Fwd: [Foundation-l] File format policy

Alex Hudson home at alexhudson.com
Sun Jan 20 11:17:36 UTC 2008

On Sun, 2008-01-20 at 21:54 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> It's a fact that bit-collections can be simultaneously "program", 
> "documentation", "art", and "documentation". Therefore it's a fallacy 
> to name those categories and expect that bit-collections will fall 
> into exactly one of them.

I didn't say it would fall into exactly one of them; I disagree with the
notion that they can't be separated. 

> > Without the function it's pretty meaningless. You can't point at a
> > random binary, without knowing its function but knowing its license, 
> > and call it either "free" or "not free".
> Certainly I can.

I honestly doubt that. 

As an obvious example, you don't know what legal rights the author has
to that binary, and if the license doesn't offer permissions to those
rights then it's clearly non-free. So if you can't tell if a binary is a
document or a database, which could be the same technical file format,
you don't know if the BSD license applied to it is good enough or not.

> The function 
> of the work doesn't need to come into consideration at all. I argue 
> that if it *does* come into consideration, then you are making freedom 
> of the work contingent on what the recipient intends to do with the 
> work, and that by definition isn't free.

And I would argue it's an immediately practical concern since much of
what defines a given work as being free is the license applied to it.
The law talks in terms of function, not form, and thus the freeness is
based on function, not form.



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