Possibilities for commercial software?

Dave Crossland dave at lab6.com
Fri Jan 26 20:01:27 CET 2007

On 26/01/07, David Schlesinger <David.Schlesinger at palmsource.com> wrote:
> See whether you get charged with something like theft (or
> infringement of copyright, which is tantamount to theft...)

Infringement of copyright is very, very different to theft.

>  >If I shoplift some food from my local
>  >store, no one else can buy it. But when I copy software, no one loses
>  >it and another person gets it. There's no ethical problem.
>  Um, wow.
>  There's no ethical problem, perhaps, as long as the author's agreed that
> you can give away copies of his work.

Yes, I agree.

> Otherwise, there's a very large
> ethical problem, which you seem to be inexplicably unaware of, somehow.

No, I think we are discussing at cross purposes.

>  If it's not the author's wish that the software be freely
> copy-able, which is certainly a desire the author's quite
> entitled to have

I am less certain, and judging from most people's actions, I think you
are in quite a minority with this belief. I mean, most iPods are full
of unauthorised copies, even if some of their tracks are licensed from
the iTunes Music Store.

> you simply have
> no right whatsoever to make (i.e. "publish") copies of a copyrighted work
> and give them away. It's illegal. I'm astounded that breaking
> the law this way presents no "ethical problem" for you.

It is illegal, but the law is not an authority on ethics. It is, at
best, an attempt to achieve justice. You seem to be saying, "If
copying is forbidden, it must be wrong."

But the legal system - at least in the US - rejects the idea that
copyright infringement is "theft." You are making an appeal to
authority, but misrepresenting what that authority says.

The idea that laws decide what is right or wrong is mistaken in
general. To say that laws define justice or ethical conduct is turning
things upside down.

>  If you copy software (music, books, other media, etc.) without permission
> of the author, there most certainly _is_ an ethical problem: you're stealing
> the possibility of selling a properly paid-for copy from the author.

I'm not sure you can steal a possibility.

>  Or do you believe that it's "unethical" for an author to
> a) want to be paid for his work

No, it is totally legitimate for them to want payment, and for us to pay them.

> and/or b) be able to set the terms under which his work is made
> available...?

No, I am not against this. Afterall, without authors being able to set
the terms under which their work is made available, we would have no
free software :-)

As always, thanks for taking the time to discuss issues of freedom and
community with me.


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