Copyright Vs. Copyleft

I first met the term "copyleft" when I read the documentation of LINUX, which is a free software written by Linus Torvald, as well as people from "Free Software Foundation".

In essence, the "copyleft" agreement of FREE SOFTWARE FOUNDATION is :

You may freely use, or distribute, or sell, or modify the program PROVIDED you agree with the following :

  1. If you modify the source code, and when you sell or give your new code to others, you MUST supply him with the original code.

  2. When you sell or give the program ( or your modified version ) to others, you must give him the same right to "freely use, distribute, sell, or modify " the program or your modified one, as you have received.

Item (2) is added because years ago, when Free Software Foundation gave programs to others freely, they modified the program, and patented the modified version for their own!

"Debian" also distributes "Linux Operating System", and it encourages everyone to install the Operating System in every PC, free. (The CDROM costs a little, though. But there is no license fee whatsoever.)

MySQL (Structured Query Language, a Database Software) may also be downloaded free. The writers of MySQL explain why they provide the software free : because when they were young, they downloaded many free software, and now they want to repay the society a little.

There are numerous others : e.g. p2c (Pascal to C Translator), gcc (C compiler), ... which are very good software, yet the authors give them away free.

On the other hand, many commercial software are NOT sold to us outright. We have to pay, year by year, a licence fee, per user.

Also, there are companies to collect copyright fees. In Hong Kong, whenever a student makes photo-copy of text-book material, he has to pay certain money. THIS IS ENFORCED BY HONG KONG GOVERNMENT.

I remember in days past, if we photocopy for our private use, and NOT FOR COMMERCIAL USE, we were allowed to do so, and no one would bother us.

I also read about an Australia Mathematician. He used Number Theory to invent certain encryption technique. One day, he visited USA, and found that EVERYONE who uses his encryption technique, has to pay a patent fee to certain company who had never contacted him!

Not everyone of us cares so much about money. Many authors of book want to pass their knowledge to the future generations. They did it out of civic duty. They care little about money. Try to look at the Mathematics Textbooks, (e.g. those written by George B. Thomas, Jr., those written by Francis B. Hildebrand, those written by Ruel V. Churchill, those written by Richard Courant, those written by Wilfred Kaplan, those written by Murray R. Spiegel, ....), why did the authors spend so much time preparing the material, why didn't they keep the knowledge to themselves? Are they after money?

Copyright belongs to the author only. I think many authors would gladly allow students to make photocopies and would not insist on payment. Government should comply with the wish of those authors, apart from protecting the rights of others (In times past, if one does not complain to the Government, Government would not step in).

Personally, I think many software or CDROM are priced too high, so as to attract fakes. How can people in the poor countries who earn little pay the price prevailing in USA!

I also remember in the old days, many publishers would adopt different prices for different countries. One price for those in USA, who is rich, and one price for those in India, ... , who is poor.

I think software companies and CDROM producers should do the same : for poor countries, see how much the average earns a month, and set an affordable price.

Jesus : No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve GOD and money. [Mt 6:24]

LORD : If you meet your enemy's ox or his ass going astray, you shall bring it back to him. [Ex. 23:4]

LORD : If you see the ass of one who hates you lying under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, you shall help him to lift it up. [Ex. 23:5]

LORD : If a man delivers to his neighbour an ass or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away, without any one seeing it, an oath by the LORD shall be between them both to see whether he has not put his hand to his neighbour's property; and the owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn. [Ex 22.10-13]

LORD wants us to help one another, not for money, but because of brotherly love. If my neighbor has to go on a journey and entrusts his sheep to my care. Then I should take proper care, and in case of loss because of my carelessness, I have to make restitution! It is not that because I do not receive money from you, I would not be responsible for any loss.

If we do not pursue after vanity, (anyhow, our life here is like "camping", a probation period to see if we are fit for eternal life in the new World, and we will pack up and go in a short while), and are contented to live lower standards of living (even lower standard of living nowadays is quite comfortable), money should not bother us much.

A society, who would listen to LORD, and care about their neighbors, not just for money, would have a contented and satisfying life.

(*) Law of GOD and His Commandments
(*) Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
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