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Author: jamesthompson (11:31 am)
Copyright...Copywrong - Part II
Just like my first blog on "FOSS in the Church" this second one has hit a nerve, although in a much more negative way. I shouldn't be surprised, and indeed I'm not because people are very passionate about the issue of copyright, especially when it comes to the FOSS movement as a community. Perhaps I can clarify some of my views here. Note: I am working on a more extensive treatment of this subject to come out after the first of the year along with the continuation of my "FOSS in the Church" posts.
I am a pragmatic FOSS user, I develop and use FOSS because I believe the process to be the best model for software development. When I can't contribute by development time I give my money to the FSF, OSI and various individual projects. However I am not a Free Software purist by any stretch of the imagination. I prefer Free Software and its emphasis on the "four freedoms" much more than proprietary software systems but I do not moralize the issue.
In my first posting on this subject I cited the Statute of Anne as being the first "modern" copyright law, and based on what I have found, that is true so I will continue to work from it as a base. This statute effectively identified the three roles that individuals and companies can fit into in regards to copyright. They can either be creators, publishers or consumers. Lets take a moment to define those roles a little:
These definitions are simple but should suffice for this discussion. By examining the Statute of Anne we see that there are two concerns involved, (1) protection of the authors livelihood and (2) protection of the consumers rights to use. The statute granted for a limited time exclusive rights regarding the distribution of their work. The statute also sought to protect consumer's rights to do anything with what they had purchased. But this was in the days of the printing press and was specific to authors, so what value does this have for us today? It gives us the basic premise of copyright, protection of the author for a limited time with certain protections also to be granted to the consumer.
Now that we have this as a base I can explain my basic presupposition or premise: Creators deserve to be compensated for their work if their work is deemed to have value. Now before folks start jumping on me again, let me clarify: compensation should only come from those who deem the work of value and who wish to obtain it, don't want to give the impression that I support artistic socialism or anything like that. Some people will still disagree but the truth is we don't question a creators right to be compensated if their work is deemed of value anywhere except in the realm of "creative" works.
The problem that arises now is how to assign value and thus cost and how best to ensure the creator is compensated fairly. Who has the right to determine the value, well that should be mutually decided between the creator and the consumer but we aren't in an economic framework that permits much bartering so
With these in mind how do we determine the best method for the creator to be compensated. Well here we encounter another tough area. There is no right to profit, income in excess of necessity, protected in copyright law. And some will argue that development costs have already been paid by the time software is
A brief aside...
Currently, and hopefully always, participation in the FOSS method and community is entirely voluntary with creators deciding whether or not to participate. This is a great thing and ensures that their is no compulsion to give away rights creators might otherwise claim. But the method and community only remain strong as long as this is voluntary. If at any point the FOSS method becomes the sole way to do things I forsee problems that will dampen innovation in many areas; this is my opinion but it still should be considered.
Back on track...
Assuming that we want developers to recieve compensation for their development and distribution costs in a fair manner, how can this be done? Well distribution costs should be nearly fixed and thus establish the base price for which something is offered. In the case of physical distribution you have costs of materials and in electronic distribution their is cost of bandwidth, in the latter situation many times the bandwidth is either shared or multi-purposed so establishing a firm cost for this form of distribution may be difficult. But that was easy, distribition costs are usually handled by a publisher, not necessarily by the author directly, so the only cost we will concern ourselves with is the development cost.
Development cost is still rather difficult to define because the creator has to account for time spent, the value of that time and other factors. In the case of Webmin development costs are recouped up front, prior to Freeing the product. In many FOSS projects the development time is donated and thus has no cost which is passed on, but what about developers who do wish to be compensated for the time? Well they could do like Webmin, but it is doubtful that would work in every possible situation. So what are the options, well in Free Software the right to redistribution is given away so that channel of potential gain is limited or non-existent except where customers are buying purely to support, which does happen, but like Webmin's method may not always be optimal. So what else is there? non-Free licensing. In our current world non-Free licensing provides a solution for those developers who want to maintain this channel of gain.
The point of my argument is not that FOSS is bad or what not, if I thought that I wouldn't use, contribute and support it. My point is that it is on no more moral ground than non-FOSS development. The problem we have is a screwed up system that is in serious need of reform. So what should be done to fix the system. Well I don't think Free Software is the answer because it is too extreme in my opinion. I would like to propose a potential middle ground.
