The Dilemma of Software Ownership

As the popularity of the internet continues to grow, more of our lives become uploaded into this new realm. The question is, who owns this realm? Who gets to decide boundaries between what is and isn’t in the jurisdiction of governments, companies, or individuals to restrict software? Richard Stallman’s decision to make the GNU project completely open for review, additions, and changes, however not allowing anybody to restrict the redistribution, is the best method in these sorts of projects. If someone decides to utilize existing software and transform it to a new function or improved performance, than it should be open. This is the alternative to copyright law, or “copyleft” as Kelty puts it in his article. Copyright law although showing signs of appropriate decisions is based on who owns what bits of software, which has led to numerous law suits over the incorporation of such software in other software programs. One example is the Stallman vs. Gosling trial. This was over a GNU project that Richard Stallman wrote using some of the code from Gosling’s original software. Maintaining the openness of software development may be a worry for some, but the potential that this would give to developers could lead to some amazing advancements.

The ability to license creates the potential for software to be bought out and restricted from access. Having that ability gives too much influence to only a few holders who have the funding. Not all software may be possibly restricted, as exampled by Richard Stallman’s decision for his GNU project, which is a good model to follow, as he does not allow for the restriction of redistribution in his GNU project.┬áThe ability to learn what you want, when you want to, is a powerful privilege, internet technology has pushed the boundaries, and governments, legal societies, and courts have to explain terms such as ‘software’ in a manner suitable to the court of law. Overall, Richard Stallman’s approach to these issues has been one that I believe would be a good precedent to follow.

3 thoughts on “The Dilemma of Software Ownership

  1. I agree that the ability to license would hinder the improvement of software. The thing I like best about copyleft is that the people improving on things have to care, they aren’t just in it for the money. People need a passion for their program or have to be good enough at it to be paid later. It’d be nice if it’s both but just one of those almost guarantee improvement.

  2. I don’t know if I necessarily agree that removing copyrights will necessarily lead to improvements to software per se. If anything is might force an individual to work around it and create some that is better and can gain more attention from the original creation. This saw this with Stallman’s creation of GNU EMACS as a way to bypass Gosling’s copyrighted software, which immediately became opposite after. So maybe to competitive and restrictive nature could be a good thing in terms of innovation.

  3. This was seen* with Stallman’s creation of … which immediately became obsolete* after