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Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age of Free Software

By rusty in News
Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 07:43:08 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Welcome to the first in what I hope will become a continuing feature here, the roundtable discussion. This week's roundtable features three members of the Free Software Foundation, Jonas Oberg (jonas), Gordon Matzigkeit (gord), and Phillip Rulon (pjr), and will focus on Free Software and Intellectual Property. More on the topic and our guests below, as well as a short introduction of what this roundtable thing is all about.

Interviews are commonplace on weblogs. There are even sites that run interviews based entirely on readers' questions. We wanted to go a little beyond that, though. So here, instead of a Q&A interview, we invite guests to participate in a discussion with the readers directly, which will "officially" run for a week or so, and focus on a particular topic or issue close the the guest's heart. You ask questions, they answer, but since it's a threaded discussion, you can follow up on your, or anyone else's, questions as well. At the end of the discussion period, we'll write up a summary of where the discussion went and what, if any, conclusions were reached (in the style of "Kernel Traffic"), and post it. Obviously the original discussion will continue as long as people keep posting comments, and the summary itself might provoke further discussion. Our guests, however, have only promised to participate for the "official" discussion period, so they may or may not continue to answer questions after that time.

Whatever you may think of the ideas, opinions, or politics of the guests involved, we ask only that you remember they have agreed to talk with you, directly, in this rather unusual format, and therefore you owe them the same respect they're explicitly affording you. As with most aspects of the site, the success of the round table idea is totally up to you, and I believe you will all once again prove yourselves to be more than equal to the task. :-)

This week's discussion will focus on Intellectual Property and Free Software. IP issues have been a hot-button topic, in the world at large, and in the free software community in particular, for quite some time. The basic question is whether the current reigning intellectual property system in use in the US, and much of the software-consuming world, can account for or coexist with Free software. I can't describe or argue the issue any more lucidly or thoroughly than Eben Moglen (FSF general council and Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia) did in his article "Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright," posted here recently, so I won't even try. If you're unclear on why the free software community even has any issues with the existing body of patent and copyright law, read Professor Moglen's article first.

As some of the foremost proponents of freedom in software, the members of the Free Software Foundation are naturally concerned about the effects patent-mania have had, and will continue to have, on the development and distribution of free software. Joining us this week are three volunteers from the Free Software Foundation. They naturally speak only for themselves, but will probably give you a fair representation of the collective opinion of the FSF.

Gordon Matzigkeit is a peaceful anarchist who enjoys writing about himself in the third person. He has been known to surface in unusual places in order to submit patches to existing free software, propose crackpot unifying ideas (such as GNU Libtool and the FIG Project), or discuss the transcendence of bivalent reductionism. He is currently working for the Free Software Foundation on the grassroots coordination of the first public release of the GNU system, running on the GNU Hurd. He also manages subversions.gnu.org, the GNU CVS server. His only presence on the Web is http://fig.org/gord/.

Jonas Oberg is a part-time FSF volunteer, working with webmastering and system administration. He's also pushing for the use of free software in the Swedish government and does programming work for various free software projects. He maintains a personal home page on coyote.org. (Editor's note: read Jonas's excellent articles, linked from the above URL, if you're unfamiliar with the FSF or the ideals of the GNU project. Well, read them anyway, because they're good, but especially if you need a refresher on who these folks are.)

Phillip Rulon is a programmer and sysadmin at GNU. He also masters all the CDs for the project. When he has a spare nanosecond, he's learning to write Apache modules in C. Occasionally, he writes newspaper articles. In another life he was an accomplished welder and machinist and worked on particle accelerators. He's also a member of the Retro-Computing Society of Rhode Island and has 4 PDP11s in his basement, which he rarely has time to play with.

Some questions to consider:

Are the aims of the patent system and the free software movement inherently antithetical, or is there some way to reconcile the two?

Free software is often accused of perpetually playing "catch-up" to proprietary software. Can innovation happen in a free and open manner, when it seems that the first thing companies do these days is patent anything that could possibly be considered innovative?

