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<nettime> Fwd: [Upd-discuss] RMS re: the Swedish Pirate Party's Platform
Anivar Aravind on Sun, 2 Aug 2009 16:49:12 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Fwd: [Upd-discuss] RMS re: the Swedish Pirate Party's Platform


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Seth Johnson <seth.johnson {AT} realmeasures.dyndns.org>
Date: Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 4:46 AM
Subject: [Upd-discuss] RMS re: the Swedish Pirate Party's Platform
To: ecommerce {AT} lists.essential.org, upd-discuss {AT} lists.essential.org,
A2K {AT} lists.essential.org

(I'm inclined to think that as the kind of policy the Pirate Party
platform represents gains footing, we would be able to take up the
problems with EULAs on information products without many of the
unproductive assumptions that are more easily propagated under the
current kind of copyright regime. I don't think that's enough of a
solution, but it should be borne in mind. Â-- Seth)


> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/pirate-party.html


How the Swedish Pirate Party Platform Backfires on Free Software


by Richard Stallman


The bullying of the copyright industry in Sweden inspired the launch
of the first political party whose platform is to reduce copyright
restrictions: the Pirate Party. Its platform includes the prohibition
of Digital Restrictions Management, legalization of noncommercial
sharing of published works, and shortening of copyright for commercial
use to a five-year period. Five years after publication, any published
work would go into the public domain.

I support these changes, in general; but the specific combination
chosen by the Swedish Pirate Party backfires ironically in the special
case of free software. I'm sure that they did not intend to hurt free
software, but that's what would happen.

The GNU General Public License and other copyleft licenses use
copyright law to defend freedom for every user. The GPL permits
everyone to publish modified works, but only under the same license.
Redistribution of the unmodified work must also preserve the license.
And all redistributors must give users access to the software's source
code.

How would the Swedish Pirate Party's platform affect copylefted free
software? After five years, its source code would go into the public
domain, and proprietary software developers would be able to include
it in their programs. But what about the reverse case?

Proprietary software is restricted by EULAs, not just by copyright,
and the users don't have the source code. Even if copyright permits
noncommercial sharing, the EULA may forbid it. In addition, the users,
not having the source code, do not control what the program does when
they run it. To run such a program is to surrender your freedom and
give the developer control over you.

So what would be the effect of terminating this program's copyright
after 5 years? This would not require the developer to release source
code, and presumably most will never do so. Users, still denied the
source code, would still be unable to use the program in freedom. The
program could even have a âtime bombâ in it to make it stop working
after 5 years, in which case the âpublic domainâ copies would not run
at all.

Thus, the Pirate Party's proposal would give proprietary software
developers the use of GPL-covered source code after 5 years, but it
would not give free software developers the use of proprietary source
code, not after 5 years or even 50 years. The Free World would get the
bad, but not the good. The difference between source code and object
code and the practice of using EULAs would give proprietary software
an effective exception from the general rule of 5-year copyright â one
that free software does not share.

We also use copyright to partially deflect the danger of software
patents. We cannot make our programs safe from them â no program is
ever safe from software patents in a country which allows them â but
at least we prevent them from being used to make the program
effectively non-free. The Swedish Pirate Party proposes to abolish
software patents, and if that is done, this issue would go away. But
until that is achieved, we must not lose our only defense for
protection from patents.

Once the Swedish Pirate Party had announced its platform, free
software developers noticed this effect and began proposing a special
rule for free software: to make copyright last longer for free
software, so that it can continue to be copylefted. This explicit
exception for free software would counterbalance the effective
exception for proprietary software. Even ten years ought to be enough,
I think. However, the proposal met with resistance from the Pirate
Party's leaders, who objected to the idea of a longer copyright for a
special case.

I could support a law that would make GPL-covered software's source
code available in the public domain after 5 years, provided it has the
same effect on proprietary software's source code. After all, copyleft
is a means to an end (users' freedom), not an end in itself. And I'd
rather not be an advocate for a stronger copyright.

So I proposed that the Pirate Party platform require proprietary
software's source code to be put in escrow when the binaries are
released. The escrowed source code would then be released in the
public domain after 5 years. Rather than making free software an
official exception to the 5-year copyright rule, this would eliminate
proprietary software's unofficial exception. Either way, the result is
fair.

A Pirate Party supporter proposed a more general variant of the first
suggestion: a general scheme to make copyright last longer as the
public is granted more freedoms in using the work. The advantage of
this is that free software becomes part of a general pattern of
varying copyright term, rather than a lone exception.

I'd prefer the escrow solution, but any of these methods would avoid a
prejudicial effect specifically against free software. There may be
other solutions that would also do the job. One way or another, the
Pirate Party of Sweden should avoid placing a handicap on a movement
to defend the public from marauding giants.

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"The resources of the world are for us all to share. Let us affirm our
faith in that common cause" - Dr. Ilina Sen


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