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UK Government Confiscates Firefox CDs 540

Posted by Zonk
from the can't-just-give-it-away dept.
Alsee writes "The idea that Free Software can be sold has some government officials perplexed. Times Online has the story. A UK Trading Standards officer contacted the Mozilla Foundation to report catching a business selling copies of Firefox. The organization confiscated the CDs with the intent to prosecute said business. When informed that such distribution was authorized, the officer first expressed disbelief that Free Software could be sold then said 'If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation'."
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UK Government Confiscates Firefox CDs

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  • Licenses (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:41AM (#14784321) Journal
    Some of the licenses allow for people to charge for distributing the software. After all, they burned it to a disc and probably did all the labeling. You're paying for nothing more than the time and resources that went into this. Is it wrong to charge $10 per CD with Mozilla on it? Probably, but I don't think it's illegal. You simply have to disclose that there is no warranty and state that the software falls under the MPL [mozilla.org].

    As Section 3.5 states:
    You must duplicate the notice in Exhibit A in each file of the Source Code. If it is not possible to put such notice in a particular Source Code file due to its structure, then You must include such notice in a location (such as a relevant directory) where a user would be likely to look for such a notice. If You created one or more Modification(s) You may add your name as a Contributor to the notice described in Exhibit A. You must also duplicate this License in any documentation for the Source Code where You describe recipients' rights or ownership rights relating to Covered Code. You may choose to offer, and to charge a fee for, warranty, support, indemnity or liability obligations to one or more recipients of Covered Code. However, You may do so only on Your own behalf, and not on behalf of the Initial Developer or any Contributor. You must make it absolutely clear than any such warranty, support, indemnity or liability obligation is offered by You alone, and You hereby agree to indemnify the Initial Developer and every Contributor for any liability incurred by the Initial Developer or such Contributor as a result of warranty, support, indemnity or liability terms You offer.
    Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
    'If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation.'
    Well, Mozilla falls under the MPL. I'm not sure any other software falls under this license. For that reason, anyone distributing software that falls under other licenses should be investigated. I'm not sure how people distributing Mozilla legally at a charge prohibits you from arresting people who are distributing copyrighted software which they made their own copies of.
    • Is it wrong to charge $10 per CD with Mozilla on it?

      Actually, I believe it is.
      Mozilla (and Firefox, etc.) are trademarks of the Mozilla Foundation.
      IANAL but I don't think you can go around selling Mozilla-branded items without permission from the Mozilla folks.
    • Re:Licenses (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ajs (35943) <ajs&ajs,com> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:52AM (#14784429) Homepage Journal
      Why on earth would it be wrong to charge (any amount) for Firefox?! The benefits are vast:
      • Everyone who buys it is reducing load on the download servers and mirrors
      • Those who actually offer some added value will sell better. This encourages Firefox development (in the same way that Red Hat, Mantiva, Novell, IBM and many others have contributed to Linux).
      • In many places, offering a product for sale implies a certain amount of warantee which cannot be disclaimed, on the part of the seller (lemon laws, etc). This gives consumers leverage by which to demand things like security updates, which further incents distributors to participate in Firefox development.
      • Many people in the world with very slow, noisy connections to the Internet cannot reasonably download something as large as Firefox.
      • For every dollar (or Euro or Pound) spent on Firefox CDs, there is more measurable sale of open source software.
      • Overseas sales will encourage better regionalization enhancements.
      • Since you can download it for free, those purchasing it are likely people who would NOT have used Firefox otherwise (perhaps they just don't trust free software, or perhaps they would not have come acorss it other than on a shelf).
      • Re:Licenses (Score:4, Funny)

        by Uber Banker (655221) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:19AM (#14784681)
        Hehe,

        Everyone who buys it is reducing load on the download servers and mirrors
        I download one copy for every copy i burn.

        Those who actually offer some added value will sell better. This encourages Firefox development (in the same way that Red Hat, Mantiva, Novell, IBM and many others have contributed to Linux).
        I only sell it to Microsoft employees who promise to burn every copy.

        In many places, offering a product for sale implies a certain amount of warantee which cannot be disclaimed, on the part of the seller (lemon laws, etc). This gives consumers leverage by which to demand things like security updates, which further incents distributors to participate in Firefox development.
        I tell them the security update warnings are spammers, and that I won't update it for them.

        Many people in the world with very slow, noisy connections to the Internet cannot reasonably download something as large as Firefox.
        I give them Opera.

        For every dollar (or Euro or Pound) spent on Firefox CDs, there is more measurable sale of open source software.
        Sales are unregistered with tax, etc, authorities.

        Overseas sales will encourage better regionalization enhancements.
        If someone from overseas orders a copy, I send them an empty box.

        Since you can download it for free, those purchasing it are likely people who would NOT have used Firefox otherwise (perhaps they just don't trust free software, or perhaps they would not have come acorss it other than on a shelf).
        To encourage sales, I have a large advert in my shop window stating that the MD5 sums on Mozilla's website are incorrect because Mozilla is an increasing target of hackers and they regularly hack the site and put malicious copies in the place of genuine copies. Only I have genuine copies, only I, only for $50.99.

