[sclug] Pirate Party UK and Free software

Alex Butcher lug at assursys.co.uk
Tue Nov 10 11:06:50 UTC 2009

On Tue, 10 Nov 2009, Philip Hands wrote:

> On Sat, Nov 07, 2009 at 11:14:37PM +0000, Alex Butcher wrote:
>> On Sat, 7 Nov 2009, John Barron wrote:
>>> On Saturday 07 November 2009 13:09:48 Alex Butcher wrote:
> ...
>>> 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.
>> 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.
> I'd have thought that the only way of determining that you do have source
> is if it's possible for someone independent from the copyright owner
> to build a working instance of the copyrighted work (a government test
> lab could be used for the cases where one could not already point at
> two vendors shipping binaries built from the same source)


> The main problem is that it seems to regularly happen through simple
> incompetence that escrow schemes get a version of source that doesn't
> match the shipped product, and wouldn't be buildable anyway.  Add malice
> to the mix and it's going to be guaranteed.


> Writing legal language to differentiate between that, and genuine Free
> Software will be a challenge.


> This seems sub-optimal.
> Hence the need for probably independent test labs.

Lots of very good points, and you make a position I have a lot of sympathy

Of course, the escrow/independent labs approach is also sub-optimal;
presumably a software author won't be able to release any binaries until
their code has gone through the test lab (otherwise, we'd get equivalent
behaviour to Free software distributors/appliance manufacturers saying that
they're get round to releasing the source they used RSN), which in turn will
slow down the software economy.  We might decide that that is a price we're
prepared to pay, but it shouldn't be ignored.

The optimal solution is for all actors to be honourable and public-spirited
(i.e.  "good"); to not try to game any escrow system, and to not degrade the
creator's market before they've had a fair chance to recoup their investment
(thus eliminating the need for DRM).  Unfortunately that probably won't
happen at the moment, and so we need a compromise of some form so that the
situation degrades gracefully under abuse.

There is a quote (for which I'm still trying to find the source!) that seems
pertinent. Paraphrasing, "There exists no system so perfect that it does not
require people to be good". Voltaire, also - "The perfect is the enemy of
the good."

> Cheers, Phil.

Best Regards,

More information about the Sclug mailing list