T-shirts and more ...

Josef Dalcolmo dalcolmo at vh-s.de
Wed May 23 11:51:04 UTC 2001

bernhard at intevation.de said:
> A T-shirt cannot have the same freedoms attached as digitial
> information can have, because a T-shirt is physical item  and will be
> a property of somebody all the time.  You also cannot copy it without
> much effort. 

That is difference of scale. Actually, software although not physical itself, is always bound to some physical entity. 
The design of a T-shirt, is not physical either, but printed on a physical material.

I think this idea would explain the difference between free beer and free as in freedom, which is really one of the main problems the FSF(E) is faced with. Unfortunately there is this ambiguity, but such a slogan could help to make it clearer, because people would say: what do you mean with free - I have to pay for this T-shirt! - a good start to explain the difference.

Apart from that, according to German law, software that is sold is automatically property of the buyer e.g. all sales are final (there is no such thing as "this software remains property of company MegaXXX ...". Still, the same considerations for freedom of distribution, modification, etc apply to software here too, so the fact that a T-shirt is property of someone does not really make a difference, and that too could be changed: in some cities in Belgium and the Netherlands there used to be "public domain" bicycles around, for use for anyone who needed them (in terms of property they belonged to someone too, but one was allowed to pass them on freely, use them, and was not allowed to restrict other people in doing the same).

The difference of scale you are mentioning makes it easier to distribute software under the terms of freedom, since the main effort is in the original creation of the concept, not the copying. However I see no principal reason why other things could not be produced the same way. In fact, I have designed electronic hardware for people before, and did not mind if they copy the design or give it away, or make derivative works of it, since I got paid for the task of creation and did not intend to get money from royalties.

- Josef

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