[CrackMonkey] All Hail The Glorious People's License
Seth David Schoen
schoen at loyalty.org
Sun Aug 27 16:39:10 PDT 2000
Joakim Ziegler writes:
> On Sun, Aug 27, 2000 at 01:21:18PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> > begin Paul J Collins quotation:
> >> The GPL could not work in its present form if the copyright system did
> >> not enable works to be owned.
> > And, at that precise point, its mechanisms would no longer be needed.
> > Neat, eh?
> Actually, they would, sadly. In a copyright-free society, there would be no
> guarantee that you would be able to get source, merely that you would be able
> to legally copy whatever data you were given access to.
Mmmm, this isn't the worst thing in the world. Without copyright,
it's hard to get people to accept a license which forbids
decompilation, disassembly, and reverse-engineering.
Decompilers for some languages and compilers are quite good, and often
produce comprehensible output. (The _best_ thing to decompile is a
bytecode like Java; the worst is probably a well-optimized low-level
language like C.) They aren't widely available, though, maybe for
legal or economic reasons.
It's still not the "preferred form of the work for making
modifications", but I think that's OK. The _real_ harm of binary-only
distributions is when they are used to conceal secrets (formats,
protocols, algorithms) and people who discover those secrets can be
In a copyright world, where reverse engineering can be forbidden in
some jurisdictions, binary-only software is potentially a threat to
security, interoperability, and education. In a non-copyright world,
those would typically not be the case; distributing just binaries
might merely be thought of as rude. It would only take one person
with a debugger to learn the interesting bits and start a
source-code-available fork; the original publisher would not have any
obvious recourse to prevent this.
The argument for forcing people to publish source is much weaker in
the absence of copyright.
Seth David Schoen <schoen at loyalty.org> | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp. http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/ | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down: http://www.loyalty.org/ (CAF) | not have leisure. -- Pirke Avot 2:5
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