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what's *really* right and wrong (was Re: [Fsedu-developers] Why schools
what's *really* right and wrong (was Re: [Fsedu-developers] Why schools should use exclusively free software)
09 Dec 2003 23:18:38 +0000
Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.2
James Michael DuPont <address@hidden> writes:
> I think that could be built into an overview of licenses and show
> the breaking point where your natural rights are taken away.
For some reason, this reminds me of something I wrote over a year ago
as an intentional agitant, but never published (until now).
For maximum fun, read the original at
http://ots.evansville.edu/policies/software.asp alongside "my
Back in Evansville, I'm going to post [TeX output] in strategic
locations, including personal copies for the suits. Fun. That's why
it's a little stilted (e.g. contact info, which is wrong now, and
paragraph THEREFORE, which is just nasty :).
Snatch the source at http://csserver.evansville.edu/~sc87/dist/esa.tar.gz
A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software for Members of the Academic
SOFTWARE enables us to accomplish many different tasks with computers.
Unfortunately, in order to maximize their own profit to the detriment
of everyone, some people justify asserting that they _own_ software
they create, and can therefore tell people what they can and cannot do
with the software. This is called "proprietary software". They may not
understand the implications of their actions or the true intention of
the U.S. copyright law.
1. UNAUTHORIZED copying of software is illegal. Copyright law allows
software publishers to control functional information, and hence
people's lives, just as the U.S.S.R. controlled its citizens under
2. FORBIDDING copying of software by individuals can harm the entire
academic community. If useful copying proliferates on a campus, the
institution will reap the benefits that come from sharing useful
information with others, which is what any decent neighbor should
do. Unfortunately, if the software is proprietary, the publishers
believe they have a natural right to tell you to stop. Also, the
publishers may find it more difficult to negotiate agreements that
would continue the strategy of "locking in" software to members of
the academic community; that is, effectively preventing them to
switch vendors through such procedures as upgrade contracts and
non-open file formats.
3. UBIQUITOUS copying of "free software" (described below) can free
developers of software control by software "owners", increase
competition and quality, increase future support and enhancement
through a competitive free software support/customization market,
and speed the development of new free software products.
Please note that when I say "free software", I am referring to "free"
as in freedom, not as in price. That is, you have the inalienable right
to copy software, study how it works, modify it, and redistribute
unmodified versions or changes, royalty-free. However, you may still be
charged whatever fee the distributor [to you] charges.
RESPECT for the public right to knowledge has traditionally been
essential to the mission of colleges and universities. We should be
aware that "intellectual property" is not the original intention of
copyright, but rather an assertion by information owners to coerce the
public into believing that a creator has the natural right to control
information, and that copyright is about respecting this "right". The
true intention, as stated in the U.S. Constitution as in many other
places, is to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts." As
members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas,
and should stand up to those who would tell us that sharing ideas is
immoral, especially behind a false concept like "authors' natural
We may not tolerate plagiarism, but it is difficult to see how this
translates to not condoning the unauthorized copying of software,
including programs, applications, databases and code. The software that
I am referring to is not the kind that is turned in for a grade. This
is another example of how the software owners would like you to look at
everything in the same way, as "intellectual property."
THEREFORE we offer the following statement of principle about
software ownership and the legal and ethical use of software. A code
intended for adaptation and use by individual colleges and universities
was developed by the EDUCOM Software Initiative, in cooperation with
ADAPSO, a software-owner consortium, and was endorsed by the University
of Evansville, claiming the opposite of many things argued in this
SOFTWARE AND INTELLECTUAL "RIGHTS":
Respect for intellectual labor and creativity, not "property", is vital
to academic discourse and enterprise. This principle applies to works
of all authors in all media, although in varying ways. It encompasses
respect for the right to acknowledgement and right to privacy. It does
*not* include the so-called "right" to determine the form, manner, and
terms of publication and distribution.
Because electronic information is volatile and easily reproduced,
criticism of the copyright restrictions of the work and personal
expression of others is especially critical in computer environments.