Fixing a broken system
First lets look at the four freedoms associated with Free Software:
I choose to clasify these freedoms this way:
The first part of my solution would be to make Freedoms 0 and 1 a part of copyright law that is explicitly and unwaveringly protected as a right of the consumer. This of course would mean that all software would have to make its source code available for those who wished to exercise Freedom 1. I would however leave Freedoms 2 and 3 up to the creators to decide in order to preserve every channel they may wish to use for recouping costs and deriving benefit from their work. I know this is not far enough for some but it would constitute a major step in correcting the horrible mess we have today. Of course I would also make any attempt by creators or publishers to thwart Freedoms 0 or 1 a criminal act reversing the DMCA and other such repressive things. That would be my solution.
Boy did I ever kick a hornets nest with my first post on this topic, but I avoided getting hurt and have put this out there to hopefully clarify my position. I still have every intention of publishing my more extensive and, what is looking like, heavily researched treatment of this subject after the first of the year. I hope this puts some of the more stirred up folks at ease now that you know I am not trying to come out against FOSS but rather keep all options open for protecting both creators and consumers. I hope this helps everyone.
Author: charles (3:11 pm)
Browsing through the news recently you may have heard about several mergers and buy outs in the IT industry. Symantec and Oracle will devour their siblings Veritas and Peoplesoft for more than 10 billion dollars, and Microsoft acquires an antispyware firm.
But what came out in an almost more overwhelming fashion along with these news was the indifference and the seemingly disinterest of what is called the Consolidation of the entreprise computing market.
2 to 5 years ago these news would have made the front lines for two weeks. Today, they didn't even stand for two days. Why is that so?
Journalists will all have a good answer for this, but in my opinion, this phenomenom is the sign of a new era in the IT market.
These companies are heavyweight in their own fields, yet, their mergers are likely to fail, as we know that only 1 merger over 3 leads to a real success (Success in coordinating and merging their HR and organizational structures). But we live in times where great and big companies see their days counted. These corporate behemoths are heavy, difficult to manoeuver, and these mergers will frustrate their customers. The only sad being is that FOSS doesn't have similar offers yet; but it's only a matter of time before these companies will be irrelevant to their own market, letting room for FOSS to take its stand.
Oracle, Symantec develop and sell proprietary software that will become irrelevant in the entreprise market as it moves from a pricey and rarity-based model to a commodity-based model.
Just like Microsoft, they are driven and protected by their proprietary model, but unlike the Redmond giant, they aren't monopolies, nor do they have the power to pressure their customers. Hence, their fall will be quick and inconsequential.... just like their mergers. This why, at least in my humble opinion, these news do interest only a few and potentially affected customers. They belong to another age, the nineties, the age of windows 98.
And to paraphrase a famous ad:
"Free Software is everywhere.... Can you see it?"
I can. You can. Can Oracle and Symantec see it? I don't think so.
Author: jamesthompson (5:42 pm)
The purpose of the Statute of Anne, from the text itself, was to protect the author from unscrupulous publishers who would reprint and profit from the author's work without consent or compensation and thus lead "too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: ..."
This first copyright law was for the best interest of the author in regards to their work that they had created. But it benefited the public by limiting the duration of these rights of the author and placed no limitation on what could be done by the purchaser of a book. This is the first we are able to see the "spirit" of copyright to look out for both the creators and the consumers.
There is no debate that copyright has expanded far beyond the bounds of protecting authors and consumers to the point where publishers are the ones driving copyright legislation. But the solution is not to abandon the rights of the authors completely, the right thing to do is restore the balance by having reasonable terms under which authors are granted exclusive rights to determine distribution rules concerning their work. There should never be a restriction on what an individual can do with what they have bought. The Free Software's "free it all stance" is an extreme backlash against a very broken system. What is needed is careful consideration on all sides.
The new digital age makes duplication, modification and redistribution virtually cost free and this brings up new issues not addressed in classical theories on copyright. In the physical realm of books I can allow a friend to borrow a book and thus deprive myself of use until it is returned, however in a digital age I can simply create "another book" and give it away while still keeping mine. This model deprives the creator of any right to limit redistribution or their desire to be compensated for ALL who derive benefit from their work. In fact the consumers of this digital age are now their own publishers, infringing on the rights of the creators. If an author has spent the time to create something, no matter how easy it is to duplicate, modify and redistribute, when does it become acceptable to ignore the authors desires and legal rights?
