Fosdem '05: RMS

So at the Friday drink, someone told me that RMS has only two speeches: one on Free software, and one on software patents. This isn't true. The subject of this speech was how the four freedoms of the GPL are applicable to other types of information.

1) There's a whole spectrum of creative activity between creation and copying - commentaries, coppendiums and the folk process were mentioned.

2) An early point is that most laws are theoretically made to achieve a certain (desirable) outcome for society as a whole in the current zeitgeist. Modern-day copyright of course is now increasingly anachronistic, and is getting worse at the behest of the content cartels.

3) The subject of software patents was noticeable in its absence.

4) He proposes a system whereby works are split into three categories - practical works of reference, expressive, attestational works (e.g. bills, receipts, contracts, articles, autobiographies), and artistic, creative works.

He then goes on to define what is and is not in society's interest in each case as regards copyright law, and does make a very good case for applying the four freedoms directly to reference works, and making no-derivs on attestational works. For the third type his solution is a limited term copyright, but I think that this is a bit of a compromise. A neat solution to this has yet to be found.

RMS is an idealogue. He's a good one too - The GPL, and Free Software are both Good Things. However, what was conspicuously absent from his speech was any hint of what could actually be done by people like us to help change things from what we have now to what he sees as the ideal situation. It was a good speech, but there was no call to action, and he's perfectly positioned to provide one.

I wanted to ask him an inflamatory question, like this one:
"given that you believe our supposedly democratic governments are not acting democratically, or in the best interests of our society, what forms do you think direct action and civil disobediance would take if we wanted to combat this?"
However, (a) there was no time, and (b) the thing was being videoed, and I didn't want to (unfairly) label myself as a firebrand info-anarchist in front of the whole Internet.

Oops, too late :-)

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