Would it be feasible to establish an "Open Patent" trust, to patent innovations and allow their unrestricted use, or at least register them as "prior art" to ensure authors of free software protection from patent lawsuits down the road? More info on this idea can be found at technocrat.net.

These are just a few of the issues at hand, so I'll let you take it from here. pjr, gord, and jonas await your questions, so have at it. :-)


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Related Links
o Technocrat
o jonas
o gord
o pjr
o Kernel Traffic
o Eben Moglen
o Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright
o here
o http://fig .org/gord/
o coyote.org
o technocrat .net
o Also by rusty

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Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age of Free Software | 32 comments (32 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I think you've done it now Rusty. ... (2.00 / 3) (#1)
by bmetzler on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 04:21:00 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

I think you've done it now Rusty. You've created a new revolutionary idea. Your site will be more popular then /. with such great ideas like this :)
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (3.50 / 2) (#2)
by kraant on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 08:29:54 PM EST

Hrrrrrm No point having a discussion without something to talk about...

How about this...

1. How effective do you think the GPL has been in making a better world today?

2. How much potential do you think the GPL has to better mankind

3. Do you ever feel somewhat Quixotic in your campaigns?

daniel - sleepy++
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by pjr on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 09:48:52 PM EST

I think that the success of the GNU System speaks fairly clearly about the impact that the GPL has had. The world is a far better place if it were only because I can respond to this question in the way that I am. This discussion is made possible, in a large part, thanks to the GPL.

The GPL is one of a class of ideas that promote the flow of information. In the last decade information flow has seen dramatic change. Some people are very frightened by this change but I am not. I have very optimistic views about information flow. I know that some people will abuse the power that information grants to them, but for every abuser there will be ten people who use their power wisely.

As for feeling Quixotic, not at all. I've never had any doubt about this being the right thing to do.

[ Parent ]

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by jonas on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:07:28 PM EST

The GPL has certainly made the world better for a lot of people today, but I don't have any illusion of that the GPL, or free software in general, will end world hunger and bring peace to the world. If you ask me about the philosophy behind free software though, my response is different since the philosophy represents a much saner way to build a community where sharing is a central part. I had the good fortune to listen to a professor in sociology a few years back and he called todays society for the Information Waste society. That's something I think is very true of the world today, but fortunately something that is slowly changing. The free software philosophy is only a small part of this change, but I do not think I would have liked to live in a world where the first thing I had to do when turning on a computer was to use non-free software and sign non-disclosure agreements.

[ Parent ]
When will IP concepts change? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by rusty on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 09:57:53 PM EST

After reading Moglen's (can't stress enough how good) excellent essay, my big question is: If you accept his basic premise, that the current intellectual property system *will* and *must* change, then how and when do you see that happening? Is it a gradual thing, like free software slowly changing people's minds about what should and shouldn't be hidden, or do you think there will be some "seminal event" that corrodes the underpinnings of the current system past the point of no return.

Or, in fact, has the seminal event (if there is one) already happened, as in "in hindsight, it was [the GNU project || the growth of the internet || something else] that finally tolled the death-knell for the age of industrial IP"?

Not the real rusty

Re: When will IP concepts change? (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by gord on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 10:33:19 PM EST

With everything, the real changes don't hit until there's a generation of children who grow up alongside the concept. I think the idea of intellectual freedom is widespread enough that many children born in the late 1990's will accept it as normal. Then it won't be as exciting anymore, but it will be a lot more commonplace. I think the age of global collaboration to work on free information is just about to explode. Too bad that's happening alongside those who just want to numb their senses and be entertained by the multinationals. :(
I'm a FIG (http://fig.org/) I use GNU (http://www.gnu.org/)
[ Parent ]
Re: When will IP concepts change? (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by rusty on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 10:49:29 PM EST

Too bad that's happening alongside those who just want to numb their senses and be entertained by the multinationals.

