Blog Post

Free as in freedom

This kills me…We all come together with one common goal and that is to advocate the use of free software. We enjoy our freedoms, we advocate our freedoms, we love our freedoms. GPL, BSD, MIT oh my!

Yet…when someone aggregates a blog in the freedom world, people get upset as they didn’t give them permissions. I understand people getting upset, but I just don’t get it…

We support projects like Defective by Design and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and we stand together against things like DRM, the RIAA, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

And then…all of a sudden out of nowhere, DMCA take down notices are filed. WHAT?

The DMCA has been criticized for making it too easy for copyright owners to encourage website owners to take down infringing content and links when it may not in fact be infringing. When website owners receive a takedown notice it is in their interest not to challenge it, even if it is not clear if infringement is taking place, because if the potentially infringing content is taken down the website will not be held liable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation senior IP attorney Fred von Lohmann has said this is one of the problems with the DMCA. – Quoted from WikiPedia’s page on DMCA

Is it just me, or are these acts hypocritical? There are sites that aggregate the feeds from the various planets (Debian, KDE, Ubuntu, GNOME, and more) and provide them in a blog like fashion. Out of the 4 planets I just listed, Debian is the only one that doesn’t carry a disclaimer or copyright notice. I am not a lawyer, but I thought works that were on the Internet without any such disclaimer or copyright notice were in fact public domain? If someone is aggregating a planet without such clauses, would that make the posts on that planet public domain?

The licenses I use for this blog are GPL on the theme and GFDL on the content and documentation. I know that since the posts on my site are of my opinion, that places invariant sections within the GFDL license for this site. All that means is a person cannot change my views or opinions if they regurgitate what is said on this blog. If someone wants to aggregate my blog and possibly put it out to more people, I am all for it. They are spreading my advocation of freedom, therefor making my job a little easier in getting information out to the masses. Like I stated previously, if someone is aggregating my blog and not disrespecting the copyleft license agreements, and making money off of it, good on them. Although when I had AdSense on my blog, 7 people in 1 year clicked on the ads, making me a whopping $0.00.

What is the difference between someone aggregating your blog or someone finding it via Google anyways? One way or the other they are going to find your information. If you subscribe your posts to a planet, you are putting your posts out in the public in the first place. If you don’t want your blog syndicated, I suggest you remove the RSS feeds from the site.

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  • Richard- I appreciate your post, but let’s make it very clear. Violation of licenses, is violation. I am not the one to wave the DMCA like a banner on my t-shirt, or bumper sticker on my car. However, when my licenses are violated, I expect retribution.

    If you wrote an application licensed under the GPL, then the license was violated, either by producing a binary without the source, or changing the license to one of a proprietary license, you would expect things to get fixed.

    Just because we are fighting the likes of DRM, proprietary software, and the RIAA/MPAA does not mean that we can’t have digital protection with our digital freedoms. I have no problem with someone syndicating my content, as my license liberally explains, as long as the license is held. When the license is broken, I send an email explaining the offending actions. So far, 100% of those notified, have been willing to make changes adhering to the license of my content. If the splog is not willing to provide the necessary trackback to my blog or post, then that is when the offender is notified. If the trackback is maintained, then I don’t have an issue with the site duplicating the content.

    Surely you can see the difference between digital freedom and public domain. The EFF is there to protect bloggers, such as you an I, from these very problems. There are reasons licenses are created. My blog is under a copyleft license, and I expect it to be adhered. I don’t think it’s hypocritical nature at all. If you want your content in the public domain, then go ahead, but I don’t blog, so others can get rich off of my content. Thus, the reason for the license that I chose.

  • mike

    For the license to have any effect and the copyrights to be valid the object in question must generally pass some creativity threshold. If the content is obvious like most of the blogs usually are you can usually use these licenses such as “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license” mostly just a toilet paper.

  • There is nothing wrong with insisting that your copyrights be followed. However, if you are opposed to the DMCA then it is hypocritical of you to use it to cause others to remove content. You could just as well use your standard copyrights without mentioning the DMCA in your takedown notice at all.

    Now if you are not opposed to the DMCA, then it is not hypocritical for you to use it in such a manner. But let’s be honest about where you stand in this issue.

  • I am not a lawyer, but I thought works that were on the Internet without any such disclaimer or copyright notice were in fact public domain?

    Everything is automatically copyrighted once it is placed in fixed medium. So a speech for instance is not copyrighted. But a speech that has been recorded or written down is copyrighted. The lack of a copyright notice does not cause an item to enter into the public domain. However it is good practice anyhow.

    Regarding Mike’s comment, that is not entirely accurate. There are certain things that are not copyrightable, for instance recipes, lists, single statements. However, regardless of ‘creativity’, once you put something in a fixed medium, it is copyrighted.

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  • What is the difference between someone aggregating your blog or someone finding it via Google anyways? One way or the other they are going to find your information. If you subscribe your posts to a planet, you are putting your posts out in the public in the first place. If you don’t want your blog syndicated, I suggest you remove the RSS feeds from the site.

    Primarily that some sites like to grab RSS feeds solely for the purpose of creating “splogs” to generate AdSense (or similar) revenue. While I’m perfectly happy to let anyone read my blog via RSS, I’m not happy with sploggers taking my content to make money off of.

    Linking to and/or posting summaries of content is fair game, but wholesale copying and aggregation shouldn’t be done unless the copyright holder/blogger gives approval. I’d be thrilled to see my blog carried on one of the Planets, but I’d be a bit annoyed if it just showed up without any notice. It’d be a bit presumptive, plus some topics I write about wouldn’t be germane to any of the FOSS Planet aggregators, and I might not want a recap of my weekend showing up unexpectedly on a site read by far more people than my own blog.

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  • Aaron, you are correct about the licensing. I just posted a public apology because my Konqueror has ad blocking turned on so I didn’t see all of the ads on the site. Wow do I feel like an idiot on that one.

    If you wrote an application licensed under the GPL, then the license was violated, either by producing a binary without the source, or changing the license to one of a proprietary license, you would expect things to get fixed.

    Seeing as he doesn’t link directly to the source on nixforce.com he is in violation of all copyleft licenses.

    That site does send tracebacks because I see it in my spam filters all of the time. If you are using Akismet I don’t think you will see the spam messages, but if you use the Bad Behavior plugin for WordPress you will see the tracebacks. Right now there are about 1,000 of them in my spam filters, and I always delete them 🙂 Maybe I shouldn’t. Heh, as a matter of fact there is a traceback from nixforce regarding my previous post.

  • Alex

    Thank you for updating your position. That’s a rare thing to see in online arguments, and you deserve to be congratulated.

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