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The Pirate Bay Circus

* The Pirate Bay Circus...

Time-stamp: <<2006-06-03 17:34:16 ams>

Copyright (C) 2006 Alfred M. Szmidt <

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this article is permitted worldwide, in any medium, provided this notice, and the copyright notice are preserved.

The views expressed here are my personal views, not those of the Free Software Foundation or the GNU Project; the views might be shared though. For information about them and their positions, see http://www.gnu.org.

* The Pirate Bay Circus...

Anyone following the news surely has heard about the raid[1] against the `Pirate Bay'[2] in Sweden. A lot of finger pointing is going on as to who ordered who to order the Swedish police to seize servers (including servers that aren't related to the `Pirate Bay'[3]), detain people, and other quite disturbing things like requiring the legal counselor from the `Pirate Bay' to leave a DNA sample[4].

Today (June 3rd, 2006) the `Piratpartiet'[5] is planning on a demonstration in Stockholm against the raid, and against the behaviour of the Swedish police. There are several issues that are wrong with this picture. What the police, and anyone involved has done is indeed simply unacceptable. But what everyone seems to forget is that one of the issue revolving this circus is sharing of non-free software.

First of all, there is nothing ethically or morally reprehensible in sharing, be it music, free software or even non-free software; despite many absurd claims from companies that -- even the people who try to work against these companies! -- equate sharing with theft[6], and robbery on the high seas[7].

The problem lies in actually using, and condoning the use of non-free software, and this is a important point that the `Piratpartiet', the `Pirate Bay' and several political parties completely miss. No matter how much one weakens the copyright statues, how much one shortens the copyright term, or how much one shares non-free software legally or illegal, one will _never_ have the right to improve and study the software in-question. Users will still not have freedom. In fact, if the goals that the `Piratpartiet' get passed, it will weaken the free software movement!

One of their goals is to shorten the copyright period before a works becomes released into the public domain, this would cause serious problems for copylefted free software. One would be able after a short period to incorporate software that is licensed under the GNU General Public License[8] into proprietary programs after the short time period has expired without being able to protect the rights of users.

The shorter copyright term achieves very little, in the end all it achieves is wider dissemination of non-free software. Something that will only work against our freedom to share, study, modify and run programs. So to anyone who cherishes their freedom:

Do NOT support the `Pirate Bay'.

Do NOT support or vote for the `Piratpartiet'.

Not because what they are doing is wrong, it isn't! Not even because it is illegal to share non-free software. But because it weakens our freedom! To quote Richard M. Stallman[9]:


As a computer user today, you may find yourself using a proprietary program. If your friend asks to make a copy, it would be wrong to refuse. Cooperation is more important than copyright. But underground, closet cooperation does not make for a good society. A person should aspire to live an upright life openly with pride, and this means saying ``No'' to proprietary software.

You deserve to be able to cooperate openly and freely with other people who use software. You deserve to be able to learn how the software works, and to teach your students with it. You deserve to be able to hire your favorite programmer to fix it when it breaks.

You deserve free software.

* Footnotes

Footnotes:

[1] http://idg.se/ArticlePages/200605/31/20060531143126_PFA.dbp.asp/20060531143126_PFA.dbp.asp

[2] http://thepiratebay.org/

[3] http://idg.se/ArticlePages/200605/31/20060531154325_PFA/20060531154325_PFA.dbp.asp

[4] http://idg.se/ArticlePages/200606/01/20060601000923_SOS/20060601000923_SOS.dbp.asp

[5] http://www.piratpartiet.se/ -- As of writing, this site is down.

[6] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#TOCTheft

"Theft"
Copyright apologists often use words like "stolen" and "theft" to describe copyright infringement. At the same time, they ask us to treat the legal system as an authority on ethics: if copying is forbidden, it must be wrong.

So it is pertinent to mention that the legal system--at least in the US--rejects the idea that copyright infringement is "theft." Copyright apologists are making an appeal to authority...and misrepresenting what authority says.

The idea that laws decide what is right or wrong is mistaken in general. Laws are, at their best, an attempt to achieve justice; to say that laws define justice or ethical conduct is turning things upside down.

[7] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#TOCPiracy


"Piracy"

Publishers often refer to prohibited copying as "piracy." In this way, they imply that illegal copying is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them.

If you don't believe that illegal copying is just like kidnapping and murder, you might prefer not to use the word "piracy" to describe it. Neutral terms such as "prohibited copying" or "unauthorized copying" are available for use instead. Some of us might even prefer to use a positive term such as "sharing information with your neighbor."


