[Next] [Prev] [Contents]

Justification for copyright

The copyright law is a social construct tailored to encourage intellectual work. Technological innovations have traditionally changed the notion of copyright. There was no copyright law before the invention of the printing press.

The producer of information is granted a reward for his efforts by the copyright law. Copyright protects the owner of intellectual property owner against unauthorised copying, manipulation, and re-distribution of copyrighted material.

If there were other effective methods for assuring the availability of adequate supplies of information to the public, copyright might not be needed. It may be that contracts and licensing will prove to be a better and more flexible alternative. Some people argue that information should be free to everyone.

Richard Stallman's GNU project is perhaps the best-known example of an effort to make good-quality free software. The fundamental idea behind the GNU Manifesto [Sta87] is that limiting access to software hinders programmer's capability to share his work with other programmers. Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as breathing, and as productive. It should be as free, argues Stallman. His ideas are easily extendable to any kind of information.

John Perry Barlow [Bar94] goes further and defines our notions of intellectual property fundamentally flawed. He also claims that the current practises regarding Internet and software piracy are more based on a "social contract" than existing laws. Software users pay for programs they really need (to get the latest version, good service, etc.). Where the law has failed, ethics has re-emerged.

[Next] [Prev] [Contents]

mtu@cs.hut.fi - 04 DEC 95