Limiting the use of an OpenSource application

David Johnson david at
Mon Mar 4 01:10:16 UTC 2002

On Sunday 03 March 2002 04:37 pm, John Cowan wrote:
> David Johnson scripsit:
> > But as for *reselling* a piece of software, that is a different matter.
> > Regardless of the existance of copyright law, the media upon which the
> > software resides is your personal property. It is immoral for the author
> > to deny my the right to resell my media since it is not his property
> > anymore.
> What for, if there is a covenant which you accept at the time?
> I shortly intend to buy my apartment on terms which require me to sell
> it back to the co-op corporation when and if I leave it.  Even if the
> market triples by then, I am forbidden to sell it on the open market.
> I get back only the purchase price plus the value of improvements I
> make (unlikely).
> I go into this with my eyes open, and what's more, I approve of the
> restriction.  What's immoral here?

The key phrase in your post is "at the time". At the time you purchased the 
apartment you were fully aware of the restrictions, explicitely agreed to 
them, and (I can only assume ) that you actually signed a document to that 
effect. You are under contract. There is nothing inherently immoral about two 
consenting individuals negotiating terms over the use of a piece of property.

The situation is different in software. Imagine if you purchased your 
apartment thinking that you had full home ownership rights to it, then walked 
up to the front door the first time and saw a note that said "by entering 
this apartment you hereby agree to...". That would be immoral. But that's the 
current state of software.

If the aforementioned company wants to restrict the use of their software to 
only "socially conscious" individuals and companies, then they need to 
explicitely license their software to them. They can't just post it on a ftp 
site somewhere and impose restrictions on the user AFTER the user has legally 
aquired the software. Furthermore, they should stop pretending that they are 
selling software at all, and make it quite clear that the software is not for 
sale, but only the non-transferable licenses to use the software.

p.s. The law may say that you own your apartment, but sounds more like an 
indefinite lease to me.

David Johnson
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