How can you enforce anti-piracy laws when people can sell free software?

Courtesy of Slashdot, a nice bit of culture clash and mutual incomprehension broke out in England when an anti-piracy bureaucrat approached the Mozilla Foundation reporting that someone was making money selling Mozilla software. The representative of Mozilla said that that was OK, they were licenced to do so.

The response?

“I can’t believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?” she asked.

If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted.”

. . . She then asked me to identify myself, so that she could confirm that I was authorised to speak for the Mozilla Foundation on this matter. I wondered if she was imagining nefarious copyright-infringing street traders taking a few moments off from shouting about the price of bananas to pop into an internet cafe, crack a router and intercept her e-mail.

How could I prove I was authorised to speak for the Foundation? We’re a virtual organisation we have three employees, one in Vancouver, one in Virginia and one in leafy North London, with no office or registered trading address in the UK. As far as the Mozilla part of my life goes, my entire existence is electronic.

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Cameron Riley
15 years ago

Opensource software is very dependent on copyright laws for its so-called freedoms.

I recall doing a software job about seven years ago now. I used an LGPL’ed SNMP library in the design to save me the bother of having to develop it. The design was sent off to be looked over and checked by a Physics lab from a well-known state college.

One of the questions that came back from the review was, “Who is going to support the SNMP Library?”

The answer was of course either me, or anyone else who was capable of supporting it at the best price to the customer.

That was just one piece of a larger project, and now that project is dotted with opensource software. For software that is commoditised, the opensource development is the most efficient form of software creation.

david tiley
15 years ago

That quote, btw, is just. lovely.

derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

Another example of just how easily regulatory capture occurs – the bureaucrat clearly thought her purpose in life was protecting “the industry”.