Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Richard Stallman and Copyright

Richard Stallman speaking in Belgium.  I chose this picture because he was wearing a similar red t-shirt in Levin - no evidence of the Pepsi though!
Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and free software activist, spoke in Levin, on 7th October 2009. He is also a keynote speaker at the LIANZA Conference being held in Christchurch this week.

He spoke for almost two hours and in spite of the seats in the Salvation Army Complex becoming harder and harder, he kept audience attention throughout. He is also an outspoken advocate for copyright reform and his Levin lecture was directed towards copyright and its impacts.

He states his Four Software Freedoms as follows:

• The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

• The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

• The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).

• The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this

but in this talk they were expressed as

Freedom 0: being able to use a work – to read it

Freedom 1: to study the work and change it

Freedom 2: to being to lend or give away a copy to friends

Freedom 3: to change the work and give away/lend the changed work

Because we use a wide variety of media in trade libraries and information services, the idea of DRM or ‘Digital Restrictions Management’ also expressed as ‘digital handcuffs is very relevant. DRM takes away our freedoms and in our context may prevent us from making copies from e-books, watching some DVDs except on certain types of technology and from giving away material to other people within international trade.

Although he was obviously preaching the movement’s message, he did put forward some ideas as to how copyright laws could be changed – by changing the period from 50 years to 10 years, and distinguishing different kinds of works based on their contribution to society. In particular ‘works that tell what people think’ category would allow non-commercial sharing of exact copies – this would cover our situation in trade libraries.

I came away thinking about the way we use the © symbol to protect works which we produce in our companies – should we encouraging usage and development with statements like: Please feel free to use this material with an acknowledgement to...

Some of his pithier statements:

Analog holes = eyes

Amazon’s Kindle = the Swindle

Home cooks are kitchen pirates and break all the copyright laws

To attack sharing is to attack society

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