Copyright was created in the age of the printing press, to restrict
publishers. It didn't restrict ordinary readers, who could only copy by
hand; in fact, this wasn't even illegal. With computers, the right to
copy is once again useful. In a democracy, a law that prohibits a
popular, natural and useful activity is usually soon relaxed.(1)
However, owners have switched to new tactics to prevent this from
happening, notably in the media, such as attempting to equate copying
with attacking seagoing ships ("piracy"). "Violations of authorial
integrity," including "plagiarism," "invasion of privacy," "unauthorized
access," and "trade secret" and "copyright violations," are phrases
with which software owners threaten members of the academic community,
in case "ethical" pleas don't work.
QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE ABOUT USING SOFTWARE
1. What do I need to know about software and the U.S. Copyright Act?
Unless software has been placed in the public domain, the owner of
a copyright initially holds exclusive permission to the
reproduction and distribution of his or her work. Therefore, it is
illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its documentation
without the permission of the copyright owner. (Of course, the
author should release it as free software, where the author
retains the copyright, but grants the permissions discussed
above.) Also, "fair use" clauses, although supposedly enforced by
law, do not apply, because you are not allowed access to the
source code of proprietary software. If you have legally obtained
your copy, however, you are legally allowed to make a backup for
your own use in case the original is destroyed or fails to work;
however, anti-copy technologies now render this ineffective; many
copied CDs will not work; many "registration" schemes prevent you
from moving software to a different computer, even if it is
strictly a move.
2. Can I loan software I have purchased myself?
If your software came with a clearly visible license agreement or
if you signed a registration card, READ THE LICENSE CAREFULLY
before you use the software. Many software packages rely on the
medias' discouragement of realizing just how many freedoms you are
losing in that license. Some licenses may restrict use to a
specific computer. Copyright law does not permit you to run your
software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the
license agreement specifically allows it. It may, however, be
legal to loan your proprietary software to a friend temporarily as
long as you do not keep a copy; however, most proprietary software
licenses assert that your license is "non-transferable", meaning
simply that you cannot give or sell it to someone else, even if
you do not retain it in said giving or selling.
What I didn't say in the above paragraph is that it widely varies,
and a generic FAQ like this can't cover everything. For example,
many Microsoft products say that if you include
"redistributables", you must license them--and the enclosing
work--restrictively to Microsoft Windows platforms. Furthermore,
free software licenses do not include the above restrictions--you
can put free software on more than one computer, or _give_ a copy
to your friend, never mind loan.
3. If software is not copy-protected (sic), do I have the right to
If you are referring to the natural right, then yes. No law can
tell you what is right and wrong. In fact, you have this natural
right whether or not the software has anti-copy(2) measures.
Unfortunately, the law *does* say different. Lack of copy
protection does not constitute permission to copy software in
order to share or sell it. Proprietary software without anti-copy
measures enables you to protect your investment by making a
back-up copy. In offering software without anti-copy measures to
you, the owner has demonstrated significant belief in the software
owners' ability to "persuade" you to not copy.
4. May I copy software that is available through facilities on my
campus, so that I can use it more conveniently in my own room?
Software acquired by colleges and universities is usually
proprietary-licensed. The licenses restrict how and where the
software may be legally used by members of the community. This
applies to software installed on hard disks in microcomputer
clusters, software distributed in disks by a campus lending
library, and software available on a campus mainframe or network.
Some institutional proprietary licenses permit copying for certain
purposes; however, these purposes are not the really useful kind,
i.e. sharing. Consult the Office of Technology Services if you are
unsure about the use of a particular software product.
If you are not sure whether a license is a free software license or
not, check the GNU Project's license list
(http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html). If the license is
not listed, ask <address@hidden>.
5. Isn't it legally "fair use" to copy software, even proprietary, if
the purpose in sharing it is purely educational?
No. It is illegal for a faculty member or student to copy software
for distribution among the members of a class without permission
of the "owner".
Some proprietary software permits redistribution for educational
uses only. This is called "semi-free software". Since we should
value the free exchange of ideas and information for everyone,
semi-free software should be avoided as with "full" proprietary
AN ALTERNATIVE TO EXPLORE
Software can be expensive. You may not be able to afford to purchase
certain proprietary programs that you think you need. But there is a
_legal_ alternative to owner-forbidden copying.
