[License-discuss] Private modification

Russell McOrmond russellmcormond at gmail.com
Fri Aug 9 02:33:14 UTC 2019

On Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 9:50 PM Bruce Perens via License-discuss <
license-discuss at lists.opensource.org> wrote:

> It makes it a lot easier to state, and eventually enforce,
> performance-based terms (or Larry's "deployment" based terms), because you
> don't have to differentiate when something is performance or deployment vs.
> when it is private modification.
> I've never seen protection of private modification as essential to Free
> Software. I find it difficult to believe that there are significant cases
> that should not be seen as performance or deployment.

Since the early 1990's when I discovered Free Software I assumed protection
of private modification was essential to software freedom.

The software users that software freedom was intended to protect were the
people running that software on a computer they are intended to control.
The intent of FLOSS licensing was to restrict the ability of software
authors to control the behaviour of these software users. Restricting what
can be done with derivative software that is distributed/communicated is a
restriction of follow-on developers in protection of the freedom of
software users who are recipients of that distributed/communicated
software, so is justifiable (and thus traditional GPL style reciprocal

Software authors being allowed to restrict what software users can do on
their own computers (including running modifications for any purpose, part
of freedom 0) is itself a restriction of software freedom, and should
clearly be rejected.  While it is unfortunate that some legal jurisdictions
allow software authors to control software users in this way (regulate
private modifications), it is something that no part of the FLOSS community
should accept.  Rather than accepting it, we should be lobbying governments
to carve private modifications of software out of copyright, patent, and
related laws.

I put allowing software authors the ability to regulate private
modification into the same bucket of harmful legal ideas as interface
copyright/patents (including this "public software performance" legal
theory) and legal protection for technological measures (DRM).

Where people sit on this debate seems to depend on who each of us think the
"users" are with software freedom: those who run the software on computers
they control, or the interests of third parties.   When focused on the
interests of third parties they loose sight of the consequences of the
legal precedent of giving software authors more and more control over other
people's computers.  The more licenses which any part of the FLOSS
community considers FLOSS which accept these harmful legal ideas, the
harder it will be to protect software freedom from other entities with much
more malicious intent using the same harmful legal ideas.

It may also depend on if individuals have lost sight of the goals of the
movement and are only focusing on tools (access to source code is an
important tool, not the goal, of software freedom).


Also thanks :-)

My hope is that the FLOSS community will be able to resolve these issues
before things diverge too much.  I've spent the majority of my life
believing I was part of the software freedom movement, but am more recently
not as convinced.

Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>

Please help us tell the Canadian Parliament to protect our property rights
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