In a welcome gesture on October 16, Dr. Richard Stallman made a public note supporting the Swedish Pirate Party’s position regarding trademarks, patent monopolies, and copyright monopolies.
- Patent monopolies are counterproductive to innovation, and the entire patent system needs to go. Only the pharma industry needs re-regulation, which can be accomplished by opening up research from today’s healthcare subsidies and still saving tax money.
- Trademarks are okay as long as they protect consumers from fraud, etc, but never okay when they punish consumers.
- The copyright monopoly needs to be cut down to a baseline commercial-use monopoly of five years, extendable to 20 years through registration, and remixes are always ok, while digital restriction mechanisms are never so.
This is a large step forward in the long-standing discussion between the Pirate Party movement and the Free Software movement about the effect of copyright reform on the GPL and free software. Several activists have worried about the standing of free software and the GPL, which depends on copyright monopoly law for its enforcement of code freedom, when that mechanism is weakened – but Dr. Stallman has previously pointed out that it is a feature of the GPL that it scales with the strength of the copyright monopoly laws.
Additionally, as registration of a work is required to extend the baseline commercial monopoly to 20 years in the Swedish Pirate Party’s position, this provides a possible future legal hook for source code escrow mechanisms – for the source code to be made public on expiration of the monopoly – in exchange for the state granting an extension of the commercial monopoly. This hook isn’t present in today’s legal framework.
With Dr. Stallman’s note of agreement with these positions, I believe that this discussion will make it possible for our movements to align against the external threat, and also that such an alignment is necessary for a long-term victory for the freedom to code, create, and innovate without asking permission.
Dr. Stallman rightly points out, however, that it is unfortunate to describe the three laws of trademarks, copyright monopolies, and patent monopolies (and no other laws) in the same article, as it reinforces the counterproductive idea that these unrelated laws should be grouped together.