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Weblog:   Dragging the Butter
Subject:   "Freedom zero" article was radical
Date:   2001-11-27 13:43:01
From:   jbuck

In this article you take a reasonably moderate
position, but in your original article you gave
an absolutist definition for "freedom zero":
the creator may offer the work on whatever terms
"work for you". I immediately thought of the
Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert failed to read an
entire click-through license, and found himself
to be Bill Gates' cabin boy. Any terms?
Sorry, but giving such power to people who already
hold monopolies is a bit much.

As you say, copyright was supposed to be a compromise. But moving it back to the middle
will probably mean moving things at least somewhat
in RMS's direction: we'll probably never see a
requirement to distribute source, but we might
well see a requirement to document interfaces,
wire protocols, and file formats in at least
some cases. This would
at least enable competing programmers to produce
workable programs if the terms offered by the
dominant player aren't acceptable.

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  • Tim O'Reilly photo "Freedom zero" article was radical
    2001-11-28 13:02:57  Tim O'Reilly | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    Of course not, "any terms." But the Dilbert example you give is instructive. There are two or three possible problems: are the terms deceptive, are they unreasonable, are they under compulsion? In Dilbert's comic case, they were both deceptive (or at least hidden) and unreasonable. In many click-through licenses, there are hidden gotchas. In Microsoft's case, there was also the possible problem that the terms were forced on users because of Microsoft's market power.

    In each of these cases, there are limits. We frown on deception. We frown on terms that are unreasonable, even between a willing buyer and a willing seller. (We don't let you sell yourself into slavery.) We frown on compulsion. And in fact, most contract law gives outs based on deception or compulsion, and various terms that our society have deemed unreasonable are outright illegal.

    None of these situations takes away from the general case that our society values the right of people to enter into exchanges of value, and that among the things that a person "owns" are not just tangible property, but also the sweat of his or her brow, including the fruits of creative acts.

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