[sclug] Pirate Party UK and Free software

Alex Butcher lug at assursys.co.uk
Sat Nov 7 23:14:37 UTC 2009

On Sat, 7 Nov 2009, John Barron wrote:

> On Saturday 07 November 2009 13:09:48 Alex Butcher wrote:
>> (Presumably) your contribution to the Wiki discussion
>> <http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/wiki/Talk:Copyright_Policy_Working_Group>
>> mentions that the PPUK's draft policy will address rms' concerns; has the
>> draft policy been formulated yet?


> However, I don't think I'm spilling any "party secrets" to share a quick
> update on where our policy formation process is at on this area, just bear in
> mind that none of this is official yet and the final manifesto could be different.
> Initially we considered in the draft policy the possibility of giving the same
> copyright protection to any software, open or closed, with no difference, but
> requiring that closed vendors place their source code in escrow to be made
> available when copyright expired.

That would be the obvious solution...


> However, there were substantial concerns expressed about the practical
> implications of actually implementating that, and problems which might result.
> The membership therefore rejected the escrow proposal, sending the policy
> group "back to the drawing board".

...but I would agree with that assessment...

> The alternative suggestion was to give open software a greater duration of
> copyright than closed, which doesn't have the neat equitable balance of the
> escrow options (it's much more a rough-and-ready compromise), however is
> perhaps simpler to implement/administer in the real world.

...which in turn makes that the next-best-thing.

> So something based on that is in the current draft, to give software where
> source code is released (whatever license) a longer period of protection than
> software released without source code, and which is intended to meet the
> concerns that RMS raised. We would consider other options, I haven't yet seen
> any specific proposals however, and also we'd have to persuade RMS/the FSF it
> was ok... so longer protection for software with source provided is on the
> table at present.

The main thing then, is to make sure that you've nailed down the definition
of 'source code' so that deliberately obfuscated source doesn't count.  The
code must build using standard tools, or also include the patches/source
code for any supplementary tools.  It'd be nice to have some build
requirements and instructions too, but I suppose that might be pushing it.

Conceivably, you might also want something about DRM/"activation" servers.
Obviously, with the source code, it'd be possible to change any key, but
depending on the scheme, it might be necessary to generate one or more key
pairs. The source to do this should be included too.

If you're seeking to be rms-compatible,
<http://www.mail-archive.com/fc-uk-discuss at lists.okfn.org/msg00711.html>
might be worth a read if you haven't already.

> However, I do get some flak on this issue from some PPUK members, who don't see
> a need to treat software/source code differently to any other media, whereas I
> certainly can, in at least two regards.

You're right, they're wrong. :-)

It's inevitable that PPs attract so-called "freetards" (not my term) who are
entirely focussed on getting stuff for no monetary cost, and don't want to
risk criminal penalties. That's a legitimate view, but there's a greater
principle at stake.

> All the best
> John

Thanks for your response; if the policy you describe becomes official, then
I'll go from opposing PPUK, to wishing it well.  Sadly, from a practical
viewpoint, with the electoral system we have, I personally feel I need to
use my vote to prioritise for electoral reform, so that parties such as PPUK
have a louder voice in government in future.


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