Ok, I just got back from a fairly mixed gathering of folks at a local bar, and this bit reminded me of a phenomenon I've been noticing more and more lately (and noticed tonight). There seem to be emerging two large classes of people-- those who use the internet a lot and those who don't. And the "mediaspheres" these two groups of people exist in seem to be very very different.

It's all well and good explaining how IP law is no good, and many of us who use and create free software see it's value experimentally every single day. I don't really need it philosophically justified to me, personally, because I use it, and it works. But I keep running into this wall when I try to explain it to people who are not immersed in this community. They don't have any experimental evidence that free software is The Right Thing, and compared to the standard ideas of ownership and property that capitalist society hammers into our heads from day one, it seems nuts.

So how can this debate move from the specialist internet salons (like this one), and into wider society, without requiring everyone to learn a lot of law and jurisprudential (is that a word?) theory? How, or can, the multinational tv-watching masses be drawn into an understanding of what's at stake here?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

The children will get it. (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by pjr on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 11:12:08 PM EST

They don't have any experimental evidence that free software is The Right Thing, and compared to the standard ideas of ownership and property that capitalist society hammers into our heads from day one, it seems nuts.

I think Gord is right about the children. I don't proselytize much, I guess I'm just patient. I think we can let society take it's time to come around to the inevitable. I try to teach people about Free Software but I don't demand that they understand.

[ Parent ]

Re: When will IP concepts change? (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by jonas on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:13:51 PM EST

If someone doesn't understand, or doesn't want to understand, the philosophy behind free software, there's nothing we can do about it and it's mostly a waste of time trying to change their minds. They won't be the leaders of the gnu age, but that's their loss. RMS has a habit of comparing free software to cooking and what he usually say is that sharing recipies is a central part of the art of cooking itself. You will share recipies with your neighbors, you will make modifications to it, and you will in turn redistribute those changes yourself. It's a very basic thing and the problem arises when people approach it from a technical point. Free software is not a technical fenomenon, it's a very basic issue about human rights to share information with their friends.

[ Parent ]
Satan's lawyer... (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by rusty on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:25:40 PM EST

Playing the devil's advocate here...

RMS has a habit of comparing free software to cooking and what he usually say is that sharing recipies is a central part of the art of cooking itself. You will share recipies with your neighbors, you will make modifications to it, and you will in turn redistribute those changes yourself.

This is where the whole money issue comes in. What happens when you tweak a recipe and the result of your changes is so good that people are willing to pay you a lot of money for the "binary" (err, cooked) product. Are your changes not valuable property (to bring this back around to the original topic)? At what point does the philosophy of sharing stop promoting freedom, and start being another restriction upon freedom? That is, should I be required to share my recipe tweaks, because someone up the line decided that they would give away the "original" formula (that, remember, no one thought was good enough to spend a lot of money for yet)?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Satan's lawyer... (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by jonas on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:44:01 PM EST

Those people wouldn't be paying for your changes. They would be paying you to make use of your changes. So by sharing the changes you've made with others, you haven't damaged yourself in any way since people would still pay you to use those changes. That's why most people go to restaurants.

That's not the real answer though. The real answer is this; why would you NOT want to share?

And this is where we slide into another topic; how long will it take before everyone shares? I don't know, but I do hope that one day, we won't need licenses to force anyone to share because they will -want- to share. As the Sirius Cybernetics Corporations Nutri-Matic would say; "Share and enjoy!"

[ Parent ]

Re: Satan's lawyer... (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 04:25:34 PM EST

"And this is where we slide into another topic; how long will it take before everyone shares?" Utopia is not an option. Therein lies the difference between the ideologue and the realist. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to share everthing everytime. Taking the analogy of cooking, I have an aunt who has a food disk famous within the clan. She won't give the recipe to anyone. except her self-appointed air (a cousin) with the promise that the heir will not divulge the recipe either. According to RMS, this makes my aunt living scum. Insulting!

[ Parent ]
Re: Scummy Aunts (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by gord on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 07:07:29 PM EST

Not scum, just antisocial.

