9 Feb 2004 lhorn   » (Observer)

Reading Moglen's essay

Today I finished reading Eben Moglen's essay "Anarchism Triumphant: The Death of Copyright"[1]. Altghoug I really like his style and his approach tho "intellectual property", I not that pleased with his treatment of anarchism.

His argument why comments in source code strongly indicate the non copyrightable nature of software is nice:

Though substantially involving "functional" elements, computer programs contained "expressive" features of paramount importance. Copyright doctrine recognized the merger of function and expression as characteristic of many kinds of copyrighted works. "Source code," containing both the machine instructions necessary for functional operation and the expressive "commentary" intended for human readers, was an appropriate candidate for copyright treatment.

True, so long as it is understood that the expressive component of software was present solely in order to facilitate the making of "derivative works." Were it not for the intention to facilitate alteration, the expressive elements of programs would be entirely supererogatory, and source code would be no more copyrightable than object code, the output of the language processor, purged of all but the program's functional characteristics.

Not so nice are his (few) statements about anarchism. He doesn't further explicates why

But the most significant difference between political thought inside the digirati and outside it is that in the network society, anarchism (or more properly, anti-possessive individualism) is a viable political philosophy.

And I really didn't get why

The GPL, also known as the copyleft, uses copyright, to paraphrase Toby Milsom, to counterfeit the phenomena of anarchism.

But all in all this is a nice essay. I strongly recommend to read it and if it's only for it's ironic style.

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