If a creator is denied the ability to define how they wish to be compensated for their work in favor of giving more rights to the consumer, who are now in fact publishers themselves, how do we justify it? Does the creator not have a right to be compensated for their effort, their time, for their work? The Free Software movement deceives itself by saying in fact that the effort of developers is worthless because their work can be easily duplicated, modified and redistributed in our digital age. This is a lie and should be called as such. Creators deserve to be compensated for their work in creating something useful and to deny the only means we have to protect that right is shameful.
Now, if a creator chooses to relinquish these rights or modify them using some license this has always been acceptable. But who, but the author has the right to make the decision in these matters? I as a consumer, and in this age publisher, should not try to justify my desire to receive something for nothing; that is selfish and wrong. The truth is that their are issues that have not been addressed because the people who were once merely consumers are now also potential publishers and if we are not careful we will do exactly what copyright was meant to prevent and that is exploit creators by not fairly compensating them for their work.
I think that for too long we have ignored something that I didn't realize until today regarding copyright. Copyright is intended to protect authors and consumers from profiteering publishers. But what happens when in a digital age every consumer is a publisher and their profiteeting is not seeking to make themselves wealthy but instead to simply deny authors consideration and compensation in respect to their works. Along with my examination of FOSS in the church I am going to do some more studying and try to examine this new issue of what happens when consumers become publishers and the impact that has on copyright and FOSS at large.
I would encourage everyone to go check out the clarification of the point of this blog over at:
Category: Libervis .blogs :
Author: jamesthompson (3:03 pm)
I never imagined the kind of response my last writing would get, I think I may have hit a nerve (in a very good way) that I thought only I and maybe a few others had. Given the response I recieved via email, which has been overwhelming, I think I may have to change my plans. Originally I was going to post this as a series, which I still indend to do, but I believe I may hold my work and make it more extensive and let Libervis use it as an Article rather than as a blog posting. Look towards the first of the year for the next installment to be ready with some tidbits here in the blog along the way.
To give you a rundown of what I intend to do here are the parts I see coming in the next few installments.
I'm also going to rework the first part a little bit and spend more time on some of what is already there. Look for that around the first of the year as well.
Thanks to everyone who has commented and sent me emails, they have been most helpful and I hope that what I'm putting together will actually be of some use to those of you out there trying to spread FOSS everywhere that we want to see it go.
Again, Thanks and May God Bless You!
Author: jamesthompson (1:52 am)
The problem within...
The church is in a tough state right now, trying to reestablish its identity in a post-modern thinking and increasingly fast paced world. Technology has jumped by leaps and bounds yet the average church is probably in the early to mid ninety's at best technology wise. And on top of that there exist many problems in many churches relating to how they are using the technology they do have.
For an example: I have heard of one church that has no less that twelve computers between secretaries, ministers and other locations in the church as well as two servers. But of the operating system and application software they use on a daily basis only one of the licenses is legal. And I can't imagine this situation is too atypical.
The truth is that this church doesn't operate this way because they want to, it is because they have to, at least in their mind. They have a budget for IT of a few hundred dollars a year and with the age of their systems that is barely enough to cover repair costs. There is no way this church with its current mindset and budgetary restrictions could handle becoming legal in terms of software licensing. But even if they could, would that really be the best thing? I mean their accounting software releases a new version every year, Windows; which is the OS in use, is updated every few years and other bits of their software are updated on varying schedules. There is no feasible way they could keep up to date and remain legal in terms of licensing, so instead they steal the software. YES, I am going to say it, even though I hate everything about proprietary software licensing practices they are stealing according to the letter of the law, and yet there are those in the church who will try to justify it. I will not bother discussing their justifications because they are idiotic at best.
I have to ask myself, what kind of an example is this setting? Church leaders stand in the pulpit and preach against sin and that people need to get right with God and all the while, every day the church is using software that is stolen? That is hypocrisy and blatant, and in many cases unashamed and unrepentant hypocrisy! It is a tragedy that our churches are like this.
Now please hear me, unchurched skeptic, not all churches are ripe with this and other forms of hypocrisy but there are enough out there that you should be suspicious of the message they preach. But I implore you to not abandon the teachings of God because fallen, sinful men can't live up to what they preach. If we could live up to every bit of our preaching we would have no need of the Grace of God but because of our sinfulness we still have to rely on His mercy, so please don't misunderstand my message here. Also, not all churches knowingly engage in piracy, some are simply naive and don't know what they are doing is illegal. Also remember that although I am chiefly concerned with these practices in the church, they are no less common in secular institutions.
