Software patents and copyrights

David Johnson david at
Sat Nov 10 02:16:52 UTC 2001

On Friday 09 November 2001 03:27 am, DeBug wrote:

> Since unmaterial things are unlimited they cannot be
> a property. So intellectual property is a nonsence, copyrights are
> nonsence, patents are nonsence. 

Although property is an efficient means to allocate scarce resources, it does 
not follow that scarcity is necessary to property. Certainly applying 
traditional concepts of property to software, literature and music is 
erroneous, but that does not mean that you must toss out intellectual 
property altogether.

Unless specifically outlawed, forms of intellectual property are going to 
exist in any economic system, simply because people want them. If there were 
no copyright laws, then other mechanisms, both public and private, will be 
used to protect the authors' "rights". Hammer's "Intellectual Property Rights 
Viewed As Contracts" ( is one article that 
examines this scenario. It is also the accompaniment to Long's "The 
Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights" 
( that GNU cites on its webpage.

The question to ask is not "how do we abolish intellectual property", but 
rather "how can we live with intellectual property". Open Source Software is 
one answer. Through voluntary action, education, and gentle persuasion we can 
make the rights to copy, distribute and modify assumed attributes of software.

> I have asked you several times how can i avoid controlling my software
> but it seems the only solution is to remove unjust laws - the laws that
> postulate and regulate the control of unlimited resources...

Unfortunately, you are not going to be able to remove those unjust laws. 
We've been trying to do that for the last five thousand years with only the 
most limited of successes.

But if you don't want to control your software, there is another avenue 
besides lobbying an unresponsive legislature: and that is to simply not 
control it. It's much easier than trying to get a law passed to prevent you 
from doing what you're not going to do anyway :-)

Placing your works into the public domain is impractical. But placing them 
under an extremely unrestrictive license is not. I would suggest the MIT 
license as the most unrestrictive that already approved by the OSI.

David Johnson
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