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Re: [Fsuk-manchester] RMS on Swedish Pirate Party vs Free Software

From: Simon Ward
Subject: Re: [Fsuk-manchester] RMS on Swedish Pirate Party vs Free Software
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2009 13:07:32 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.18 (2008-05-17)

On Sat, Jul 25, 2009 at 09:59:14AM +0100, Tim Dobson wrote:
> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/pirate-party.html
> Interesting points.
> This really does separate the BSD'ers and Apache people from the  
> copyleft people.

I’m an advocate of shortening copyright terms, and I have wondered how
RMS views copyright term vs the protection that copyright gives free
software.  On the one hand you have shorter copyright terms, and works
going to the public domain sooner.  This satisfies a general aim that
works should be free (libre) to the public.  On the other, the GPL uses
copyright to affect its freedoms.

What the expiration of exclusive copyrights does not do is stipulate
that the source code for software (or any other works with source) must
also be free.  With free software, the source code is generally
available.  With proprietary software, once the work is public domain
you may only have access to the compiled binaries and there is nothing
to say that the source code should be available (although you could
reverse engineer it).

RMS has come to pretty much the same solution I had in mind:  Source
code put in escrow for the copyright term, then released to the public
domain.  What I didn’t have a solution for was how to enforce this.  How
do you enforce it?  Who escrows the source?  Would the software vendor
have to pay, or is this intended to be a public service (or both)?
Shouldn’t all software be put in escrow — what if the source for
supposedly free software was not released, or the source lost?

Some of us might really like the idea of proprietary software vendors
being taxed a bit more, but that’s not really what we want:  We want
free software, and I’m looking at any software in the public domain
being free in the sense of the four freedoms in the free software
definition.  All software, regardless of how it is licensed during the
copyright term, should become free to the public.

I didn’t think about the patent protection the GPL gives us.  Could that
be achieved by saying that any patent assertions cannot be made after
the copyright term (effectively bringing the patent term down to five
years)?  (I have no knowledge of software patents in Sweden.)

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a
simple system that works.—John Gall

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