If I had a choice between consuming your aunt's proprietary dish with its unpalatable shroud of secrecy, versus a pleasant (though maybe less reknowned) dish that I had a chance to participate in the creation of and talk openly with the cook about, I'd choose the latter.

I have no argument with the people who insist in taking their toys and playing by themselves, just don't expect me to praise them for it or to want to play with them.
I'm a FIG (http://fig.org/) I use GNU (http://www.gnu.org/)
[ Parent ]

Re: When will IP concepts change? (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by pjr on Wed Mar 29, 2000 at 10:55:55 PM EST

Clearly, the change is in progress. Last Thanksgiving (US holiday), I had dinner at my brother's. I was able to discuss Free Software with his in-laws, that is a dramatic change.

There have been, already, some "seminal events". A little over a year ago IBM announced that the Linux kernel would be able to run on all of their machines. I sometimes refer to the month afterward as "the avalanche", when there were almost daily annoucments of ports to Free Software systems. The Netscape source release also comes to mind.

But the change is also gradual. In the last 12 months we have seen the effects of global information flow on industries that had based their economic viability on limiting information distribution. It's very difficult to render a multi-billion dollar industry obsolete, but it happens, witness what aviation and automobiles did to the railroad industry. What ever happened to typewriters? Some companies get it and some don't. The ones that do are likely to survive, and handsomly.

Some industries have built huge gravy trains on a business model that is becoming obsolete. It's no surprise that these industries are resisting the change, even if it's exactly the wrong thing to do under the circumstances.

There is also, almost surely, serious events that remain to take place. I'm quite concerned about government information gathering efforts that are already well established. I would not be surprised to see a very abrupt change in the ground rules in this area. But it may be quite some time before it happens.

[ Parent ]

Software Engineering? (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by pwhysall on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 02:27:11 AM EST

We've seen that the bazaar method of developing open source software can produce highly stable, efficient code - the Linux kernel is one example; gcc/egcs is another.

But these are core tools, likely to get heavily tested - after all, a kernel bug generally gets your attention pretty quickly :).

How do you produce code of similar quality for more specialised programs, where the user base is much smaller and the problems are much less widely understood?

Or am I asking the wrong question?
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.

Re: Software Engineering? (none / 0) (#14)
by jonas on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:28:07 PM EST

For very small programs that won't make the world better if everyone has them, free software is not very important. If you write a program that will take a file on your computer, reformat it into something else and copy it to another of your computers, releasing that program as free software wouldn't make much sense. You could, but you would be the only one who could use it because it was tailored to your needs.

But it could also be a question of a program to use, for example, a specific hardware product that only a few thousand people in the world had access to. Producing quality programs in such a group might be just as easy as for a much larger group since those involved in it care much more about the software they're using than they would about, say, a program that displayed xor'ed maps of the universe.

[ Parent ]

Re: Software Engineering? (none / 0) (#22)
by pjr on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 11:06:47 PM EST

Imagine that you are running a power plant. You need to have software written for a highly specialized process control system. You negotiate with two contractors. One will deliver a turn key system designed for todays needs, but locks you into a continuing commitment by keeping the source code. Knowing that they have you locked in, they reduce the price in anticipation of future revenue. The other offers an extensible system with the source code at a higher price. You go with the first company because of the price. Two years later you want to upgrade, but company A has folded....

Source code software distribution works for narrow channels as well as broad ones.

[ Parent ]

Re: Software Engineering? (none / 0) (#23)
by pwhysall on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 02:21:52 AM EST

That's not quite what I was driving at. While I agree that source code software distribution works for most if not all channels, I'm more interested in the actual development process itself.

For widely used, well understood problems like a C compiler, text editor or web server, there is a broad base of available, willing developers and testers.

But taking your example, where do you find developers and testers for a power plant control system?

Or are you saying that some types of software will always be written by professional (as in salaried) programmers, working in a closed team, regardless of whether the source is distributed as part of the deal or not?

