Sunday, July 26, 2009

Without copyright, all software is free by definition.

Slow down cowboy, even if copyright ended tomorrow, all that needs happen is for a software developer to say, OK -- I will only release a binary to people who sign a contract with me that says I can sue them for breach if they distribute the software, and perhaps includes a liquidated damages provision (*). Just because copyright ends, doesn't mean you have the right to have someone else's work on your own terms. The only thing it would do would be to make it impossible to sue a user who did _not_ contract with the developer -- although a startup screen offering you the ability to agree to certain terms and use the program, or close it and not use the program, would be a way around even that.

Secondly, the end of copyright does not say anything about whether a company will give you the source code, and you'll face some stiff criminal penalties if you try to break in and steal it.

All the end of copyright would do is make the world full of different individual contracts -- reducing the standardization would mean a huge amount additional lawsuits and appeals over definitions and such, and would be very costly to companies and consumers who will ultimately eat those costs in the purchase price.

(*) liquidated damages provisions can be hard to enforce, but are used where it is difficult to calculate actual damages. The thing is, if you end up getting sued, you lose even if you win because winning is costly.

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