[TUHS] Ultrix...

Tim Bradshaw tfb at tfeb.org
Fri Sep 6 11:27:39 AEST 2002

* Mirian Crzig Lennox wrote:

> In fact, the concept of "intellectual property" is a fairly recent
> perversion, and the consequence has been a steady depletion of the
> public domain.  When a piece of software (and Ultrix is an excellent
> example) is tied up in copyright long after it is of any value to
> anyone beyond pure academic interest, nothing is added to anyone's
> wealth, and society as a whole loses.

I think this is kind of unfair in many cases.  Firstly copyright has
lasted for a fairly long time for, well, a fairly long time. It's not
some sinister new development which is keeping ultrix in copyright.
Secondly, it's all very well to say that old and valueless bits of
software should be freed, but if you are the organisation which has
the copyright on these things it's really less trivial than you might
think to just give them away.  For a start, there's (almost by
definition) no money in it, so any kind of work needed is costing
money.  Secondly there may be just plain trade-secret stuff in there,
what do you do about that?  There may be all sorts of other awful
things that you don't want to let the world see.

I'm really in favour of giving things away when they're no longer
interesting but I don't think there's just some magic trick you can
do.  Here's a related example: we have a fairly large chunk of
software which I'm wondering if we could open source.  We have the
copyright (I wrote it).  There aren't any trade secrets in it.  But
what there are is some fairly pointed comments about various people
and companies.  I don't think they are defamatory, but I'd really want
to excise them before I gave it out.  So now I have to check through
tens of thousands of lines of code, for no money, just so I can give
it away.

Hmm, this is off-topic, sorry.  I just wanted to say that it doesn't
have to be malice, sometimes it's just hard.


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