Perhaps it's one of those things you have to discuss on a case-by-case basis.
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]

Re: Software Engineering? (none / 0) (#24)
by pjr on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 10:42:53 AM EST

Or are you saying that some types of software will always be written by professional (as in salaried) programmers, working in a closed team, regardless of whether the source is distributed as part of the deal or not?

There's nothing preventing you from getting paid to write Free Software. Free Software is about source code not money. Narrow channels may have to be handled by small teams but they don't have to be closed. To continue the example, if the source is available for the power plant system, perhaps a group of engineering students would like to make a project out of the design. Or maybe one student would make a thesis out of it. It's not hard to imagine that some improvement would result from the academic scrutiny.

[ Parent ]

What's always puzzled me (2.00 / 2) (#16)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 04:15:58 PM EST

From what I understand of the FSF positions, one of their goals is the elimination of copyrights, at least with respect to software. Given this, is puzzles me that they consider those licenses that are less restrictive than the GPL to be inferior because they are "too free". If copyrights were abolished, what protections would a former GPL developer have against the very things they decry in the BSD and MIT licenses? In other words, today an author can say "keep my code open" but in a world without copyrights, the author's say means nothing. How does the FSF inclusion of conditions and restrictions in their own licenses coincide with its goal of eliminating copyright?

Re: What's always puzzled me (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by hgayosso on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 08:12:07 PM EST

I am not sure about that goal of  'eliminating' copyright.

According to:

"The simplest way to make a program free is to put it in the public domain (18k
characters), uncopyrighted. This allows people to
share the program and their improvements, if they are so minded. But it also
allows uncooperative people to convert the program
into proprietary software (18k characters). They can make changes, many or few,
and distribute the result as a proprietary product.
People who receive the program in that modified form do not have the freedom
that the original author gave them; the middleman
has stripped it away."

So, I don't think that the FSF tries to abolish the copyright, actually all the
GNU Software is copyright. mmmm, well, actually it is 'copyleft' :)

I think that we need to understand the difference between the copyright and the
license under which the software is released. The copyright holder is the one
that looks that can claim when the license under the software was released has
been violated.

Regarding the so-called GPL not being "THAT" free.

RMS has explained this before.

This is because that's the only way to protect the freedoms, look at what has
happened with software under the BSD license? it has been adopted and
incorporated under proprietary software, another good read for more details you
can find it here:


"Proprietary software developers have the advantage of money; free software
developers need to make advantages for each other.
Using the ordinary GPL for a library gives free software developers an
advantage over proprietary developers: a library that they can
use, while proprietary developers cannot use it. "

Everybody interested in these topics should pay a visit to the GNU website,
most of your questions will be answered by reading the papers under the
philosophy section:



Hugo Gayosso

support the Free Software!!! http://www.gnu.org
[ Parent ]
Re: What's always puzzled me (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by bobsquatch on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 08:59:25 PM EST

How does the FSF inclusion of conditions and restrictions in their own licenses coincide with its goal of eliminating copyright?

I can't speak for the FSF, obviously, but this is how I've always understood it:

A court can convict you of copyright infringement, if you improperly assert proprietary copyright privileges on a work derived from GPL-licensed software.

A court can also fine you, if you try to shoplift, or jail you, if you attempt to kidnap somebody.

Compare and contrast?

[ Parent ]

We can hope that the GPL becomes unnecessary (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by pjr on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 10:45:28 PM EST

The GPL is actually a reactionary document. It was written to address a problem that resulted from the ascendance of the proprietary software industry. 40 years ago there was no need for the GPL because no one was trying to hide their code from other people. Perhaps 40 years from now, if no one is trying to leverage secrecy for personal gain, there will again be no need for the GPL. That would, for me, be a welcome result.

The BSD and MIT licenses are Free Software licenses. The GNU system includes code originally released under terms such as theirs. The project is disappointed with these terms because derivative works have been released without the source code. Such derivatives do meet the letter of the terms but clearly not the spirit.

