Re: [ox-en] non-commercial software lic
- From: "George Dafermos" <georgedafermos discover.org>
- Date: 18 May 2004 20:31:16 -0000
very interesting discussion via s vis ethical licensing.
Seems the discussion is stuck somewhere along the question whether a license and its architect should focus more on promoting a set of beliefs and values, despite the fact that these beliefs and values may of limited enforceability at a court of law, thus undermining the effectiveness of the license as a whole, or whether the architect should strive for a license that is as clear as hell in order to stand a chance of being enforeable at the courts, yet with the unintended effect of sacrifising the beliefs and values he intially intended to promote and around which he sought to raise community awareness.
I should say that i'm not an expert in law although i have taken a few courses in "intellectual property" law and labour law. thus, my take on this is not of a lawyer's, and it's highly subjective and personal. This is all the more so since i'm involved in the Common Good Public License (CGPL). Having said that, the starting point i keep in mind whenever thinking about copyrights and their modern applicability is the following: copyright was conceived a long time ago, in a time when the means of publishing and distribution were not widely distributed. Historically viewed, copyright meant that the handful of journal publishers that existed then could be checked upon, and controlled by the government. By making "owing your words a requirement", governments of the old world could keep an eye on publishing houses and censor then accordingly. That was a long time ago, we all agree. Copyright now is strikingly irrelevant to our needs, our economies, and our societies, especially when considering that anyone armed with a computer and Internet access is effectively a publisher. Further, copyright was definitely not designed to "suit" digital artifacts - things that lack a physical substance and can be reproduced perfectly (or alomost perfectly) at no or negligible cost. So, we've come to live in a world radically different than the one that gave birth to copyright. Yet, and despite all those good reasons for revisiting the basic fundamentals of copyright law, and rethinking its very raison d'etre, we are continuously observing that the sphere of copyright law keeps getting bigger and bigger. Why? I don't think i need to elaborate on it. We all know why. This situation is exactly what some people, chief among them being cornelius castoriadis, describe as the imaginary institution of society. Copyright is irrelevant, yet its role keeps getting more important by the day. And this is the problem: for even though the underlying basis of copyright may be imaginary when evaluated against its relevance to the current wo!
effect on society at large is very real nonetheless. What should we do? Some people claim that copyright and patents will self-destruct because of their irrelevance, and that we should do nothing other than stressing their irrelevance (how to stress their irelevance is another question with far too many answers). So, should we adhere to copyright the way lawyers and courts define it? Or should we strive for an equally imaginary alternative; one perhaps that promotes our set of beliefs and values too? I would go for the latter option.
Now, there are people that have no problem with the GNU GPL. IMHO, the GPL is fantastic and the only one of all the FS/OS licenses that stands a chance of surviving in the long term. It has gained momentum, it is (possibly) enforceable, it is clear as to its objectives and goals, and it is an inseparable part of the free software community. No one wants to discard it or discredit its importance and value, regardless of whether we choose to see it as a mere legal mechanism or whether we choose to coneptualise it as something much bigger and much more complicated, indeed as part of what we're all trying to accomplish. On the other hand, there are people who respect the GPL and promote it with all the means they have, but they also think that a license that places limitations on use would be helpful too in making people think about the wider case for and against copyright. And most importantly, like i said, any licensing mechanism like the GPL, is more than a licensing mechanism. It's a set of ideas, values and beliefs embedded in a legal construct. It's true politics and economics reflected and represented by a legal artifact. So, why should one care only for the licensing mechanism part, that is to say the enforceability part, and stop thinking about the wider issues he's concerned with? I don't see such a conflict, at lest not from where i now sit. A legal mechanism i would go for need not be one that is solely enforceable, yet failing to inspire me and make me think twice about the world we're in. An ideal license, in muh the same way the GPL is ideal for many people, would have to reflect my political beliefs too. Personally,for all the reasons i like the GPL, i also think it's increasingly dangerous. Why? because for the first time in history, we have the tehnological knowledge required to change the world and ourselves at such an extent that was previously thought impossible. The best thing we could do to avoid a detrimental course of action is to raise community awareness around those dangers stemmi!
"pure science" uses of technology. If a license can help me do this, then i'd go for it, whether enforceable or not.
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