Free software, or software without owners, as defined by the Free
"Free software" is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the
concept, you should think of "free" as in "free speech," not as in
Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy,
distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it
refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your
needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements
to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3).
Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
A program is free software if users have all of these freedoms.(3)
Certain restrictions are OK, particularly when a term of the free
software license is that the software, and all versions modified or
derived thereof, can never be made proprietary. In fact, this leads to
higher quality of software by not allowing software owners to damage
the community, while maintaining all the freedoms users should have for
more people. Not surprisingly, the owners often attack this "copyleft"
restriction, ironically saying that it inhibits freedom.
The preferred, and for good reason, free software license is the
strong copyleft GNU General Public License
(http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html). The GNU GPL has been a great
aid to the free software community in preventing "coopting", or
production of proprietary versions, of free software.
Sometimes authors dedicate their software to the public domain, which
means that the software is not subject to any copyright restrictions.
It can be copied and shared freely. Unfortunately, this software is
subject to being made proprietary again, because of the way software
owners release their proprietary software; this can be reduced or
prevented with copyleft licensing. Software without copyright notice is
often, but not necessarily in the public domain. By default, software
is proprietary. It must be either be copyrighted and licensed under a
free software license or explicitly placed in the public domain.
Shareware, or user-supported software, is copyrighted software that
the developer encourages you to copy and distribute to others. This
permission is explicitly stated in the documentation or displayed on
the computer screen. The developer of shareware generally asks for
(more likely requires today, see below) a small donation or
registrations fee if you like the software and plan to use it. By
registering, you may receive further documentation, updates and
enhancements. You are also supporting future software development.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a fee, as long as the users'
right to freedom is not restricted; unfortunately, most shareware today
is not free, and sometimes crippled until "registered"; this is no
different than proprietary software.
A FINAL NOTE
Restrictions on the use of software are mostly in two camps: free
software without "owners", which gives you the freedoms you deserve, or
proprietary software or "owned" software, which does not, and generally
imposes many additional restrictions. You should carefully check each
piece of software and the accompanying documentation yourself. In
general, you do not have the right to receive and use unauthorized
copies of proprietary software, or make unauthorized copies of software
for others, though it is difficult to see how this is fair even if you
believe in software ownership, because the recipient never accepted the
proprietary license. Furthermore, many restrictions, such as
disallowing use of copylefted software in a framework, or requiring
that a program only be run in conjunction with certain proprietary
software, may be imposed upon users, even retroactively.
If you have questions not answered by this brochure about the proper
use and distribution of a software product, seek help from myself
(Moore S206, phone:1290, <address@hidden>), the Free Software
Foundation, or any of the many groups and people in the free software
community. This brochure has been produced as a service to the academic
community by Stephen Compall. Although this brochure is copyrighted,
you are authorized and encouraged to make and distribute copies of it
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
(http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html), version 1.2 or later, which
gives you the same freedoms as free software under terms designed for
books. If you do not have sources to this document, as defined in the
GNU FDL, please contact the person from whom you received this document
for a copy; the same goes for the GNU FDL itself.
---------- Footnotes ----------
(1) RMS: `Freedom--Or Copyright?'
(2) The term "copy-protected" implies some kind of preservation,
instead of prevention, better demonstrated by my term.
(3) FSF: `Free Software Definition'
Stephen Compall or s11 or sirian
It is inconceivable that a judicious observer from another solar system
would see in our species -- which has tended to be cruel, destructive,
wasteful, and irrational -- the crown and apex of cosmic evolution.
Viewing us as the culmination of *anything* is grotesque; viewing us
as a transitional species makes more sense -- and gives us more hope.
- Betty McCollister, "Our Transitional Species",
Free Inquiry magazine, Vol. 8, No. 1
CISU plutonium Comirex e-bomb Capricorn FSF blackjack Adriatic UFO
quarter Juiliett Class Submarine NASA Vince Foster cryptanalysis