copyright discussion

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rod at
Tue Sep 11 03:46:27 UTC 2001

Hmm...Public domain was dropped? Not sure what you mean by that. I suspect
the law makers in Washington, DC would beg to differ despite the enactment
of the DMCA and the Sony Bono law. In the context of software (software, as
a practical matter, has a short life span as far as literary works go),
software licenses may be doing more to erode the vitality of the public
domain than changes to the Copyright Act. There are some who might argue
that the public domain is a constitutional constituent of IP law. Hence, the
two must live together, at least theoretically.

To some extent, this philosophical debate is frustrated by semantics and
unclear meaning. There is still a great deal of fuzzy thinking as to what
"open source" really means.  Whether open source is more properly viewed as
a frontal attack upon IP, and an exaltation of the Commons is a question
that gets varying answers. I think, for example, a nuanced argument
concerning the philosophical basis of free software could lead you in an
entirely different direction than the less "restrictive" open source
software development model might lead you. Even so, I agree with your main
point because it is consistent with my understanding of Art. I sec. 8 cl. 8
of the U.S. Const. But, to be faithful to the argument that IP is really a
means to a better end, one should discourage arguments on both sides of this
debate: namely, no IP is evil arguments and no IP is wonderful (empowering)
arguments either. Of course, this is really an end-run on the debate, but
it's just as well due to the debate's complexity and time-consuming quality.

Rod Dixon

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Johnson [mailto:david at]
> Sent: Monday, September 10, 2001 10:50 PM
> To: Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M.; JEETUN6 at;
> license-discuss at
> Subject: Re: copyright discussion
> On Monday 10 September 2001 07:13 pm, Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. wrote:
> > Who on this list beside myself wondered whether Praveen posted
> his message
> > on this list without consideration of why most of us support
> open source?
> > Or, did I miss something?
> Yes, you did miss something.
> That particular set of IP known as copyright is *crucial* to Open Source.
> Now more than ever since "public domain" got dropped from the
> appoved list.
> Praveen's post essentially said that IP is empowering. Even a cursory
> examination at the GPL will reveal how utterly useless it would
> be without
> the empowerment of copyright.
> IP means that you and I have the legal right to enforce some of
> your wishes
> with regards to your software. That includes the right to enforce
> publication
> upon distribution, the right to prohibit the use of your name or
> organization's name for endorsement purposes, and the right to
> prohibit users
> from excising political views you have included in your license.
> At the least, Open Source advocates are saying that some right
> granted to the
> author exclusively are *indeed* appropriate and justified.
> I did not read Praveen's post as any sort of attack upon us. But
> rather it
> was in response to a common attitude among many in this community that
> copyright is evil. If it is truly evil, then let's refuse to even
> consider
> using its powers, by placing all of our software under as
> unrestrictive of
> licenses as possible. But if it isn't evil, but merely a tool, then let's
> stop condemning the tool just because there are some who abuse it.
> --
> David Johnson
> ___________________

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