Fri, 07 Apr 2006

Freeloading? Sorry?

I was a little disturbed in a recent meeting with the Attorney General's Dept. where it was suggested that implementing your own compatible software (rather than licensing from an existing product holder) was "freeloading". Those in the software industry reading this will be thinking "what??", but it does illustrate the understanding gap when it comes to IT, and OSS in particular.

This seems to be a subset of a larger conceptual problem. Most of us see a competitive marketplace as the norm, and copyright as a (useful) exception to that norm. Those who spend their days dealing in copyright sometimes view a pervasive monopoly as a natural entitlement: at the extreme all unauthorized acts (especially competition!) is immoral and probably should be illegal. Blockbuster should be asking (ie. paying) copyright holders for permission to hire out DVDs, Sanity should get permission for putting headphones for customers in stores, VCRs should not record, and MP3 players should be locked down to prevent CDs being copied to them. And, of course, it should be illegal to produce your own DVD playing software.

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