Royalties and Free Software?

Bernhard Reiter bernhard at
Tue Aug 5 16:15:45 UTC 2003

On Mon, Aug 04, 2003 at 10:18:10PM +0200, Wouter Vanden Hove wrote:
> So when I buy a blanc cdrom,a small amount of my money goes to
> copyright-holders, typically the established publishers, record
> companies. They receive royalties because the law assumes I'm going to
> put some of their copyright material on these cd-roms. But what if I put
> Debian on it?

In Germany for music there have been special blank media
with and without the "tax".
However that system was build with the assumption that copies
will degrade the quality of the contents.
As this is going away with the advanced digital technology,
the system is bound to fall sooner or alter.

The is one reason the content gatekeepers push for 
Digital restriction management is to get rid of that general form
of collecting money. On the hand that "collection agencies"
want to grasp out and generally "tax" all purpose machines
which can make copies. 
(Sometimes I joke that both groups want to tax my brain, because
it can make copies.)

> How does this fit into the paradigm of Free Software?

It is a bit outside of the realm of Free Software,
but part of a broader debate on how to foster authoring in principle.
A lot of new methods have to be invented for a new vision
that solves the major problems.

> Would it be possible for FSF Europe to become a member of such
> organisations in order to receive some part of this money, that
> rightfully belongs to ourselves? It could be used for funding  Free
> Software Projects, now mostly stockholders of large publishing-companies
> receive them.

It is possible in principle, 
though it is not clear that we should try to aim for it.
My current tendency is to help to point of the difficulties
with this approach and assist in developing alternatives.
Both tendencies (get away from a blanc media fee or strengthen it)
have political downsides for Free Software in my view.

> Or should the law be changed to exempt copyleft-holders from that kind
> of royalties? Have this issues ever brought up before? In all legal
> documents on Free Software Licesnes I've till now, I never came across
> this discrepany.

It is a neglectable discrepancy.
The system of anonymous fees for blanc media used to work fine
actually bringing you more freedom in some situations.

Actually it is been a long term demand of the FSF Europe
that core knowledge is funded by the government itself,
like many libraries and even universities in Germany are.
This means we need completely now mean to measure how useful
a piece of software or a developers is. 

With the two conservative options above, the measurement tool is money.
Free Software is about 
bringing the general social value of software in the game 
and those social values basically resisted serious attempts 
to be measured in monentary terms.
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