Subject: Re: "rights" and "freedoms"
From: Bernard Lang <>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 14:49:48 +0200

On Thu, Oct 21, 1999 at 07:31:38PM +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> >>>>> "Craig" == Craig Brozefsky <> writes:
>     Craig> It's only in the last few decades that the mistaken notion
>     Craig> that the IP regime is for the protection of inventor's
>     Craig> rights has taken hold.  It's a convenient propoganda tool
> The history is true.  The inference is fallacious.  The fact that it
> is a recent discovery doesn't mean that "inventors' rights" didn't
> exist all along.  (I personally believe that they are a recent legal
> creation, but don't think claiming a natural right of some kind is
> untenable, certainly not by the assertions---I won't dignify them by
> calling them "arguments"---so far posted).

There is no such thing as natural exclusive right to an invention,
since others could invent it as well (and often do) ... and that is
much of the issue. The monopoly of patents is granted by society,
against other (later ?) inventors whose natural rights are obviously
the same.

> And it's only in the last few years that the notion that there is a
> "right to source code" has taken hold

no such right either ... many just think it is better, and try to
enforce it through their service to the community (RMS). No one is
forcing you to use GPLed software.

> I doubt that "Jefferson and others" would hold that there is a right
> to _force_ others to divulge source code.  If not, one should say
> "please" when one asks for it, and it's not on to publically call
> those who withhold source "immoral" (as some free software advocates
> do).

only a value judgement ... shared by many a good person ... anyone is
entitled to such judgements, and to the opposition of those who do not
share it ...

'Who owns my polio vaccine?  The people! Could you patent the sun?'
Jonas Salk (1914-1995), who developed the first effective anti-polio

Too bad if that judgement of others makes you uncomfortable. It is
intended to.

> Thus, if "inventors' rights" are a non sequitur, I see no firm
> foundation for "users' rights," either, and the question becomes
> simply "what legal rights should be created to maximize the benefits
> to users and programmers who like, or would like to better like, their
> work?"


>  But most free software advocates don't like that; smacks of
> compromise.

possibly ... so what ... it is very effective in reaching the same
conclusions, if you account for all factors.

> They were ludicrous at the time; Jefferson did not have the
> information technology that we do.  The arguments need to be reviewed
> in the light of the fact that we now can implement various inexpensive
> schemes to give developers the ability to extract revenue in very
> flexible ways from their clients.

how can the ability to do something be a justification for doing it

>  Do developers have a natural right
> to do so?  Ayn Rand said "yes."  Do the customers have a natural right
> to be protected from that, indeed, to receive the source code at a
> nominal cost?  Richard Stallman appears[1] to say "yes."  Or are there
> no natural rights on either side, in which case society is free to
> choose whom to endow with the property rights?  I say "yes."

Point is : everybody may be right, and proof is made that the current
copyright system allows all approaches to coexist. But that is not
true of patents.

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