[8] http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html

[9] http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html

Comments

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

One would be able after a short period to incorporate software that is licensed under the GNU General Public License[8] into proprietary programs after the short time period has expired without being able to protect the rights of users.And just after the same short period of time those proprietary programs will become a public domain, too.The shorter copyright term achieves very little, in the end all it achieves is wider dissemination of non-free software. Something that will only work against our freedom to share, study, modify and run programs.See above. Think again.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

The real problem with (almost) getting rid of copyright is "software laundering": you take GPLed source code in a country without copyright protection (where this code would be public domain), compile it into a binary, move that binary file to a country that does have strict copyright law, and sell it as proprietary software there.

I don't know if this trick for changing free into proprietary actually works or if it is illegal. This might vary between countries. IANAL.

It seems to me making huge changes to copyright law would require abandoning treaties on copyright, perhaps making exporting information from Sweden very difficult.

What a mess.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

"And just after the same short period of time those proprietary programs will become a public domain, too."

If it's public domain, that means someone could run off with the source, modify it, then release it as proprietary software.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

If it's public domain, that means someone could run off with the source, modify it, then release it as proprietary software.

Not "someone" - everyone can! That's exactly what would allow me, you, everybody else to look inside, learn, modify software to make it fit to your own needs. If somebody is too lazy to learn, or their time is just too expensive, they can buy that proprietary software. But if you don't mind to learn, you can roll everything by yourself for free. It looks just like freedoms you have with Linux: you can buy complete solutions and support, or you can learn and do everything, yourself.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 
Quote:

That's exactly what would allow me, you, everybody else to look inside, learn, modify software to make it fit to your own needs.

But if someone makes it proprietary software, you won't be able to do that.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

But if someone makes it proprietary software, you won't be able to do that.

For a short period of time - yes, until it becomes the public domain, too, and you can mess with it. But the original, public domain software, that it was based on, is still public domain, and you are able to do that with it. You can't just take a public domain software and claim it to be not public domain anymore, can you? While the proprietary software will be turning into public domain much faster. The result - more public domain software, more freedoms.

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 
Quote:

until it becomes the public domain, too, and you can mess with it.

But it's still proprietary if there's no source code. If they never publish the source code, it stays with them, away from the public's eyes. Under the Pirate Party's current (lack of) plan, they won't have any legal obligation to ever publish the source code.

Quote:

You can't just take a public domain software and claim it to be not public domain anymore, can you?

Yes, you can (for example Gnash is based off the PD GameSWF).

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 

If they never publish the source code, it stays with them, away from the public's eyes.

Well, if they don't want to, they can take their (tar)ball and go home. It will not prevent others to use the binary, and no DMCA will bite anybody trying to reverse-engineer that binary, cause it's public domain. Still better than having that binary to be copyrighted for 100+ years without a way to reverse-engineer it. Remember: the original code, "stolen" for this binary, is still open for everybody else to use by being a public domain.

Yes, you can (for example Gnash is based off the PD GameSWF).

But did the PD GameSWF code became inaccessible for others, cause Gnash used it? No, nothing was changed for the original code, it is still open, so that code was not re-closed.

Now, the Gnash code. With current copyright laws you will not be able to touch it for, say (I don't know the current copyright laws there) 100 years. The Pirate Party wants it to be cut till, say 10 years, after which it will become public domain. What is better for you, to wait to be able to mess with it (even if just as a binary) for 100 years or for 10?

Re: The Pirate Bay Circus

 
Quote:

Well, if they don't want to, they can take their (tar)ball and go home. It will not prevent others to use the binary, and no DMCA will bite anybody trying to reverse-engineer that binary, cause it's public domain. Still better than having that binary to be copyrighted for 100+ years without a way to reverse-engineer it.

Better, but not the best it could be.

Quote:

Remember: the original code, "stolen" for this binary, is still open for everybody else to use by being a public domain.

But not the code for the binary. It could have tons of changes without anyone being able to modify them.

Quote:

But did the PD GameSWF code became inaccessible for others, cause Gnash used it? No, nothing was changed for the original code, it is still open, so that code was not re-closed.

Now, the Gnash code. With current copyright laws you will not be able to touch it for, say (I don't know the current copyright laws there) 100 years. The Pirate Party wants it to be cut till, say 10 years, after which it will become public domain. What is better for you, to wait to be able to mess with it (even if just as a binary) for 100 years or for 10?

Gnash is under the GGPL.

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