It is a tragedy and a systemic problem that our churches are in such a condition. But what is the answer, what is the way to turn this around? Well there are multiple answers, depending on how the church wants to go.
I hope this little teaser has piqued your interest and will bring you back over the next few weeks to see what I am going to be putting together. Next time I will discuss the differences between our traditional software monoculture as it exists in many churches today and the intriguing possibilities offered by the FOSS opportunities and products out there.
Come back next time!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License by James W. Thompson, II.
Author: jamesthompson (6:06 pm)
Before I say anything else...
FOSS has seen many advances in many areas over the last few years, major media has started talking about it and big companies like MS and Sun are trying to figure out how exactly to deal with it. In my experience though I have been somewhat saddened that the church has not picked up FOSS as a way to do ministry better and more cost effectively. The focus of my blogging will mostly focuson the areas where I think the church could use FOSS in creative ways that would enhance ministry.
Since this is my first blog entry I'm going to resist the temptation to dive right into the issues and instead talk about myself and my background so everyone who cares knows where I'm coming from. First off I am 22 years old married for almost a year and a half to my wife Pamela. We have a daughter named Marissa who was born in June of this year, 2004. We are both undergraduate students at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary [ nobts.edu ] where I am the full-time Web Administrator. I consider myself a geek who is interested in pretty much all things computer related. I got my start on an Apple IIe programming BASIC thanks to an innovative class taught by my Private Elementary school. I have always loved technology and computers specifically and spent much of my middle school and high school years working on hardware troubleshooting and learning programming languages. I started doing Web Design and Development in 1999 and have honed in on that more than anything else since then. I still try to keep myself up on other areas and love playing with new stuff that I don't understand just to see what I can do.
My present studies are in the area of Chrisitian Education and I hope to go on to Master's studies in that same area as well as Biblical Studies, particularly Greek. Eventually I would like to do Doctoral work and teach at either a Christian College or Seminary.
I have a keen interest in the role of technology as well as copyright and other "intellectual property" issues as they relate to the church. I am particularly interested in trying to encourage adoption of FOSS in the church context because I see a great opportunity to overcome issues the church struggles with in terms of technology.
As for my particular beliefs, being as I say I am so interested in the church; I am unashamedly a Southern Baptist and have no intentions of changing that denominational affiliation. Some my consider me more socially progressive though because I don't tow the party line when it comes to many things. I am however theologically conservative and evangelical/missions minded. I try not to prostletize where it is not welcomed but if you push the buttons or ask for it I'll chime in. I hope most of all that my contributions to the church and society as a whole will have a lasting impact and bring people closer to Jesus Christ the Lord.
Author: charles (10:48 am)
It's been a long time I haven't written here. One of the reasons for this is that I'm busy and lazy, but these last days were hectic, especially inside OpenOffice.org's community.
We're having a surge right now of new burgeoning communities willing to localize the FOSS office suite or just wanting to build their communities online. Interestingly, I wanted to share with you how OpenOffice.org is spreading throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe quicker than Wienerschnitzels.
The two oldest communites in that area are the Slovenian and the Greek communities, found here: http://sl.openoffice.org & http://el.openoffice.org
We started with them 1 year and half ago, and these communites have been performing well. The Slovenian community has been releasing a book on OOo, while maintaining a good, albeit small, community. The Greek community is bigger, and has strong ties with local companies selling services on FOSS and OOo.
Not far to the North, one of the greatest communities is the Czech community (http://cs.openoffice.org), led by the great, godlike and adorable Pavel Janik, who is also in charge of the Localization project for all the OOo languages (but judging from what Pavel does, he's much more than that. Recently, the Czech community even opened a new site, www.openoffice.cz.
It is one of the strongest community we ever had, along its sister community, the Slovak native-lang project: http://sk.openoffice.org.
Then, we had the Serbian project, http://sr.openoffice.org. Today it is a project that desesperately needs help. It didn't really move a lot from the time it was opened, one year ago.
In the mean time, the Croatian native-lang project was opened (http://hr.openoffice.org) and is also working on the Gnome and KDE localization.
