Ownership in Software

Axel Schulz axel at schulz.ph
Wed Apr 21 22:00:13 UTC 2004

Hej João Miguel!

Thank you for your comment!

> For a couple of centuries we've accepted that there's no ownership on
> literary works. Could you tell me why do you think that's wrong? I can
> see no strong argument for ownership of software.

Software is more than "literary works".  It is also an instruction for a machine. It makes people communicate. Books do not do that. That might make me communicate with the world but therefore I do not need the book. In the sense that I talk about the book with other people. But I do not need the book to talk.

You have to accept this argument.

My second argument is that everyone should have the freedom to ownership. That a society didn't recognize ownership in "literary works" doesn't mean that it is/was immoral.  There was simply no social institution which recognized this freedom (as a claim). Claims to property had been recognized in material goods. Black people where sometime in history considered as property (Slaves). Thanks God that changed.

Is history really a good idea for give reference? I now that Stallman argues also in this way, but you also have to consider the weaknisses of the argument.

By that time almost every request for art was done by the "upper class". It was also clear that the "artist" will in this way make his living. But nowadays we also produce art on "supply".

Is that argument sound?

The argument for the freedom to ownership has a force. You can hardly deny this. It constituts a claim which has to be recognized.

> Your argument seems strange:
> You say we need good software, and you claim that's possible by limiting
> our ability to correct bugs and to maintain a program beyond its
> creators wishes to fit our purposes. That's seems strange to me.

Why? "Limiting your possibility to correct bugs"? You are free to do that where the smart author decided to GPL his program. As I said, I can hardly accept the state of affairs in which ownership in software is not allowed. When someone is writing a program and restricting the access to the source code, why should you care about the bugs?

You are free to create software and you are free to share the source code but if you force someone to give away his work or doesn't allow him to do with it what he wants to do you violoate his rights and freedoms.

I can see that this causes major difficulties in your professional life but this no moral argument against ownership in software.

> You say it's a matter of justice, freedom and valid claims. I completely
> disagree. I see no justice nor freedom in being restricted to do
> something by others. I don't believe any restrictions on my freedom to
> do things to be valid claims without a great explanation. I hope you
> have one.

You are right when it comes to your professional work. I can see between the lines a little frustration. But this is not enough to attack the freedom and the claim to ownership of the author.

Justice comes in, when we talk about the anti-commons etc. There you have to find other solutions because ownership (patents) in medicine-research-products hinders downstream product development. But here you have no chaoice and the case in totally different to ownership (copyright!!) in software.

Can you accept these arguments?

Good night!

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