My guess is that the GPL will be around as long as it is necessary. As an idealist, I look forward to its obsolescence. At the moment, I'm happy that we have it.

[ Parent ]

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 04:45:33 PM EST

I wonder increasingly about the claims that free software plays catchup to
commercial software.  TCP/IP and such were designed, implemented, and even
popularized in academic, non-commercial environments.  Despite the lack of
source code (a feature of their windows heritage, I believe), Napster,
Shoutcast, and the MP3 revolution hardly came about because of closed
commercial software development.

But I feel as if this candard is being challenged by an equally fallacious
mirror image in the free software communities; that certain types of software
traditionally made by commercial software entities can be successfully realized
as open source projects.  It doesn't seem as if (despite their virtues) open
source projects lend themselves in terms of atmosphere, interest, or motivation
to the factors necessary for excellence in these areas of software.  Namely,
office and other commercial software, and games.

In the first case, software used in office settings, it is becoming
increasingly apparent that the software itself may indeed scale up past the
usual limitations of open source software.  Namely, the spit and polish that
make people feel good about using software; the features they never use, and
the professinal touch in appearance.  But there's still a huge gap to getting
this software onto desktops.  Unless we become an entire society of
computer-literate semi-hackers, I don't see this happening. 

In the second case, I'm not so sure it ever could happen.  Looking at a game
like Homeworld, I was struck not just by the features and the programming
skills implied, but by the overall aesthetic sensibility the game has.	I can't
really think of a single open source software project (however much I love my
Nostalgy theme for KDE) that can bring that kind of overall vision and
aesthetic integration.	To me it seems as unlikely as an outstanding movie
without a director. 


Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (none / 0) (#29)
by jonas on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 04:30:31 AM EST

The free software community is still rather new and there's still many more people in the proprietary world than the free software, so it should be obvious that for some types of applications, we simply do not yet have the manpower required to make free software a viable alternative to proprietary software. This is changing very rapidly though; as the community grows more people get into free software projects (not only programmers, just a few weeks ago we had a technical writer volunteer for documentation in the GNU Enterprise project -- before we've even produced code!). We also have more and more companies to start realising the benefits of free software, and they have a personal interest in, for example, office applications, so they too will contribute manhours to make this happen.

As for games, that's really a different situation because there's not so much point in the game data being free software because it wouldn't make much use to change it. I believe that the underlaying structure, the graphics engine, user interfaces, etc, should be free software, but the actual contents of the game doesn't necessarily have to be free software.

[ Parent ]

Free (GPL) Software and contract law in the US (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 07:36:19 PM EST

One of the possible challenges to the GPL, which was brought up during the
whole Mattel/CPHack thing, was that in the USA, apparently non-monetary
contracts are revokable. The GPL is a license that grants you, the
non-copyright holder, additional rights above and beyond that granted to you by
the Copyright Act and Fair Use doctrine, IF AND ONLY IF you abide by the terms
of the GPL when you distribute the copy you received or derivates of same.

If the CPHack program had been GPL, could Mattel (who now owns the copyright)
really have the law on its side to force receivers of CPHack to turn over all
their copies? I mean, the whole point of the GPL is so that once a work has
been released under the GPL, receipients of the GPLed work cannot have their
licenses revoke. If the work was received freely (gratis), does US law actually
allow for the license to be revoked?


Mea Culpa (Re: Free (GPL) Software and contract la (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 09:26:47 PM EST

Arrgh! I didn't notice the previous story/discussion on CPHack.

I would still like to know how the free (in the monetary sense) nature of most
acquisitions of GPLed works affects its (GPL's) enforcability.


[ Parent ]
Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by ramses0 on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 08:41:45 PM EST

Obviously software developers need to eat, and obviously, the software development world is not to the point where all (paid) software people are working "open" software.

What do you three (and anyone else) think a good line to draw according to "open" v. "proprietary" software?

