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Stallman/Stanco: A Dialogue on Copyright Law and Free/Open Source Software (Part 1)
"The philosopher fighting the good fight"
July 13, 2000
This is the first day of an email dialogue with Richard Stallman on the philosophy of copyright that will be published over nine days on LinuxPlanet. This dialogue arose from comments that RMS was kind enough to give me on a two-part article on software licensing that appeared on LinuxProgramming recently. (Check out the articles at LinuxProgramming: Software Licenses and Traditional Copyright Law and Looking at the General Public License and Open-Source Licenses.)
>>>>>>>>>>> Subj: Re: licensing article Date: 5/31/00 From: RMS To: tony stanco [Stallman]: Could you tell me what this is? Is it a draft of some new article? [last section of the licensing article, Part I]: > According to Richard Stallman the traditional rules discussed > above have the rights backwards, because they assume that the > natural rights belong to the author of a work instead of to the > public. So in his opinion, copyright law does not give rights, but > rather takes them away, in that the public no longer has the right > to copy, modify or distribute a work of another. [Stallman]: This is not my opinion--this is the fact. This is how the US legal system considers the issue. Take a look at the Supreme Court decision in the Bonito Boats case. To present this as merely my opinion is to misrepresent the history of copyright. If you want to help, please don't score an "own goal." [from the licensing article, Part I]: > While this would seem like heresy to a traditional lawyer, [Stallman]: A well-trained and scrupulous lawyer knows that this is orthodoxy. Many copyright lawyers choose to misrepresent the situation to the public, because it serves their interest. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Subj: Re: licensing article Date: 5/31/00 From: tony stanco To: RMS [Stallman]: >Could you tell me what this is? Is it a draft of some new article? [Stanco]: No, this is the same article. In a previous email, you said "To introduce a discussion of the GNU GPL after the previous text is totally misleading." I agreed that the two parts needed a better transition, so I broke the first part and the free/open license part into two articles. The paragraph I sent you was the end of the first part discussing general copyright law, and serves as a bridge to the second part discussing the principles of free software and open source licensing in Part II. [Stallman]: > This is how the US legal > system considers the issue. [Stanco]: I talked to some friends who are intellectual property lawyers and I think the way I present the rules is the more traditional view of the matter, currently. Anyway, Congress sees it in traditional ways and so do the majority of practicing lawyers. I don't disagree with your view of the matter, but I think I need to present it as an enlightened, but dissenting view to the currently held majority view. I think Lessig agrees with you, too. So you are definitely in good company. But there is a controversy going on for which view should be the paradigm. Without the contra-position, a reader (and this is a friendly free/open publication) would not understand the controversy. The us vs. them of the thing. I'm not sure why you are concerned that this will hurt. I put you in the enlightened philosopher role fighting the good fight against the philistines. This article is preaching to the choir, and I just want to give them the traditional rules so they know what they are up against. Also, the article as a whole shows your intelligence by using traditional rules to achieve their negation and establish your copyright paradigm through their instrumentality. No small feat. Ingenious in fact. If the audience were more hostile, I would spin it differently. But these are friends and we can trust our friends to understand. They are on the same side.