This is the best explanation of Richard Stallman's views on copyright
I've found. Its short and standalone, yet still comprehensive,
compared to his normal 'Copyright Versus Community' speeches.

I'm posting here as I'm interested in discussing 'non commercial' terms.

The way computers always shrink the total manpower needed to author
work of whatever kind to one, I think its increasingly impossible to
distinguish commercial and non-commercial activity.

Copyright used to be an 'Industrial regulation' that effected only
publishers who copied and distributed works, and the Internet has
already made everyone a 'non commercial publisher' who can copy and
distribute worldwide.

But if we continue to find a way to monetise individuals activity -
eg, Witness the rise of Adsense on personal blogs - will this 'non
commercial' distinction go away?

The design of the MojoNation p2p system (the direct predecessor to
BitTorrent) included a digital cash system so that you earned tokens
for uploading files, which you could spend to 'bribe' peers to sending
you a particular file quicker. Consider if MojoNation went live, and
the tokens could be converted to cash....?

-- 8< --
A new copyright bargain

opendemocracy: So how do you think we should change our copyright
systems to make them appropriate to the age of computer networks?

RS: Well, clearly we should reduce the extent of copyright, now that
freedoms to copy are not useless to the public. One dimension of
copyright is time. Copyright used to last up to twenty-eight years.
Until 1998, it was seventy-five years. Now it extends to seventy years
after the author dies.

Companies in the US said they needed that extension of copyright to
make their business profitable. I challenged them to supply projected
balance sheets for seventy-six years in the future. None of them
attempted it. Of course, they wanted this extension simply because
some popular works they owned were written about seventy-four years
ago and they didn't want these works to go into the public domain, now
or ever.

The US constitution says that copyright has to last for "a limited
time", so they can't pass a law that says that copyright is perpetual.
Instead they came up with perpetual copyright on the installment plan.

Every twenty years they extend the length of copyright by another
twenty years, so no copyright will ever expire again. In particular,
Disney didn't want the copyright on Mickey Mouse to expire. This is
why the Sonny Bono Copyright Act is often called the Mickey Mouse
Copyright Act.

Meanwhile, the UK has legislated a perpetual copyright on Winnie the
Pooh. This was made to seem palatable because the royalties go to
charity; but it can serve as a precedent for perpetual copyright on
other works. I am sure the publishers want that.

So, time is one copyright dimension, and it's been stretching. I think
the duration of copyright should be as long as is necessary in the
particular industry to provide an incentive – but no longer.

Another dimension is which activities are covered by copyright. In
some cases, it could make sense for it to cover commercial
distribution but not non-commercial distribution. Then there's
verbatim distribution versus publishing modified versions.

We should not aim for the simplest and most uniform copyright laws,
because that gives us a small number of extreme choices. It's as if
you were shopping, and you agreed you would pay either one dollar, or
one thousand dollars for any item, nothing in between.

Music is already treated very differently under copyright, but all
literary works are treated the same. Why? Publishers want uniformity
because they can pick an area where they claim they need a lot of
copyright power, and use uniformity to extend it across the board.
Once you reject uniformity, you can tailor the amount of copyright,
keeping in mind the social uses of different kinds of works.

Three new models of copyright

opendemocracy: Is your 'Free Software' model a viable way of
developing and distributing other types of creative material? It might
work for software, but surely it would be different for poetry or

RS: I've identified three broad categories of works. First there are
functional works: works that you use to get a job done. Second, works
that represent someone's thoughts: what certain people thought, or
saw, want, or believe. The third category is aesthetic or entertaining
work, where the sensation you get from looking at the work is the
whole point. I believe each category needs to be considered

Functional works: software, recipes, dictionaries, text-books

For functional works, it's vital that people should have the freedom
to publish a modified version, to improve the works and develop human
knowledge. We have to allow that publication to be commercial, to make
the modified works widely and conveniently available.

Perhaps there should be no copyright for functional works. (We would
need to ensure that End User License Agreements cannot be used to
obtain the same effect). Or, as a compromise, copyright for functional
works could last for three years – any software company not on its
last legs is producing new product versions in that time. You have to
measure the period by the timescales of the business.

Representative works: essays, memoirs, scientific papers.

For works that represent someone's views or experiences, modified
versions would simply misrepresent where the person stood, and that's
not socially useful. So we should only allow these to be copied
verbatim, and there's no social reason why other people should have a
right to commercially publish verbatim copies.

Aesthetic or entertaining works: music, novels, films.

Aesthetic or entertaining works are the hardest category. There are
strong arguments on both sides about whether you should be able to
modify them, but I'm starting to think that you should. Taking other
people's stories and modifying them was often Shakespeare's approach,
and look at the wonderful results.

Perhaps for these works one could set up an automatic system to
apportion money for modified versions. Perhaps people generally won't
combine their work in too complicated ways in these areas. If Person A
wrote an original novel – Person B writes a modified version… you
won't often get to a third generation, Person C modifying it again. If
so, an automated system of apportionment among A and B might be
workable. Of course, if only verbatim copying is allowed, you could
ensure that the original author gets the commercial benefit.

(In software we do often get hundreds of people contributing to a
single program over time. No automatic system for dividing money among
authors could possibly work for software).

I think the term of copyright should be around ten years after
publication for novels, and maybe twenty years for feature films, to
provide sufficient incentive. Nowadays, most books are remaindered
soon, and out of print in three years. Very few books remain in print
for ten years, and those that do have already been big successes. So a
ten-year copyright term would be enough to keep the publishing
business going and to keep authors getting paid.

Napster: public and private copying.

There's a further dimension to non-commercial copying: is it public or
private? Are you just handing out copies to people you meet, or are
you making them available to everyone on the Internet? I used to think
private non-commercial copying might be enough freedom for some kinds
of work, but Napster taught me differently. Napster is so useful that
it must be permitted: you can't tolerate giving up the freedom to do
something so useful.

So the right place to draw the line for fair use is between commercial
and non-commercial, not between public and private. For representative
and aesthetic works, a limited system covering just commercial copying
is strong enough to provide an incentive for authors. For functional
works, where this would be too restrictive, fortunately we have found
that people will develop them even without the artificial copyright
-- 8< --
- http://www.opendemocracy.net/articles/ViewPopUpArticle.jsp?id=8&articleId=31

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