[OSM-legal-talk] OSMHQ (Open Street Map High Quality): Viable Alternative For The National Map Corps

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Thu Sep 4 12:55:26 BST 2008

Frederik Ramm wrote:

> In a way, the whole of civilisation is a derived work, isn't it? Glad
> our forefathers were liberal enough to not try to attach too many
> licensing strings to their cultural heritage, otherwise we'd probably
> have a world not only divided culturally and geographically, but also
> legally: "Sorry mate, can't talk to you about this, you are descended
> from a GnuFreeThought tribe and I am BrainCommons, we're not compatible..."

Well, absolutely.

Copyright used to work - that's the great shame about it all. Last  
night I was listening to some wonderful music by Maurice Durufle  
(that's a tautology - well, apart from the organ Toccata, which I  
can't abide).

His 1947 Requiem borrows heavily from Gregorian chant (much earlier,  
of course) and is influenced, arguably, by Faure's late C19th Requiem.  
Now the copyright maximalists of the music industry would probably  
have willed it that the copyright never expired on the chant, and that  
Faure's stylistic influence was sufficient that Durufle owed him  
something. So bye-bye to a wonderful piece of music.

But to me it's a great shame that the Stallmans of this world chose to  
fight fire with fire, not with tolerance. If all these sources and  
influences had been subject to a share-alike licence, Durufle - a  
perfectionist, a reluctant composer, and certainly never a wealthy one  
- would have been deprived of a rare income stream, and faced the  
prospect of his much-sweated-over, enormously refined Requiem being  
revised callously. Which he wouldn't have accepted - so again, bye-bye  
to a wonderful piece of music.

Before the maximalists got hold of it, we had, I think, the right  
balance for copyright on the composition, on the editions, on the  
performances. There was an understanding that you could, and would,  
donate out of choice if you wanted to: and people did.

Everything started to go very wrong with the growing power of  
collecting societies and, in particular, the extension to 70 years  
after death. Now copyright (or left, or whatever you want to call it)  
no longer works. And that is, in my view, at least as much the fault  
of Stallman as it is of the RIAA.

People speak as if Stallman invented the concept of "free software" -  
even, ridiculously, free culture - and that's a nonsense. What he  
invented was a prescriptive legalistic framework and the language of  
obligation rather than choice. There were hundreds of us writing  
public domain software for the 8-bit machines and I suspect very few  
of us had ever heard of GNU, copyleft or anything like that - I  
certainly hadn't. We just gave our stuff away because we wanted to.  
Some of us still do.

drifting off the point somewhat

More information about the legal-talk mailing list