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Author Topic: Intellectual property
dyany
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<closing my eyes while holding a piece of raw meat over the pit and hoping that I don't get bitten>
My husband sent me this link today: http://news.com.com/2100-1017-960732.html
which (to sum up) discusses the oft-debated boundaries of intellectual property laws, precisely pertaining to entertainment mediums such as video, DVD, and musical CDs. Some of the basics (that which I want to hold as standard for this subject) is the use of these mediums and limited alteration thereof for 'fair use' which, as I understand it is personal, non-commercial, in-household use. E.g., you can copy a DVD to a video tape to use while your DVD player is in the shop, or copy a CD to tape to listen to in your car, and it's all perfectly legal.
My personal observation and the item I place before you is this: I think similar rules should apply to software licensing as well as other entertainment media. In my ornery opinion, I see little difference between being able to copy audio or video media you have purchased for your own personal or household use, and being able to install a piece of software on more than one machine in your own household even if it to be used both places concurrently. Considering that Microsoft has over $40 billion sitting around and the video game industry made more than movies last year, I don't think this is too much to ask, and may in fact reduce 'piracy' out there.

Thoughts?

Dy


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TomDavidson
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Should a corporation be able to install multiple copies of Microsoft Office at all their desks? If not, should a consultant be able to install one copy on his work machine and one copy on all his machines at home?

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dyany
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No to both, unless specifically licensed as such. The definitions of 'Fair use' generally agree on one thing -- Non-commercial only. Which I think not only means can businesses not do that, but taking business software home for personal use is a no-no too. I kind of lump it all together with the common property laws, wherein you (and your household/spouse/in-house dependents) 'own' certain rights to intellectual property when you legitimately purchase the original media. Such rights do not extend to employees, consultants, etc., as I believe there aren't any common property laws that apply there (not to mention the whole profit thing).

[This message has been edited by dyany (edited October 04, 2002).]


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Everard
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While I generally agree with you about intellectual property laws, I must point out that

licensed

is the key word in your post.


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LetterRip
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TomDavidson asked,

quote:
Should a corporation be able to install multiple copies of Microsoft Office at all their desks?

No, just as a company cannot copy a book and distribute it to each employee. However, if the software were centralized, and only one user could use it at a time for each software item purchased, then that should be perfectly legal. (Ie instead of per desktop, it should be per copy of active software).

quote:
If not, should a consultant be able to install one copy on his work machine and one copy on all his machines at home?

Same situation as above,if only one copy is being/can be used at a time, then there should be no conflict, just as I can read a book at work for work, or read it at home, or loan it out to a friend.

Similarly if there is multiple seperate programs (ie Word/Excel/PowerPoint/etc.) Then the programs can be used in parrallel by different users. (Just as I can chop up a book and have different individuals reading a section simultaneously).

This is not how things 'do work' necessarily (I've never heard of a court case testing such the multi-nonconcurrent user idea, although the bundling issue has gone to court, and 'unbundling software' is allowed).

As to licensing of software, much of the basis for EULAs and other such licensing is questionable. There have not been any clear test cases as to how legal and binding EULAs, click through, and similar contracts are. There is a reasonable chance that EULAs will be thrown out if seriously challenged, and thus software would be primarily goverened by copyright.

Won't have access to a computer for about a week, so will have to post more later,

LetterRip


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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I think Windows is a special case. If you're at home and you have three or more computers, you should be allowed to have it installed on all the computers. As it is, I don't think most people are willing to buy three copies of XP on three seperate computers at home. Most I think use 2000 on all three, maybe put XP on one, or just find a way to use it without activation on all three.

Windows is different, to me anyway, because MS somehow has the balls to charge $100 for the home upgrade. This price is ridiculously high. It's also the OS, and it's better if you have a network at home to have the same one on every computer.

Other programs, I can see that it's more dangerous for the company. But, in the home, there should be some way of buying additional copies for a lower price. Or maybe just buying the license and copying the disc yourself. For a $50 game, if I want to put it on all of my computers at home so me and my friends can play a network game, we shouldn't need $50 for every computer. Assuming my friends won't use the computers outside of my house, maybe $10 for every other license would be reasonable.

But $300 to upgrade three computers in the home is ridiculous.


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dyany
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I appreciate all of the comments made so far, especially LR's info re: validity of EULAs. I'm actually in the IT dept. of a smallish company and we've had grief with licensing -- some software companies have 'site licenses', which allow a certain number of users on however many machines you want. Some have installation licenses, which mean you can install it on a certain number of machines only, for use by as many people can use them on those machines. Still others have 'use' licenses, where you can install on as many machines as you want, while only allowing X number of concurrent uses of the product. All in all, it's confusing and I don't have any idea what 'ethics' would say was most fair, particularly with client/server pieces, so I almost want to throw commercial licensing out the window for the sake of this discussion.
Still, some of these models might work well in a personal licensing schema, I suppose...

