Ownership in Software

Daniel Zimmel zimmda at web.de
Thu Apr 22 11:39:19 UTC 2004

> If I follow you than copyright (in authorship) and ownership do not
> fit, right? But a copyright in software works like a right to
> "ownership", or a means "ownership", doesn't it?

If it wouldn't work, Microsoft would not be paying their patent lawyers
for ensuring property rights.  
So far I can't argue against your *legalistic* claims, but on the other
hand, that doesnt answer the question if you morally should have the
freedom to own software (your proposition was, yes, you should).

There's a german paper (Karsten Weber, Philosophische Grundlagen und
moegliche Entwicklungen der Open-Source- und Free-Software-Bewegung) 
that describes libertarianism thought underlying in free software
development, and has a section on property. The author shows that,
while aware of the two edged property term in libertarianism, there are
(philosophically) quite well grounded opinions that IPRs or Swpats may
be "morally illegitimate". 
And I think that's what law should be about: make your and others'
rights "morally legitimate".

That's Stallmans argumentation, and it is true even if you listen to
Eric Raymond, who is arguing from a technological point of view.  

You may find the paper online at http://think-ahead.org/

> Believe it or not I just looked into a book before I get crazy here
> ;-)  And now I am certain. A famous professor in this field talks
> exclusively about "ownership".

I'm not sure which professors you are relying on ;-) but I know one
whose recent remarks fit quite well into your copyright/ownership-thing. 
Stanford's Lawrence Lessig's comments might the same apply to software;
you may get some valuable input from his theses. (BTW, he's just boarded
the FSF).

<quote lessig>
The copyright warriors are right: A copyright is a kind of 
property. It can be owned and sold, and the law protects against its 
theft. Ordinarily, the copyright owner gets to hold out for any price he 
wants. Markets reckon the supply and demand that partially determine 
the price she can get. 
But in ordinary language, to call a copyright a "property" right
is a bit misleading, for the property of copyright is an odd kind of
Indeed, the very idea of property in any idea or any expression is very 
But how, and to what extent, and in what form -- the details, in 
other words -- matter. To get a good sense of how this practice of
turning the intangible into property emerged, we need to place this
"property" in its proper context.
</quote lessig>

It is around page 80, I'm not sure about my txt-converted file :-)
You may find other formats online, too: 


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