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Re: [OT] Droit d'auteur vs. free software? (Was: query from Georg Greve of GNU about Debian's opinion of the FDL

Stephane Bortzmeyer wrote:
[This is starting to shift away from the GFDL so I modified the
subject. Georg, I can suppress you from the Cc: if you wish so.]

On Sun, Apr 27, 2003 at 11:25:43PM -0400,
Nathanael Nerode <neroden@twcny.rr.com> wrote a message of 29 lines which said:

Naturally, I'm more familiar with the European Copyright -- or Droit
d'Auteur, rather -- systems, but since Europe is a very active region
for Free Software, considering the European situation seems useful.

Please note that this system is contrary in its basis to the system in the US, which is also used in some form in most common-law based countries (most of the world). Under these systems copyright is a government-granted monopoly and not a 'natural right'. The 'Droit d'Auteur' system is *much* more hostile to free software, free documentation, free speech, fair use rights, library privilege, the public domain, etc., etc., etc.

Can you explain the above? I do not see why and in which way the
"Droit d'auteur" system is more hostile to free software. There is
currently a lot of lobbying in Europe and in the world against this
"Droit d'auteur" system and pro-copyright and this lobbying is mostly
driven by the same companies that oppose free software...
Interesting. I've never heard of any of this and I do keep up on these issues. Perhaps you are thinking of a campaign to make moral rights alienable, which is really a much more specific matter? The corporate copyright interests are certainly not interested in promoting the idea that copyright is a government-granted monopoly rather than a natural right! Consider the statements to the effect that copyright violation is "theft" -- this actually has a legal basis under the Droit d'Auteur system.

Basically, it's a free speech issue. The concept that authors and their heirs have inherent rights of control over their writings, in eternity (which is the basic concept of the system) is effectively in opposition to freedom of speech, as it requires all ideas to be recast so as to avoid the use of the forms used by anyone else, throughout history.

Historically, the system has been tempered by limits on copyright length, establishment of fair use rights, and so forth, but the *basis* of the system denies such things and treats them as unusual exceptions to the general rule that authors have total, eternal control over their works, based on the "sweat of the brow" they put into it. There is really no reason, under a true Droit d'Auteur copyright system, why copyrights should not be eternal, why authors (or their heirs) should not have the ability to revoke copyright licences at will, why authors should not be allowed to write copyright licences with arbitrary biases ("this work may not be sold to black people"), why compilations of arbitrary data should not be copyrightable, etc. The revokable license issue is certainly an issue for free software, and the protected database issue is another anti-free problem originating directly from the European system.

I am not referring, per se, to "moral rights". I am referring to the treatment of copyright as being based in the "right of the author".

The treatment of copyright under common law systems is generally that it is a government-granted monopoly. In the US, this is explicit, and it is specified that the monopoly is for the purpose of promoting the progress of knowledge. Historically, this has been seriously *abused* in the US, to the point where the system as implemented comes close to the European system.

So in *implementation* there's not that much of a difference. In the *basis* of the system, however, the Continental European system is fundamentally opposed to free information, and the US system is fundamentally in favor of it. If you believe that "code wants to be free", well, the Continental system says "Code wants to be owned by its author and his heirs and assigns in eternity".

At least this is my well-informed understanding. I am not a lawyer, or I'd be making more money.


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