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Re: `freeing' proprietary software (was Re: [DotGNU]Open ContentNetwork:

From: Barry Fitzgerald
Subject: Re: `freeing' proprietary software (was Re: [DotGNU]Open ContentNetwork: Free Software P2P)
Date: Sun, 02 Jun 2002 12:08:17 -0400

Adam Theo wrote:
> S11001001 wrote:
> > As a computer user today, you may find yourself using a proprietary
> > program. If your friend asks to make a copy, it would be wrong to
> > refuse. Cooperation is more important than copyright.
> >     -- RMS, "Why Software Should Not Have Owners"
> Free Software can take over the world, but it will not happen if it is
> associated with breaking the law. This is the biggest thing I have
> against RMS, in that he too often encourages this sort of thing. It can
> happen, we just have to take the high road and not resort to petty
> crimes to get what we want. So sorry, disagree with RMS (and I'm
> assuming you as well) here  :-)

I don't disagree with the sentiment that we should take the high road
and not break the law if possible.  However, I don't think that this
quite qualifies as "petty crimes" either.  If a law is inherently
unethical, then there may in fact be an ethical argument for ignoring

Think about it from this perspective:  If your government enacted a law
saying that you should not share food with anyone else because it
undermines the food industry -- and your neighbor invited you over for
dinner, what do you do?

Do you rebuff your neighbor and be legal (even though the law is stupid
and unethical)?  

Or, expand upon that for a second.  A old friend who has fallen on hard
times is on your doorstep.  All he needs is a sandwich to get him by -
do you a) give him the sandwich and break the law or b) not give him
anything and watch him starve to death on your front lawn?

Food particles... bits and bytes... they're conceptually the same in my
book.  Sharing is sharing, regardless of what you're sharing.  

So, the situation is more complex than just "breaking the law is bad".  

Legal note: I am not advocating "piracy".  Production of Free Software
is a MUCH better solution to the problem.  Free Software itself hinges
on adherence to the GNU GPL.  If we advocate breaking licenses, we
advocate the breaking of the GNU GPL as well.  However, at it's core the
copying of software under a proprietary license may not be explicitely
unethical.  Also, the copying of music for non-profit purposes is also
not illegal in the United States (as much as corrupt judges and
corporations may want to indicate otherwise).


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