Ownership in Software

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Wed Apr 21 23:17:45 UTC 2004

Hash: SHA1

On 21 Apr 2004 at 17:44, Rui Miguel Seabra wrote:

> Does it make any sense to claim ownership of food, restricting the
> possibility to end physical hunger?

It's very interesting you raise this point. The free software 
community are too often blinded by logic and "niceness" which is why 
they continue to shoot goals wide of the mark.

Food production has outpaced population growth in every part of the 
world except some regions in Africa. There is NO REASON why there 
should be anyone starving at all in the world. Yes as a percentage of 
the world population, it continues to grow worse with time. Why?

The reason why is that claiming ownership of things like food, 
misappropriating it and using the control of it to make others do 
things you want is how the western European countries took over the 
world. It is so ingrained into the political & business ways of 
thought that it seems *obvious* that it's "natural" and all things 
should work similarly. That council of ministers who are about to 
ratify software patents lock, stock & barrel are rejecting the EP 
amendments because they seem "strange" and "not in line" with how 
they think the world works. And that's why such small voices as 
Nokia's patent department have been so successful - they are 
appealing to these politicians on grounds they trust.

> Does it make any sense to claim ownership of software, restricting the
> possibility to end intellectual hunger?

Yes, because he who controls the information controls the world. 
Information, especially timely information, is more valuable now than 
at any other point in human history to date. It's obvious that the 
powers-that-be will want to control it and use it to extort things 
out of the general population whose sole purpose after all is to 
consume as much as possible and not bother anyone at the top.

> > Stallman listed in his article some good arguments for
> > non-ownership. But I am not completely certain if the claim embedded
> > in the argument cannot be fulfilled by other means, e.g., with FREE
> > (GPL'ed) software, too. If it could - why deny the (positive
> > freedom) of other people to claim rights (of authorship) in their
> > products? How could one justify such a claim?
> Because to satisfy that "freedom" for a few individuals you restrict
> freedom for society as a whole, for instance? Because it is evil to
> act your power in spite of others?

No I think this is too much "you're with us or you're against us". It 
seems clear to me that both paradigms can coexist - both software 
ownership and non-ownership.

What's wrong with software ownership at present is that the owner is 
not fully liable for faults in their products (unlike almost any 
other industry). If Microsoft were fully liable for the general 
crappiness of most of their software, I guarantee it'd either be 
withdrawn from sale or made much better very quickly. The fact that 
this isn't the case has led to our present malaise.

If the EU really wanted to fine MS properly, they'd make all software 
manufacturers fully liable for all damages caused by misoperation of 
their software. Every single virus infection in a copy Windows would 
require MS to pay compensation etc.

For non-owned software I don't see a problem either. If an individual 
or company chooses to use communally owned software they understand 
that there is no recourse and you get precisely what you pay for, 
which usually is nothing. This means that they take on the liability 
of damages - which is fine, because since they have access to the 
source they can actually fix the problems themselves if they choose 
to or at least find someone cheap to do it for them. This is 
impossible with closed source software.

Both have sufficiently strong merits the other does not that I think 
both will be the future. Eventually. When the politicians wake up and 
after we've born the billions of euros in stupid patent litigation 

> The GNU GPL is one (of many) Free Software licenses and, I think, the
> one most used.

I would bet that in terms of millions of lines of code, it wouldn't 
be. Also, to be fair you should point out that the GPL imposes 
restrictions some may find onerous.


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