Fwd: [Foundation-l] File format policy

Alex Hudson home at alexhudson.com
Sun Jan 20 15:46:55 UTC 2008

On Sun, 2008-01-20 at 23:01 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> On 20-Jan-2008, Alex Hudson wrote:
> > 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?

I didn't say it would guarantee you know. I said that without
understanding the function of the work, it's much more likely that you
*don't* know.

For example, as "executable" as a Postscript document might be, UK law
is not going to treat it as such without very good reason. It's a
literary work, and the form of it doesn't matter one jot. Anyone hoping
to bypass the moral rights inherent in a literary work by claiming it's
merely software under our law is going to find themselves in for a bug

> 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.

That only holds if you this the license terms are orthogonal to the
function of the work, which I don't really believe.

> > 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.

It's not a non-sequitur, it's a statement of reality based on the world
we live in and particularly the legal framework. 

The law puts in place restrictions based on the function of a work, not
whether or not it is composed of bits or atoms. If you don't know the
function, you don't know which laws apply. If you don't know the laws,
you don't know if the license permits the freedoms you want, and you
don't know if it meets the definition of 'free' or not, regardless of
how that term is defined.

It's nothing to do with the definition of freedom at work.



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