What is the copyright law, how is it evolved, and can we have a better one? What can we do meanwhile, before changing it, to reduce the harms of this existing law? These are the questions which I will try to cover in this post.
In previous posts we went over the software issues and discussed how using/developing free (libre) software is an ideal we need for our freedom (philosophy) and also it is made possible by some developers (practicality). We also argued how harmful it is to use/develop non-free computer programs. For software, I talked about copyleft idea and how copyright law only comes handy when trying to use copyleft licenses to promote free (libre) software. Because freedoms 0, 1, 2, 3 are necessary, copyright law cannot and must not restrict users on how they use their software (I am assuming it is Free Software).
Now we change gears, and try to answer the questions about other works such as scientific papers or art works, some uses of which are restricted by the copyright law. We will see how implementing the copyright law enforcement, in a crude way, has become unpractical and a danger to our privacy. Basically you have to watch everyone’s computer to see if they are copying your work illegally. And to achieve this goal you are creating much bigger issues than the copying ‘issue’, if you can call it an issue at all.
I am publishing this post on May 6th, the day against DRM (@DayAgainstDRM). DRM, to be more precise, stands for “Digital Restrictions Management” or simply “Digital Handcuffs”. Please check defectivebydesign.org to find out more.
In this post, which I will add to it or edit as time goes on, you will see a list of the relevant free (libre) software that I use generally and for my work, presently as a grad student. These are the software without any power over its users and with no known malicious features. See this post for an intro to free software. I am also using this post as an evidence for practicality of free software.
Fig. 4.1) Free (Libre) Software Laputa. Image is taken from this talk.
I try to use free (freedom-respecting) software and avoid proprietary (aka non-free) software. I am not a software developer but a user as most of the public. This post deals with an introduction to free software and licenses. There is almost no technical details in this post, only philosophy. In this post, I will show you the arguments that why this philosophy is ideal and adopting it is necessary. In another post, I will show you that it is practical, for most of us if not all, to only use free software. I am doing it right now.
If you are a software developer, I hope you are already aware of the issues and use GNU GPL license or a compatible one for your programs and respect your client’s freedom, while promoting free software. If you use a proprietary operating system and got used to it, you can start gradually using free programs. After answering all your needs with free software, then you can, much more smoothly, go ahead and switch to an available free operating system, like GNU/Linux.
Free Software movement started by Richard Stallman (RMS) around 1983. For the philosophy, I suggest you to go and explore the videos and audios in gnu.org. For a more detailed definition of free software see this page. Briefly, free software respects users’ four essential freedoms:
(0) to run the program,
(1) to study and change the program in source code form,
(2) to redistribute exact copies, and
(3) to distribute modified versions.
Now, the natural questions to ask. Why do we need all these freedoms? Why are you giving me this definition? What is wrong with using the plain old copyright law to deal with software? Let’s find out.
In this post, I will write about how I am doing screencasting and why I am doing it. You can download this example or get it from youtube. Also, check out the thoughts I have related to using videos in education and research.
As I listed in the ‘Popularizing’ section in my webpage, there are quite a few people working professionally on popularizing science. Those are good examples of using video format instead of written format to communicate scientific ideas. During the history of human kind, the way knowledge transmitted was the oral way and not the written way. It has been a few thousand years that we have notations to write with, and communicate the knowledge. Finally, we have the equipment to talk again, instead of writing. And this time to all the people on earth. This post talks about one of the most simple and cheapest ways to make videos. It is called screencasting, which means recording your screen, possibly with your voice over it.