Freedom or Copyright? - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)

Ben Finney bignose+hates-spam at
Sun Feb 10 22:42:36 UTC 2008

Alex Hudson <home at> writes:

> On Mon, 2008-02-11 at 08:18 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> > Alex Hudson <home at> writes:
> > > I think artists should be free to earn money for their work pretty
> > > much however they please; I don't think it should be limited to
> > > patronage/begging.
> > 
> > I agree. The means they use should not, however, restrict the freedom
> > of a legitimate recipient of a cultural work to do whatever they like
> > with it.
> Out of interest, why?
> I can quite happily accept that some consumers will only accept such
> works, but I have never seen a good exposition of the moral
> imperative for such a position.

It follows from the idea that freedom for an individual should be
limited only by the harm done to the freedoms of others.

The freedom of the author is not harmed when recipient A redistributes
a work to recipient B. Therefore the freedoms of recipients A and B to
engage in such a transaction should not be impinged by the author.

Conversely, if the powers of the author extend such that she can
artificially restrict a transaction between A and B, that's an
unacceptable limitation on their freedom.

This meshes with the idea of the "doctrine of first sale". Once
recipient A and the author have engaged in a transaction to transfer a
copy of the work to recipient A, that is the end of the author's
negotiation for that copy.

If she wants to bind recipient A to restrict further transactions with
third parties, that's a matter for contract negotiation before the
first sale; and such negotiations should only bind willing parties to
the contract. Recipient A could breach the contract and redistribute
to recipient B outside the terms, and the author only has freedom to
seek redress from recipient A. Since recipient B was not party to the
contract with the author, they are not bound at all in their freedom
with the work they now possess.

This makes obsolete many current business models that are propped up
by artificial monopoly power. But it doesn't do anything but preserve
the freedom of individuals in their own domain. Business models that
can't exist without preserving that *deserve* to become obsolete.

 \        "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code |
  `\     will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." —John |
_o__)                                                         F. Woods |
Ben Finney

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