The third episode of Kirby Ferguson’s excellent Everything is a Remix has been posted.¬†The first episode was about music,¬†the second dealt with movies, and the third is on technological innovation.
used to run a development team for a while, and our credo was “We will Win by copying faster than the competition”. It was a joke with a foundation of truth.
I agree – copying is good. I potter around with doing a few small software utilities, and I always release them as “public domain”.
Anyway, this brings up the issue of copyright law. I find it ridiculous that in most of the world, the duration of copyright is the life of the author plus 50 (or 70) years. Try using a lot of software 30 years after it was written, and see if it works! Some will, but many other apps won’t. If I were able to, I would put the length of copyright on software as 20 years (for commercial software) or ten years for open-source (e.g. GPL, BSD-licensed) software.
There is also the issue of so-called “abandonware” (I’m mainly speaking of open-source software here), where an app has been untouched for many years and the author is unable to be contacted. I ran into exactly this issue a while ago, where there was an app on SourceForge that was really good, but it was GPL-licensed (and I’m a public-domain fan). This app had been untouched for over seven years! I tried to contact the author but was unsuccessful. So, I emailed the Free Software Foundation and suggested that they could look at a “sunset clause” for the GPL in cases like this, where the software has quite obviously been abandoned (or maybe the author has died). The clause would say that if a GPL app can be shown to have been abandoned for five or more years, then it would pass into the public-domain. Long story short, they weren’t interested. So, this app will be GPL for maybe another 100 years or more, and even though it has been abandoned, you will only be able to use its code if **your code is also released as GPL**.
I believe that after a reasonable time (five years is my benchmark), abandoned apps should be put into the public domain.
(Update) – I’ve just managed to find out that New Zealand has a copyright term on software of fifty years after its creation. Still too long in my view……
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