[clug] Re: A most interesting read, most interesting

Sam Couter sam at couter.id.au
Sat Dec 30 22:20:54 GMT 2006

Peter Anderson <peter.anderson at internode.on.net> wrote:
> The fact that we have rights 
> management laws (flawed as they may be) is clearly an acknowledgement of 
> society's view of the ownership of ideas.

That's not the case at all.

Copyright began as protectionism for friends of the King. I can't see
any evidence that the basis of copyright has changed from the principal
of protecting the haves from the have-nots. In fact, it's getting worse
and worse as the protection periods get longer, penalties become
criminal penalties and unrelated to actual damages, and technological
protection measures have legal backing even if they restrict rights we'd
otherwise legally have.

In any case, just because society has granted a legal right doesn't mean
the right is intrinsic to being a live, thinking, breathing human being.
Compare with rights to free speech and freedom of [from?] religion, for
example. Or actual, real property rights, which do not ever expire. If
you think copyrights are intrinsic, then providing protection for only
limited times means you're condoning society forcibly removing rights
after whatever they determine is a suitable time period. Now *that* is
abhorrent. Rights do not expire at the whim of legislators and their
owners, we are born with them and have them all the way to our graves.

> Our efforts should be directed 
> at correcting the flaws in the existing rights management systems.

This I agree with. The basic concept of copyright as an incentive to
create doesn't seem like such a bad idea really. It's just been
completely perverted until it screws over the people who are meant to
gain from it.

> Given all of the above, I too have the greatest of respect for those 
> developers of ideas who then forego their ownership rights and assign 
> them over to the community at large.

As Martijn said, we don't relinquish ownership rights in the majority of
cases. There are some exceptions, such as contributions to any GNU
project, where copyrights must be assigned, but most of the time that's
not the case.

Licences like the GPL depend completely on copyright to enforce the "You
must release derived works under the terms of this licence" requirements.

> If you accept the argument that there is no ownership over 
> ideas then by making the idea available to the public via say open 
> source licensing these developers are giving us nothing because they 
> never owned it in the first place

The current legal situation is that we *do* own the copyright, but
that's completely irrelevant to whether we're giving anything of value.
If we create the works with no copyright protection, we've still
created and given something of value. Legal protection doesn't create
value where there was none.
Sam Couter         |  mailto:sam at couter.id.au
                   |  jabber:sam at teknohaus.dyndns.org
OpenPGP fingerprint:  A46B 9BB5 3148 7BEA 1F05  5BD5 8530 03AE DE89 C75C
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