Ownership in Software

Axel Schulz axel at schulz.ph
Thu Apr 22 19:03:29 UTC 2004


> > Back to the absolute freedom. I think the concept still holds. I
> > do not accept that there is a natural relation between the
> > "absolute freedoms" of the "power-holder" and the one who takes
> > the software. [...]
> I don't have the time to redo the whole discussion that others have
> done already. However, your argumentation sometimes looks like
> asserting absolute (WRT the given software) freedom/power to the
> "owner", including the right to restrict others in any way he likes.
> Since we agree that absolute principles aren't applicable here, I
> think your argumentaion isn't very sound. Even if you assume that
> the "owner" can impose some conditions on the receipient, where
> would you draw the line? Some examples for you to think about (all
> are very real with proprietary software):
> - The right to fix problems (especially if the "owner" doesn't do
>   it).
> - The right to get compatibility (if interfaces and data formats are
>   undocumented, sometimes this requires reverse engineering).
> - More generally and related to the previous point, the right to
>   your own data. (If you store them in a proprietary format, you
>   might not be able to do with them what you want, or you might even
>   depend on the proprietary vendor (repeated license payments etc.)
>   just to be able to access your own data on another computer, or in
>   the future, ...)
> - The right to check if the software does anything nasty which could
>   harm you (intentionally as in backdoors, or unintentionally as in
>   security holes). This requires source code or reverse engineering.
> - The right to your computer at all. (Think about DRM, or about
>   required remote access to the "owner" for checking your license
>   compliance, etc.)
> - The right to do unrelated things. (I think some proprietary
>   companies once tried to restrict you from using certain free
>   programs at all on the same machine. I don't know, though, if this
>   restriction was legally valid.)
> I hope you agree with at least some of the points. So now it's up to
> you to provide a definition where the "owner"'s rights should end.
> Just saying the "owner" can put any conditions on the recipient
> would deny all of the above rights.

That is impossible for me. These are legal questions. I just want to see if a general right can be defended. Besides, what you list here would be effects of ownership. Law (social institutions)  may constitute restrictions or dissallow ownership in software at all, even it has some moral force, and that is what I am looking for.

> > > authorship != ownership, authors != owners
> >
> > You consider it this way. Many people here consider it this way. 
> > I do not. My justification is that only authorship in software is
> > insufficient because of the dual nature of software (-> the ACM
> > artilce I quoted).
> > 
> > So, for me  "authorship != ownership" is not true when it comes to
> > software.
> Just to point out a logical flaw in your argument: Stallman says
> (and you disagree) that software should not have owners. You say
> (and Stallman probably disagrees, like most of us here do) that
> authorship = ownership. Combining these two statements results in a
> statement ("software should not have authors") that neither one
> necessarily agrees to, i.e. it's meaningless.

(1) Stallman and you:
owners != authors
software should NOT have owners
software should have authors

(2) Me:
owners = authors
software should have owners
software should have authors

(3) Your conclusion: 
software should NOT have authors

This doesn't derive! You cannot take my premiss (owners = authors) and applied it to Stallman's (owners != authors). If you do this, you get this result. Am I wrong? I am not that good in logic. The premiss is the foundational for the statements. Why I take this premiss did I explain in earlier mails.

What botheres ne is to decide is if (2) can be justified.


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