Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
The Freedom to Give:
Part 1 | Part 2
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
Me Serving You
The words you're reading are delivered to you by
a server using a UNIX® operating system, and
as a user you form an integral part of the story
that is unfolding between UNIX® and Linux.
SCO, through a series of mergers and acquisitions,
has acquired ownership of the copyrights and core
technology associated with the UNIX® system.
In the past some of its code was readily available
and easily modified by developers.
Linux, the freely distributable operating system
originally created by Linus Torvald, allows any
programmer free access to its source code. In contrast,
UNIX® is a commercial product that is sold under
licensed and whose code is now a fiercely guarded
secret. Neither system is 'good' or 'bad', nor do
they have an ethical component. The principles of
ownership over these systems is however a matter
of fierce dispute and moral rhetoric.
Rights of Authors
The court case between UNIX® and Linux lays
bare our motivations and drive to create. SCO's
position presents a profit driven model, while the
Linux position asserts a non-profit model.
The case for the profit driven model was presented
by Justice Ginsberg who stated:
economic philosophy behind the Copyright
Clause is the conviction that encouragement
of individual effort by personal gain
is the best way to advance public welfare
through the talents of authors and inventors.
Accordingly, copyright law celebrates
the profit motive, recognizing that
the incentive to profit from the exploitation
of copyrights will rebound to the public
benefit by resulting in the proliferation
The profit motive is the engine that
ensures the progress of science. Rewarding
authors for their creative labour and
promoting progress are thus complementary...
copyright law serves public ends by
providing individuals with an incentive
to pursue private ones...'
The Free Software Foundation (FSF), Red Hat, and
other General Public License (GPL) advocates believe
progress is best advanced by eliminating the profit
motive from software development by providing free,
unrestricted access to software innovations. Justice
Breyer summed up this position in the same court
room by stating:
Clause (relating in the US Constitution
to copyright) does not exist to provide
a special private benefit, but to stimulate
artistic creativity for the general
public good. The reward is a means,
not an end.'
position however is as black and white as the statements
above suggest. There are many who work in a commercial
context who also contribute their time and energies
to 'non-commercial activities, indeed commercial
software often significantly benefits non-profit-making
organisations. Likewise, a significant motivation
that characterises the development of free software
is its use as a marketing vehicle for commercial
The Freedom to Create
Freedom is not a license to do as you wish. The
essential component that any community requires
to grow and develop is a constitution, a collection
of rules that governs who can be a valid member
of the community, and how they must act. Without
rules communities perish.
In these early days of the Internet the rule book
of terms and conditions will continue to take the
place of a more formal constitutional model. I've
no doubt the creative communities of the future
where technologies have developed which exploit
the Internet's full potential, can become places
of great learning and opportunity which surpass
those in the concrete world, but all depends on
the vision and determination of a few people.
It's up to us to nurture creativity by giving freely.
You have the skills and the context to make a difference...
Freedom to Give: Part
1 | Part 2
welcomes feedback on The Column. Go to Feedback,
complete the form, and make your views known.
de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site designer,
If you observe inaccuracies in our in-house
contributions or wish to contribute an article
or review to be included at AbleStable®
Although our contents are free to browse, copyright
resides with the originators of all works accessed
at AbleStable®, and unauthorised copying
or publication of our site contents is strictly
AbleStable © 2002-2007