[This message has been edited by dyany (edited October 10, 2002).]


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Tom Grey - Tigger
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Currently, if you copy a piece of copyrighted software and use it on two home machines at the same time, it is a legal violation.

If it's illegal, it's piracy; but I think it's a stupid law, and immorally using gov't to support monopoly prices for the developers/distributors.

If you expand the legal definition of fair use to include this, then almost certainly you'll get a tiny bit more copying than is now done; and elliminate that whole amount of piracy. Meaning most home users with multi computers pirate copy it now, and would merely copy it in the future.

(I prefer more radical reduction of pirate copying -- make all copying legal.)

But I'm curious why none in your small company aren't more seriously investigating Linux and open source?


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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Everyone has a different standard of ethics and every company has a different idea of how to charge for multiple installations/users...one way or another this needs to be standardized by the government.

With the idea of democracy in mind, a compromise has to be made between all the different flavors of ethics so everyone is more or less equally happy. Of course, there will always be radicals doing whatever the hell they want--but that's just life.


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Tom Grey - Tigger
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NO NO NO -- the gov't doesn't need to enforce one standard on site licenses.

Um, but they could state the requirements before they enforce the property rights, which is almost the same thing.

"Whatever the hell they want" -- meaning sniping and murdering people (evil), or copying stuff (which hurts nobody)?

(ever, what, whatever; I hate being misquoted -- sorry to do it)

[This message has been edited by Tigger (edited October 15, 2002).]


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dyany
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Actually, Tigger, rarely when you copy a piece of software from 1 home computer to another is it a legal violation. Most (though increasingly fewer) consumer-end licensed software has slight flexibility when it comes to home licensing, generally either '1 concurrent' license or allowing a very limited number of installs, 'spawns' or 'archival copies'. It just depends on the policies of the software licensor/distributor. ramble ramble ramble sorry.
I don't agree in making all forms of copying legal. I've known too many authors, software coders, musicians, etc., most of which struggle tremendously financially, to think that they should be forced to give up rights to make money from their intellectual property. However, I do think that minimal 'fair use' copying increases rapport between creator and consumer, increases practical functionality, avoids the most common and most harmless 'violations' of copyright, and doesn't bother most creators. E.g., an author won't be ticked if you buy her book as an audio CD and put it on tape to let your husband listen to it in his car. However, she will get ticked if you make a PDF copy of her book and distribute it to all your friends and family and post it on your website.
I'm not sure what sorts of laws would be fair under the circumstances, particularly because software licenses vary so widely as they stand now. Perhaps a 'minimal fair use standard'? I dunno.
As to why we don't use Linux....I work at a law firm. lawyers don't...welll...let's just say Linux would be a bigger headache than they are willing to deal with.

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LetterRip
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As to Linux,

give it 3-5 years, with China, India, and other major goverments mandating it for goverment institutions and/or schools, it should start improving much more rapidly.

I've contributed a number of ideas for Evolution and the Gnome helpsystem, which would make them vastly superior in groupware,searching, the helpsystem, customer feedback, and the development cycle than any current software on the market (I've examined tons of commecial software and non commercial for Windows and Mac and have a good idea of what is out there...).

Linux (or more to the point, the desktops and applications on top of it) can be customized to niche markets, such as law firms, without a great deal of pain. Redhats newest beta goes a great deal towards reducing that pain (Gnome, KDE, etc. are all configured to look and feel the same - if things are set up in thin client architecture, then the headaches for the user base can be mostly eliminated). For a law firm, I'd guess the primary software you are looking at is Word Perfect, Outlook or Lotus Notes for groupware (with exchange or the lotus mail server..), time tracking software for billing, and legal research software for patent and case law, plus your accounting departments software. It would be interesting to see what software is needed that Wine can run easily. If I were the Wine team, I'd be seeing what software was critical for different large niche markets, and then making certain that everything they needed ran perfectly. (I'd target education insititutions, governement institutions, engineering firms, and law firms first...)

As to what should constitute fair use... basically what has historically been allowable ie time and space shifting, limited distribution and/or easy and rapid license transfer. (Ie it should be possible to 'check out' songs, games, pdfs, etc. from a digital library, which would make them temporarily inaccessible to other users. The check out would expire and the software, music, etc. would be automatically erased from the lenders harddrive, and thus available for further check out.

LetterRip (who finally has an internet connection again - yeah!)


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