But much more is under way. As other projects were opening not very far from there (http://hu.openoffice.org , http://ro.openoffice.org) , the Bulgarian project, http://bg.openoffice.org opened, while the Albanian and Bosnian communities were
opening a few days ago (note: Bosnian project is still inactive).
Now, where does it lead us? It leads us to the point where the grass-root marketing efforts of all these communities and their lobbying power added to their localization efforts is able to slowly, but surely fight against proprieatary software.
In commercial terms, these community efforts are litterally opening new markets. In political terms, we have seeded international communities of volunteers able to move altogether, and that is what companies like Microsoft hate the most. Add to this the fact that in countries like India (to name just this region), we are covering a small but significant fraction of the spoken languages: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, and today Telugu, account for several hundreds of million people who never had the chance to use a computer in their languages...
This is a global wave, and a tidal wave with that. Europe (in its geographical sense) is now covered with the notable exception of Swedish and Polish (that is, Polish is available but not officially) and you can realize now our progress in less than 4 years: we're everywhere. And the next answer we should make to Microsoft will be this one: "Dude, we've got you covered!"
Author: charles (6:09 am)
You're going to love this one: Microsoft recently released a screenshot of its MSN Search beta being displayed by.... FireFox.
More details can be found here: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/10/ART/825/507.html
Now, even funnier, Microsoft may start to work on a new release of its world-acclaimed, best of all web browser Internet Explorer. After months of making statements explaining why Microsoft customers were so happy with IE, and why Microsoft did not see FireFox as a threat, Microsoft may start to work on a new stand alone release of its browser, probably named 6.5
Microsoft is right, after all. When I look to the screenshot, I know now that Microsoft doesn't fear FireFox at all. Microsoft even uses it...
Author: charles (11:19 am)
Everybody seems to be thinking that outside MSN Search, Google is the only game in town. Well, sorry, there is Yahoo too.
These last months the majority of e-zines were full of stories about Google; Google's IPO, Google developping a new browser, Google releasing its desktop search (the OOo file formats may get included inside the tool, by the way), Google and its Gmail, Google becomes President, Google whatever.
Google is, to date, the fastest search engine on the internet.
Microsoft has been trying for ages to become the number one, and now it seems that it's farther from that position than ever.
Despite its 100 million dollars investment in its search technologies, Microsoft didn't manage to come close to Google's performance and worse, it isn't likely to change, despite what the folks of Redmond say.
I do use Google myself, but I can't say that I don't use other search engines. I've even used MSN search, recently, just to see how it scored. As I said above, it didn't perform well. Actually, I would even say that it was a rather painful XPrience.
I was surprized, however, to see that there are some very cool search engines that (re-) gained my favor these days.
Let's take altavista. AltaVista was the Stock exchange puppet during the dotcom years and also the first commercial search engine. It scored great for that time but quickly became a victim of its own success, and the entire altavista service (including free email, where I had my very first email) was shutdown around 2001. Only the search engine survived, and it was then bought by a company called by HMCI or something before being acquired by the famous Overture/Yahoo behemoth.
The very good point for these services is that they weren't simply sucked out by Yahoo.com search engine. Their technologies were also integrated inside Overture and Yahoo, and this is how two great search technologies, namely AltaVista and All the Web (FAST technologies) seemingly disappeared from the net, only to strengthen the almighty-in-second Yahoo! search engine.
I'm a web romantic, however. I do like to use the Overture search services, but not just by browing up to yahoo.com .
I do go to altavista.com , alltheweb.com (bet you didn't know that one), hotbot.com, go.com, and even the rather recent and very active gigablast.com ...
Are you as nuts as I am ? Do you go to now defunct commercial online ventures? And do you use altavista search engine exclusively? Please, drop me a line!
Author: charles (8:41 am)
Today, we have them both:
I'll start with the bad news. MS and the UNESCO have agreed to work together in order to bridge the digital divide.
A common initiative will "help" people in the third world countries getting trained to Microsoft products.
The only good part in that is that it is not an exclusive agreement, which means that open source initatives, wether they are ongoing or to come are of course possible.
This point was mentionned in the official UNESCO press release.
The good news is that today, Poland rejected the upcoming legislation on the EU software patents, which means that the EU commission will have to re-work and redraft another project, if it does so.
All this shows that even though we are playing well, the game is tight and is definitely not over...
Have a good week-end!