Reply to post: Re: Futile cowards

We’ve got a leak of the European Commission's copyright plan

Michael Wojcik Silver badge

Re: Futile cowards

Without strong copyright there would be no open source or free software. You would not be able to enforce a license.

I support limited IP protection myself, but this claim is implausible. There was open source and free (speech-sense, beer-sense, or both) software before the FOSS movement. A lot of it was published without any explicit license, and that continues (albeit more rarely) in the FOSS era. Of course, even a lot of commercial software was historically widely available as source in the pre-unbundling era; but besides that there was simply a lot of source written by individuals or small teams and passed around on BBSes and Usenet and similar forums.

Some people who publish open-source software simply don't care about license. Sometimes they explicitly put it in the public domain; sometimes they use a very liberal license merely because it's expected (so people will look for one) and/or because they don't trust the government to protect the public domain.

It does seem likely that we'd have a lot less open source and free software, because licensing has become a powerful ideological rallying point that has helped popularize FOSS among developers. And many of those developers choose licenses with significant restrictions, suggesting they'd be less likely to develop FOSS if those licenses weren't available. Licensing also provides grounds (even when they're contentious grounds, as with the GPL and copyleft) for potential users to determine whether they can legally make use of the software, and so removed one impediment to wider adoption and increased demand.

Saying there wouldn't be any free software without an IP protection regime is definitely dubious. But saying license hasn't contributed to the growth of FOSS would be equally suspect.

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