Freedom revolutionises not only software
Summary: How the “Revolution OS” (GNU/Linux) and Free software in general help change perceptions around copyrights
LAST NIGHT when watching “Revolution OS” (again) I was reminded of the connection between software freedom and copyrights, more so than patents. In fact, the movie hardly mentions patents at all. This movie, which is in principle copyrighted and is not free to watch, remains on Google’s YouTube. There was no takedown request on the face of it — probably a conscious decision in fact from the makers of a movie that’s centred around Richard Stallman and the FSF’s role, with big mentions (but not too big) of Linux. If it wasn’t immediately available on YouTube, my wife and I would not have watched it. This is one of those cases where copyright maximalism proves to be counter-productive. Permissive copyright policy leads to free publicity and it helps reaching those who have pricing and availability issues (official link for ordering the DVD). The Internet has changed many things, so laws need to adapt accordingly — according to people’s needs that is.
“Public domain means any use allowed,” says iophk about , “even distasteful or commercial ones.” What we increasingly find is that copyright law changes, and it typically changes to benefit corporations (very rich people), not 99% or more of the world’s population. This trend ought to change and it all starts with education because there is plenty of indoctrination out there, even in state-funded schools. At Apple, shows a new article , the idea that “copying is theft” gets explicitly promoted. This is wrong. And since Apple has been “shamelessly copying” many other companies, according to Steve Jobs himself, that may simply imply that Apple itself if a “thief”, based on Apple’s own standards. If lies are manufactured and promoted as “Truth”, then justice will never triumph.
Right now there is a struggle between politicians who serve corporations’ interests in copyrights (and parrot propaganda ) and those who are doing the opposite  (yes, they exist, but they are a minority in politics). Earlier this month we saw several stories about censorship using “copyrights” [5,6], where the claims of copyrights themselves were bogus (fraudulent piggybacking on DMCA). This in itself is a breach of human rights and free speech. It’s a serious case demonstrating how broken today’s copyright laws are, especially Hollywood export like the DMCA.
Last week Red Hat dedicated at least 2 articles to permissive licensing that challenge copyrights [7,8]. OpenSource.com itself has just embraced the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. That’s fantastic. It wasn’t really surprising, however, because wherever Free software goes there tends to be an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration. The licences on text tend to be liberal and minimally restrictive (usually just attribution is needed).
This leads us to the final case of point. Last week we mentioned a new application called “Popcorn Time”. It is basically an application for streaming videos over torrent. Nice idea; friendly to networks (reduces loads on backbones), privacy-preserving, robust, and decentralised. What’s not to like?
What’s not to like? It’s competition for the copyright cartel/monopoly.
Not too shockingly, the developers abandoned the project just days later  (reasons not known), but it soon got embraced by other developers , only to be portrayed as “Netflix for piracy” by corporate British press the following day . Remember that here in Britain ISPs are now being pushed to block (censor) almost everything which even challenges the status quo on copyrights. Even new sites like TorrentFreak get censored by some ISPs like Sky.
What we really need right now is a challenge to the stigma that torrents are all about copyright infringement, that FOSS is facilitating copyright infringement, and generally that decentralised communication, which makes surveillance difficult for the likes of NSA and GCHQ, is somehow for “terrorists” or “paedophiles”, as the copyright cartel wants people to believe.
After the events surrounding Popcorn Time we should become better aware that copyright law — not just patent law — remains a serious threat to software freedom. We gave other examples of this before.
According to OpenSource.com, “vague patents” are now under threat again because the SCOTUS is taking another look at them. To quote: “You’ve probably realized this by now, but the Supreme Court is having a very busy term when it comes to patent cases. In Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.—scheduled for oral argument on April 28—the Court will consider whether to hold vague patents to a more exacting standard.” There are other such ongoing cases at the SCOTUS, but when will copyright law, including failures such as the DMCA (widely abused), be challenged at this high level?
Intellectual Monopoly as a whole (“Revolution OS” sparingly uses the term “Intellectual Property”) is a real problem; it is all about protectionism and it retards society. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Sweden has invoked a previously-unknown “Perpetual Copyright” clause against carmaker Mercedes-Benz, who recited a public-domain work by the poet Boye in a recent ad. The legal threat was brought by the Swedish Academy, which is tasked with overseeing the clause. This has severe chilling effect on culture even 70 years past an artists’ death.
In a detailed interview with the Sunday Times, he said, “Copying is theft … what’s copied isn’t just a design, it’s thousands and thousands of hours of struggle. It’s only when you’ve achieved what you set out to do that you can say, ‘This was worth pursuing.’ It takes years of investment, years of pain.” The sharp views on copying followed when he was indirectly asked about its competitor (read: Samsung) mimicking the work of his team.
Last year Finland wrote history after it became the first country to vote on a “fairer” copyright law, crowd-sourced by the public. Now that the vote is near, several lawmakers have warned against the disastrous effects of the proposal, by parroting a memo handed to them by the copyright lobby.
If it wasn’t for the Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house the actions of those abusing the DMCA would go largely unreported. Still, the Copyright Alliance doesn’t like the site, this week describing the information resource as “repugnant” to the DMCA. Unsurprisingly, Chilling Effects sees things differently.
My friend Mary, a folk singer, stopped by to visit spontaneously this evening. “What are you up to?” she inquired.
“I’m recording a music video for a new folk song,” I explained. “The Firefox Phone was announced last week, so I need to compose a song about it.”
Opensource.com is now using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license as our preferred license for all original content. You are still responsible for ensuring that you have the necessary permission to reuse any work on this site.
Hollywood won. The open source project called Popcorn Time is dead after just four days. It’s not really surprising.
“Popcorn Time is shutting down today. Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allies. But because we need to move on with our lives,” reads the website and a post on Medium.
YTS developer Jduncanator told TorrentFreak that they are in a better position from a copyright standpoint because it’s built on their API. “It’s as if we have built another interface to our website. We are no worse off managing the project than we would be just supplying the movies. It’s our vision at YTS that we see through projects like these and that just because they create a little stir in the public, it doesn’t mean they are shut down.”
Popcorn Time’s closure lasted just two days, with the site allowing users to watch movies free online being picked up by other developers.