copyright discussion

David Johnson david at
Tue Sep 11 06:46:53 UTC 2001

On Monday 10 September 2001 10:31 pm, JEETUN6 at wrote:
> Many thanks for seeing what I was trying to say. When I heards of this open
> source movement I was intrigued to see how they could do what they do
> without intellectual property protection, a institution that they attack so
> much. How much of a surprise then was it to discover that they actually
> used copyright towhat they want to do. It was merely the use of copyright
> in a different way. From my uniniated perspective, it appears to be that
> your complaint is against the use by others of copyright rather than
> copyright itself, but that this distinction has been ignored and has turned
> into a witchhunt against copyright.

The "community" of Open Source developers are not all of one mind. Far from 
it. There are dozens of different philosophies and viewpoints on the 
licensing and distribution of software here.

The common perception is that the term "Open Source" succeeded in the public 
where "Free Software" did not, because of the word "free". Going out on a 
fragile limb here, I will assert that that is NOT true. The reason "Free 
Software" was not a widely accepted concept was that the Free Software 
Foundation website presents one single philosophy, liberally strewn with the 
pronoun "we". For a newcomer, it seems that Free Software is only for those 
that think one certain way. 

Furthermore, the philosophy of the FSF is defined in self-referential terms. 
In other words, it doesn't make sense to outsiders. For example, there is one 
article entitled "Why Software Should Not Have Owners", which is considered 
one of the core arguments in favor of Free software, but it is combined with 
dozens of other articles urging folks to license/copyright their works in 
certain ways.

Open Source takes a philosophy-neutral stance. We don't care who you voted 
for in the last election, what church you go to, what community organizations 
you belong to, or even if you think Richard Stallman is wise or nuts. Open 
Source is not about approving people, it's about approving software. And 
that's why it succeeded in capturing the public's eye.

To be balanced and fair, there are many on the Free Software side who believe 
that "Open Source" is a sellout of principles, that it is better to have few 
people standing up for freedom than a lot of people standing up for 

There are a multitude of viewpoints here. My viewpoint is different from many 
others. I write Open Source software simply because I want to share my works 
with other people. Unrestrictive licenses allow my code to be used by anyone 
and for any purpose. Since this is the code that I write in my spare time, 
and as a hobby, it doesn't matter that I am not earning any revenue off of 
it, or that someone could fork off a more successful version of it and siphon 
away my userbase. I don't share because I am supposed, I share because I want 

Yes, there are those here that are on a "witchhunt" to destroy copyright. But 
they are not the only ones here.

I would recommend at the book "Open Sources", by O'Reilley. It consists of 
many articles about Open Source and particular Open Source projects, each 
article by someone different, and each with a different philosophy. It has 
articles by those wanting to save the world from copyright, others by those 
actually running profitable businesses based on Open Source software, and 
those who are just having fun. You can read it online at 

> how can I ensure that I get e-mailed further discussions on this list?

Simply join the list. See for more info.

David Johnson
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