I'm usually happy to share any code that I've written, but there are some things which are more valuable because they're proprietary. A good example of this is AOL/MS instant messenger battles. AOL didn't want MS to be able to use the infrastructure (either bandwidth, or eyeballs) it had invested in.

When does it make good business sense for code to be shared, and when does it make good business sense for code to be kept ~secret~ for a while?

Does id software have the right idea?

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (none / 0) (#30)
by jonas on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 04:37:38 AM EST

I don't think it ever makes good business sense to keep something secret because in doing so, you take something away from the world, which would make the world a better place if everyone had it. The "value" of free software has nothing to do with money, it has to do with the value of having freedom.

[ Parent ]
Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (none / 0) (#31)
by ramses0 on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 05:05:30 AM EST

oh come on... that's the stock "free software" response. ;^)=

I agree that it would be nice if -everything- were "open", but lets say somebody has a great idea that will change the world... should their idea ever be protected? (aka "secret", like id software's quake engine)

And methinks I'd hate to work for your company... how would you ever make money (ie- eat food) if you're always "taking something of value from the world"?

I really do agree with much (ok, almost all) of free software ideals and methods. But... consider this: I've been working on a project for the last four months (http://ramses0.dhs.org/directory/) which is designed to improve how schools (mine in particular) can use the internet to collaborate outside of the classroom.

It's taken me 4 months so far, and I really don't want to release it as ~free/open~ quite yet, because I really would like to get paid for my work. Yes the world will be a worse place if my U doesn't end up using this project (or something like it), but I put my ass on the line, and have 'wasted' four months if they don't use it.

I have no qualms about releasing it as "open" software (ie- they get the source code, obviously), but I don't think it's rational to release it as "free" until I have recouped my investment in the time I've spent on it.

How do you respond to this line of reasoning? (and others, feel free to jump in here)

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age o (none / 0) (#32)
by hgayosso on Sun Apr 02, 2000 at 11:09:27 PM EST

How would it be if instead of having YOU develop this software, a group of
Universities hires some people to work, let's say a couple of guys per
institution, then allow them to work with the guys at other institutions, and
then all the guys from all the institution work together this software that
will be finally released under the GPL, so, some other institutions adopt it,
and maybe help improving it, at least with feedback and bug reports, if not
maybe also hiring some guys to develop a plug-in or the core of the system

With this schema everybody wins!!

The University that thought about this software gets it. You get hired and get
food, some other Universities also get that software, and so other guys. The
community gets better because if you are a University in the third world, then
you don't need to spend money on that software but still can contribute
something like bug reports and feedback.

See the picture??

People must put their eyes AHEAD of the things, what are the consequences of
something, not just do the things for the apparent results.

What if instead of having a proprietary software for backups, we get together a
bunch of experimented programmers and another bunch of experimented system
administrators from a lot of different companies, I think that the final
product will be much more suited to the user needs than if it is created by a
company supposedly "expert" in the field.

Maybe one company could start this, and be the coordinator of the effort, then
sell the software (even when it is Free) and services associated with it.


Hugo Gayosso

support the Free Software!!! http://www.gnu.org
[ Parent ]
Producing art co-operatively (2.50 / 2) (#33)
by aloril on Wed Apr 05, 2000 at 02:34:45 PM EST

I'm asking these questions on behalf of the WorldForge project. Currently we are using OpenContent Public License , but it doesn't talk anything about obfuscating modification and thus seems to allow defection and it may mostly disallow co-operating commercial entities too.

What is suitable license for media collection?

It needs to ensure that all modifications have source (=preferred form for modification) available, examples:
3D mesh != resulting animation png pics
hand drawn map + label layer != resulting jpg
mod or midi != mp3

Another idea that might be good idea:
Treat collection as whole: Now when somebody takes majority of art, they not only are required to submit changes to existing art in source format, but also for new art they use together with existing art.

What is your opinion about above issues and how to make legally so that there are no loopholes?

Roundtable: Intellectual Property in the Age of Free Software | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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