Fw: Query about GNU-GPL

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Wed Mar 30 20:46:56 UTC 2005

On 29 Mar 2005 at 22:28, Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:

>    I take the view that if person A takes a copy of something B has
>    without B's permission where B loses out as a result, that is
>    stealing.
> B didn't loose his copy of the code, hence no form of stealing
> occured.  This is a example of copyright violation, not theft.  Theft
> is when you loose the item that was stolen, you cannot loose your code
> by making a illegal copy of it.

No, theft is when you lose what was due to you by right. There is a 
very simple formula for determining whether a moral crime has been 
committed - was there a victim? If there was, it was a moral crime.

>    If I make some program which makes all computers go five times
>    faster and someone else takes that without my permission and makes
>    billions from it, that is in my mind and most people's minds
>    stealing.
> No, in most peoples mind that is a copyright violation, you didn't
> loose your program that makes a computer go five times faster.  Theft
> is when you loose something, here you didn't loose your copy of the
> program.  Compare this with me taking your bike, you wouldn't be able
> to use your bike anymore.
> The whole idea of "stealing code" stems from companies who wish to
> equate copying software with the immoral and unethical behaviour of
> say stealing someones car or shoes.  In reality, there is nothing
> unethical with copying code illegally--law does not state what is
> unethical or unethical.

I don't know whether to bother arguing with you, as it's probably 

I agree that intangibles are not the same as real world items in that 
they have a near zero production cost. Therefore they should not be 
treated the same. However, under capitalism - which is the economic 
system we currently live under - people must be rewarded for taking 
risk and if someone takes a copy of my risky innovative work without 
recompensing me, then I am a victim and a crime has been done against 
me. You can't surely disagree with this as it's also the basis of the 
GPL - everyone donates their work if others do the same.

Now the current system for recompensing people for taking 
risk/innovating sucks big time, and is unsustainable in the long run. 
However my friend, like it or not the fact is that people still need 
an incentive to take risk and the GPL is a very poor incentive - 
great at cloning other people's innovations, lousy at incentivising 
step-change innovation in itself. Therefore, if the Microsoft's of 
this world stopped innovating, ALL innovation in software would cease 
if left up to free software alone. You will of course disagree with 
this, go read my past posts to this mailing list first.

Under a better system, everyone who takes risks/innovates gets 
reward. The GPL can only really be applied to things like software, 
applying it to other intangibles like music and movies just doesn't 
work. So, any future improved legal support for intangibles in 
general will probably cover software too so that any small player 
able to outinnovate the big players gets their cash as it should be, 
and right now is next to impossible especially with software patents 


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