Tim O'Reilly Responds to "Freedom or Power?"
Subject:   Copywrong
Date:   2001-12-01 02:09:07
From:   cogito
The whole concept of intellectual property is based on a fallacy. That fallacy is the belief that when a person creates something, he or she is the sole source of its creation. Poppycock.

Let's say I write a Java applet. Did I invent Java? Did I create the hardware it will run on? Did I invent computers? Did I invent language?

All creation is built upon layers and layers of previous creations. My parents raised me, fed me, taught me. My teachers and peers taught me. Every day thousands of people go to work so that I may have electricity to run my computer, heat, water, food, clothing, and all the other things I need to live.

When I create something -- anything -- my involvement in its creation is less than 1%. The rest comes from the efforts of a great many others who have helped me throughout life, usually without recompense. That is how society works. We all help each other.

In recent times, we've become enamored with the idea that there is such a thing as private property. What's more, we've taken this illusion to an extreme: most of us now believe that a single human being has a RIGHT to UNLIMITED ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY. Unlimited. In other words, if Bill Gates finally succeeds in his quest to own everything in the world, that would be perfectly fine with most of us. We could all pay rent to Bill for allowing us to go on living.

It's insanity, but it is the orthodox view these days, so most people can't recognize how insane it is (or how unbelievably arrogant).

There are millions of people dying of AIDS around the world because they can't afford the drugs they need to survive. In a sane world, we would GIVE them the drugs. Free. But not only do we not give them the drugs, our government enforces "property rights" that insist that the dying must pay exorbitant fees for them. If they can't pay, well, better luck next lifetime.

Has it not occurred to anyone yet that capitalism is just a new face for feudalism? In days of old, the aristocracy owned the land -- the means of production -- and landless peasants did the work. Then the aristocracy taxed them by taking a cut of the wealth they created. These taxes were seen as the aristocracy's right for "owning" the land.

Now the aristocracy owns the factories and the businesses. The unpropertied peasants (that's most of us) do the work, and the aristocracy skims as much off the top as they think they can get away with. Is this not a tax on our labors?

We live in a world where more than 800 million people face starvation daily, while a handful live lives of unparalleled luxury. At the root of this grotesque injustice is the so-called "right" to property.

The purpose of the GPL is not to control the rights of those who use the software. The users are assumed to be interested in the software for its own sake. The purpose of the GPL is to protect the software's users -- not its creators -- from the theft of that software by capitalists bent on doing what capitalists do: stealing the work of others and keeping it for themselves.

To compare this to Microsoft's use of IP "rights" to crush competition and generate enormous profits for itself is like saying the murderer and the doctor are really one and the same -- after all, they both deal in life and death. Such a comparison is obscene. I expected better from Tim O'Reilly.