Re: [OT] an Amicus Curae to the Honorable Thomas Penfield Jackson

From: James Sutherland (
Date: Sat May 06 2000 - 01:19:44 EST

On Fri, 5 May 2000, Stephen Frost wrote:
> On Sat, 6 May 2000, James Sutherland wrote:
> > On Fri, 5 May 2000, Richard Stallman wrote:
> >
> > > The concept of inalienable rights, rights that you cannot cede because
> > > everyone should always have them, is a fundamental part of the legal
> > > system of the US and many other countries.
> >
> > Yes. Now find me the section of the US Constitution, or the European
> > Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees you the right to MY source
> > code?
> There's this whole section on this funny thing called 'free
> speech'... If you think of C as another language, then it is speech
> as well. Now, under Article I, Section 8 of the US constitution you
> are granted the right to have a limited-time monopoly on speech.

Erm - that's the opposite. Freedom of speech refers to your right to speak
freely, not your right to monitor MY speech...

> This idea appears to have been Madison's. He and Jefferson
> sent a number of letters to each other regarding the subject. Jefferson
> was initially very much against the idea of any kind of legal monopoly,
> but eventually came around given the requirement that it be for a limited
> time.

Then Disney realised their money-tree mouse was about to come out of
copyright, so they bought a few politicians and adjusted the law to fit
their business model.

After a period of time, yes, most things come out of copyright protection
- a certain number of decades after the author dies, IIRC. (With a few
exceptions; Crown Copyright is unlimited, so the King James Bible is still
under copyright restrictions.)

That, though, is the point at which the IPR ceases to belong to anyone. Up
until that point, the owner is entitled to decide which components are
[not] released, and what terms apply.

> The idea here was to allow an author (or really, a publisher) to
> recoup the costs required to create and publish their work, in order to
> encourage them to create and publish more. The problem currently is that
> copyright law has been warped to be specifically what Jefferson was worried
> about it becoming: a form of legal monopoly on speech.
> The reason is simply this: originally copyright only covered a
> work for somewhere between 14 and 19 years. It now covers a work for the
> life of the author, plus 70 years beyond the end of his life. This means
> that no one else can create a work based on the original work for the
> period of time it is under copyright without specific authority from the
> copyright owner.
> Some examples of this are the poems of Robert Frost, novels
> such as The Great Gatsby, and a very important to one very large company,
> Mickey Mouse.
> Mickey Mouse would have come into the public domain in 2004, but
> the Sonny Bono act of 1998 (IIRC) extended copyright protection,
> retroactively, another 20 years. Disney lobbied great amounts to get this
> bill passed, the reason? Mickey Mouse, according to some reports, brought
> in $8 billion in revenue for Disney in 1998.

That's another issue, though. Does, for example, buying a copy of a Mickey
Mouse video entitle me, as an inalienable right, to see all the outtakes?

> > I agree that the "right" to give up your inalienable rights is a
> > fundamentally flawed concept. I just don't agree that your access to my
> > source code without my consent is such a right...
> Access to your specific source code may or may not be an issue,
> it depends on if you publish it, in whatever form, and intend to maintain
> a monopoly on it. If you write something, stick it in a box and bury it,
> obviously it is no one's right to come on to your property, dig up that
> box and read what you have written.
> If you publish your work, however, you will probably want to put
> it under copyright, at least if you have any intent on selling it. Now,
> if you put it under copyright you are granted a limited-time monopoly on
> your work. This limited-time monopoly limits the free speech rights of
> others, and to make up for this fact you are required to give something
> back in the end. This means that your work, at the end of its copyright
> term, is placed in the public domain for others to be able to use.
> The whole idea here is to encourage you to publish your work.
> If you do not publish it and distribute it, then it does not promote
> the sciences. The constitution is making a compramise, a deal if you
> will, with you. You publish and copyright your work, and you can make
> money off of it for a limited time, but you have to give up your rights
> to that work in the end.

This relates only to the work in question, though. Nowhere is there any
requirement or expectation for me to release other, related, material
alongside this - I am free to publish a book, without ever needing to
release my first draft, or working notes.

> > My only real objection to the GPL is that it seems hypocritical: it denies
> > one person the right NOT to publish their source code, in order to grant a
> > third party some rights to this person's source. Using GPL software as a
> > user grants me rights; using it as a programmer removes them.
> The idea and purpose of the GPL, at least as I interpret it, is an
> attempt to encourage (force) people to do the right thing(tm). To encourage
> them to not take all their work and stick it in a box and bury it, but to
> allow others to use their work and improve on it, in order to furthur the
> sciences and abilities of the human race as a whole.

It tried to bludgeon people and companies into using the GPL for their own
code. This is the bit I regard as rather hypocritical.

> Stephen Frost
> PS: Articles you, or any others interested, may want to check out, and
> where I got some of my information from follow:

There's an article somewhere on where RMS advocates, in
effect, making GPL code "proprietary" to the GPL mob, to force people to
use the GPL for their own code if they want access to GPLed libraries.
This was rather worrying...


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