on so many levels that it is difficult to enumerate, so I'll stick to some important points.
    1) You can oppose copyright and support open-source at the same time. In fact, if you do oppose copyright, you're only viable strategy IS to support open-source, while copyright is THE LAW and stuff.
    2) You can also support a concept while knowing that it is unimplementable. You can find several examples in History books.
    3) "members of the anti-copyright crowd cite the GPL (GNU Public License) as an alternative to copyright" is not an example of irony but of a practical stop-gap solution.
    4) The "look at what happens if the GPL is unenforceable." is a bizarre glimpse into a strange world that conveniently ignores a bunch of nasty truths, all in all pretty well debunked on other comments, although I find it most revealing that the "world without GPL", does have DRM! The "dreamworld" turns out to be more like a "strawworld" [wikipedia.org].
    My personal opinion is that copyright has a place, and therefore should not be abolished, in a *perfect world*. However, due to the fact that the world is what it is, I would be perfectly happy with that bloated-and-abused-out-of-proportion-sorry-excuse- for-a copyright law getting abolished. So you see, I actually support and not support the same thing at the same time, and I have not disappeared in a puff of logic.

  • Copyright isn't a problem. For the most part it works as intended. The screwed up patent system is by far the most problematic member of the IP triumverate (copyright, patents, and trademarks). The only problems crop up when copyright is misapplied to support monopolistic practices like the production of proprietary printer cartridges.
  • Who opposes copyright?

    Most of the controversy is about extending the term of it to ridiculous lengths ... I mean it is possible with a little more extension for the copyright to go out to 200 years.

  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by obeythefist ( 719316 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:16PM (#19014889) Journal
    Most people aren't trying to desperately abolish copyright. Copyright as it stands must be removed and replaced with, say, the original intent for copyright, which is a reasonably short (20 years?) monopoly on an intellectual property to allow and encourage people to think up new ideas, and be assured of a degree of income from that.

    Copyright should never persist beyond 20 years since date of copyright, even if the creator dies during this period (for the purpose of the estate of the copyright holder, I am thinking of the children after all).

    Just think of everything that has been devised 20 years ago and earlier. A lot of rich content could be in the public domain. Imagine the innovation that could take place with people creating derivative works!
  • RTFM (Score:5, Informative)

    by dircha ( 893383 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:34PM (#19015033)
    Looks like another college sophomore just discovered the GPL.

    Welcome, sir. To start, why don't you Read the Fine Manual?

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html [gnu.org]

    The FSF is an organization committed to the advancement of Free Software. The FSF contends that proprietary (non-Free) software development and distribution is unethical and should cease because it fails to satisfy the 4 essential freedoms of software users.

    Free software is software that satisfies the 4 essential freedoms of users of software. These freedoms are completely independent of Copyright's existence or non-existence. The definition of Free Software makes no mention of copyright.

    Absent the voluntary or involuntary elimination of proprietary software, the Free Software Foundation generally encourages the use of Copyleft. You seem to be confused about the difference between Free Software and Copyleft. Free Software is software that satisfies the 4 essential freedoms of software users. Copyleft, on the other hand, is a licensing strategy employed wherin existing Copyright law is leveraged to further the proliferation of Free Software. There is much non-Copylefted Free Software.

    You also seem to confuse Open Source with Free Software or Copyleft. These are all quite different things.

    Once again, I refer you to the Fine manual:

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-fr eedom.html [gnu.org]

    Having said all this, please consider taking a few minutes to inform yourself in the future before making wild generalizations about people and organizations you know nothing about. And congrats on completing sophomore year!
  • Causality problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kocsonya ( 141716 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @08:34PM (#19015035)
    Regardless whether you agree with copyright or not, the argument that copyright is good because without it there wouldn't be a GPL is simply wrong. The GPL was born to fight closed source. Closed source was protected by copyright. RMS et al had the great idea of using the copyright law to fight its effect, they used the law-guaranteed restrictive power of copyright to guarantee that the right of copying a GPL-ed work can not be limited.

    If there was no copyright there would not be a need for the GPL because there would not be a restriction on copying, modifying and redistributing the source. The GPL is a counter-measure and as such its existence is dependent on that of the measure it counters. If you agree with a counter-measure it is a logical fallacy to say that the original measure is good because without it we couldn't fight against it...

    The article goes into scenarios where Big Bad Megacorp steals your code and distributes DRM protected binaries because there's no copyright. Well, first of all the 'R' in DRM would not be there if there was no copyright. They had no legal basis of using any measure to stop you to copy the program. They can use technical measures, but if you defeat them, they're out of luck.

    The Big Bad Megacorp would need a different business model to rip you off. I bet they'd find a way. It wouldn't be based on their exclusive right to copy a work, that's all. The current content provider industry business model uses copyright as the basis of their revenue. They would sink and some other industry would pop up that uses some other aspect to make money. Of course the copyright lobby is scared about *their* income going down and it's no consolation for them that some other businesses would became filthy rich if copyright was abolished, so they fight to protect and extend copyright as much as possible.

    The GPL fights back at least in the software segment of the copyright business. But the GPL is only good because it undoes the restrictions that the copyright places on you (by ingeniously using the very law that protects the copyright industry's content) to provide you the freedom the industry wants to deny. Without copyright there wouldn't be GPL because there would not be a need for it.
  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @10:56PM (#19016107)
    28 years plus a 28 year extension, and you actually have to file for a copyright and put copyright notices on the work.
    If this law were still in place everything before 1951 would be in the public domain. Imagine a world where you could download
    all your old 1930s and 40s films online. In the year 2016 if the 1909 copyright act were still in place, everyone could be trading tv series
    from the 1950s.

      The fact that most people dont realized between 1790 and 1976 only 1 extension had been granted from 14 to 28 years.

    The question the copyright lawyers of 1976-2006 have to explain is how all these extensions encouraged the promotion of
    arts and sciences. How does it encourage the creation of new works to grant extensions to estates and corporations?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      and you actually have to file for a copyright and put copyright notices on the work.
      That is of course a horrid system, just imagine if every time you added a new fix to your GPL program you had to pay a $20 fee and file paperwork. Of course large companies would have of course loved this as they'd have even less competition as a result.
  • Strawman (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eivind ( 15695 ) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Monday May 07, 2007 @07:20AM (#19018893) Homepage

    So, he is arguing against a position that I've never heard anyone holding.

    These members of the anti-copyright crowd cite the GPL (GNU Public License) as an alternative to copyright without any sense of the ironic fact that the GPL can't exist without copyright.

    Starting with RMS himself, most people *either* say copyrigth is fine -- GPL is our prefered copyrigth-notice OR they say: copyrigth is fundamentally a bad idea, but aslong as we've got it, we've got no choice but to make the best of it, GPL is our attempt at this.

    The biggest group I know are somewhere in between; They accept copyrigth, but consider life+100 years completely ridicolous. Copyrigths on software should probably expire in a decade. My prefered state of affairs would be no DMCA or similar law, 5 year copyrigth on software, and as much of that software as possible under the GPL. (yeah, this would mean you could take 6-year-old GPL-software and put it in a closed product. Fine with me !)

    It's sorta like the MANY people who say that software-patents are BAD, but aslong as we do have them, it migth be worthwhile to gather up an Open Source defencive patent-pool.

    Who *are* these people he argues against ? Do they even exist ?

System checkpoint complete.