Fwd: [Foundation-l] File format policy

Ben Finney ben at benfinney.id.au
Sun Jan 20 12:01:53 UTC 2008

On 20-Jan-2008, Alex Hudson wrote:
> 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. 

Making a policy that requires different freedoms depending on the 
different functions of a work is requiring that they *always* be 
separated. If they *can* be combined in the same work, the policy is 
no longer robust.

Better to define a policy that requires the same freedoms *regardless* 
the function of the work.

> 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.

How would knowing the function ever guarantee that I know the rights 
the *author* has in the work? It might clarify some issues, but if 
you're suggesting I could know with certainty the *absence* of 
obligation on the copyright holder, that's not possible.

It's also irrelevant. As a recipient of the work, I must take the work 
and its license terms as given, and judge the freedom of the work 
based on what rights the *recipient* has in the work.

> > 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.

Yes, exactly. We seem to be in agreement on this point. The license 
terms on a work are a major factor in determining the freedom of the 
work for recipients of that work.

> The law talks in terms of function, not form, and thus the freeness 
> is based on function, not form.

That's a non-sequitur. The law can impose restrictions; it's up to us 
to define what freedoms we require. The free software definition, and 
the free culture definition, both do a fine job of defining free 
software with a requirement that function *not* be a factor.

 \         "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the |
  `\    death your right to mis-attribute this quote to Voltaire."  -- |
_o__)                      Avram Grumer, rec.arts.sf.written, May 2000 |
Ben Finney <ben at benfinney.id.au>
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