April 24, 2019

Stallman/Stanco: A Dialogue on Copyright Law and Free/Open Source Software (Part 2)

"All law is a matter of opinion."

  • July 14, 2000
  • By Tony Stanco

This is the second 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:   6/1/00
From:   RMS
To:     tony 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.


They are deceiving you, misrepresenting the US legal system.  They are
telling you what they and their clients wish the system was, not what
it is.  You must not believe what they say.


>    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.


This is not a matter of opinion; these lawyers are entitled to have
their opinions about what copyright should be, but their opinions do
not define the position of the US legal system.  The Constitution and
the Supreme Court have done that.

It seems that Lessig, a law professor, is probably telling you an
accurate description of what the legal system says, while the other
lawyers are telling you what it would suit them to believe.


>    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.


It is important to show the reader what the conflict is.
But readers should know that the "establishment" side
is deceiving the public about the basic issue.


Subj:   Re: licensing article
Date:   6/1/00
From:   tony stanco
To:     RMS


Let's allow people that disagree to enjoy the dignity of their beliefs.
People are allowed to be "wrong." Let's argue with them, but not belittle
them. Observers (present and future) of the debate will make up their own

All law is a matter of opinion. "Law" is what present lawyers/judges say it
is, because it is a social construct without objective reality. The
Constitution is just words on paper, until it's interpreted by the current
legal generation and the interpretation changes to suit their views and
prejudices. Also, the current legal generation is never a monolith. It is
just majority opinions and dissenting opinions. And at this point, there are
more of them than of us. I don't think that there is any point in trying to
deny that. In trying to change that, yes, but not deny it.

At any rate, in an economic era, economic success will convince a lot more
people, than arguments anyway.

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