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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: Sun, 26 Jul 2009 17:57:29 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.20 (2009-06-14)

On Sun, Jul 26, 2009 at 04:06:17PM +0100, Pater Mann wrote:
> having spent approaching 30 years programming commercial software, I
> have to question that statement

Of course you have to question it.  I have questioned it before, and
have come to the general conclusion that it is unethical to license
software in the way that many proprietary software vendors do: By
restricting the user from doing anything else with the software and
monopolising the ability to change it.

Software vendors should be competing based on technical merit, not by
restriction.  If the software they have produced is consistently better
than the rest, then people will look to them to write similar software.
If they provide better support and update services, then people will pay
for them.  All of the time, proprietary vendors are looking to restrict
and monopolise, and they do it because it’s easy, and actually writing
good software is hard.

> especially as we are discussing a copyright term of only 5 years.

The intention of copyright is to provide the authors a limited term
where they have exclusive rights, a limited monopoly, as an incentive to
produce works that will become public domain.  This is the “copyright
bargain” (look it up).

For this to work, the period has to be long enough that the producers
will see the incentive, but short enough that the public will see any
benefit from it.

The reason for a period as short as five years is because the software
industry is fast paced, and software ages and becomes less useful at a
faster rate.  I do not think this period should be applied universally
across literary works.

Now, I think five years is reasonable, but then I’m biased towards the
common good.  It is clear, however, that there are many players in the
software industry who would like to keep their monopolies for as long as
they can, because, ethical or not, they use them to their advantage
against that of the public.  A change down to five years is very
ambitious, and instead I would suggest a move for copyright reform, and
not to set the period in stone.

> so and I certainly do not wish to be seen as a troll, especially in my
> first post to this list, but if I as a company or an individual have
> spent a lot of time and money developing a piece of software, why
> should I then be forced to simply give it away?

Take a look from the other point of view:  A customer purchases some
software from you.  They now have a copy of the software, but find it
doesn’t do quite what they want.  Why should they be forced to go back
to you to modify it to suit their needs?  That’s what software freedom
is about, it isn’t about just giving software away.

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

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