        I have too much time on mu hands, you insensitive clod!
    • Re:Licenses (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:54AM (#14784441)
      You can charge for GPL'd software also. The important thing is the freedom to review and edit the way the program works, not the fact that GPL software is TYPICALLY, BUT NOT ALWAYS, distributed for free.

      In that respect, it's no different than the MPL or the multitude of similar open source licenses ou there.
    • Re:Licenses (Score:2, Insightful)

      by albalbo (33890)
      Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
      Well, indeed, but how is that relevant ? The GPL allows you to charge for distribution also. The only thing you're not allowed to do is charge an unreasonable amount for the source code.
    • Re:Licenses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@REDHATgmail.com minus distro> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:09AM (#14784591)
      Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
      The GNU GPL clause on this is different how?

      In fact, restricting commercial distribution would make the software non-free (see the FSF's free software definition, the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the OSI's open-source definition).

    • Re:Licenses (Score:4, Funny)

      by Raven42rac (448205) * on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:16AM (#14784650)
      Free as in speech, not as in beer. You CAN sell "free software" Look at the packaged linux distros. English cops=n00bs. RTFM bobbies.
  • by winchester (265873) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:41AM (#14784327)
    "we are too stupid to make a distinction between Free software and commercial software. We can't read nor do we understand licence agreements."

    In other words, they can't do their job in a proper way.
    • Don't be overly harsh. They probably just erred on the side of caution and came out wrong this time. Their incredulous response, however, is thoroughly mockable.
      • by JetScootr (319545) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:00AM (#14784502) Journal
        I don't think it's overly harsh to expect a copyright enforcement agency of the government *to*read*and*understand*copyrights* before starting an enforcement action.
        I'd certainly expect a traffic cop to read the speed limit sign before writing a speeding ticket.
        • I don't think it's overly harsh to expect a copyright enforcement agency of the government *to*read*and*understand*copyrights* before starting an enforcement action.

          Considering that virtually all software distributed physically claims copyright protection to the maximum extent possible, it probably seemed an empty formality. However, obviously they did check with the Mozilla people before laying charges. I do wonder though if the same shop wasn't also selling bootlegs of Adobe, MS, etc ... those places t


        • Which copyright information would you have Trading Standards use? The copyright licence on the confiscated disks? Clearly not trustworthy.

          The licence on mozilla.org? How does the trading standards officer know which licence applies? if any?

          Even if they find the right licence, do they have to be a lawyer? Is it not more sensible to contact the copyright owner directly and ask them explicitly whether they approve of such behaviour?

          Everything up to "you're breaking our anti-piracy ability" was perfectly accept
    • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@REDHATgmail.com minus distro> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:05AM (#14784551)
      we are too stupid to make a distinction between Free software and commercial software
      Actually, if anything, the opposite is true: she failed to understand that free software can be commercial.

      However, I think she doesn't know anything about free software (or software for that matter) and her assumption was actually that if you don't hold the copyright on a work and are copying it you must be breaking the law, so, actually, she seems to not to be able to comprehend the idea of a copyright license, full stop (i.e.: she thinks that copyright shouldn't allow you to pass on your exclusive right to copy to a third party).

      It is as if she thinks it is the duty of everyone to keep their works a secret and not publish them (otherwise the masses might learn stuff). I wonder when she'll find out about the public domain: an evil conspiracy by the government to allow information to be copied by anyone without anyone having the right to restrict this immoral act. No one tell her about these evil things called libraries...

      Although, being in a nortoriously corrupt UK TS dept., I'm not surprised that she is scared of the idea of freedom of information and thinks freedom of expression is immoral somehow.

    • by Concern (819622) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:06AM (#14784557) Journal
      Because basically what is happening lately is the legal community is trying, for fun and profit, to use EULAs and licenses and things like UCITA, to make every transmission of information into a contract negotiation of unlimited dimensions.

      Imagine a "negotation" between, for instance, a team of 30 Sony corporate attorneys in New York, versus a 12 year old in Arkansas who just wants to listen to Eminem. One where the outcome is never recorded but always presumed. And now you see how absurd the legal fiction of the EULA really is.

      And here is our biggest gift ever. unintentionally, the government itself is admitting that it is "virtually impossible" to handle this situation.

      Everybody throw a party.

      This wild-west/mafia nonsense with "IP law" needs to stop, because it's hurting our economy and rendering us unable to compete effectively against countries with sane, normal laws.

      The GPL has been a wonderfully subversive attempt to fight the system within the system, but ultimately even the FSF will tell you that "the proliferation of licenses" is a problem. No fucking duh it's a "problem;" it plainly illustrates how completely fucking ridiculous, egotistical and largely futile the whole concept of a "license" is.

      The powers of copyright holders to make licenses need to be delineated; EULAs need to be explicitly outlawed. Types of copyright exercise should be explicitly codified (a "whitelist" of acceptable options): i.e. conventional, bsd, gpl, etc. Then things can begin to be sane. No more EULA fine print preventing "benchmarking" or "backups," or "disclaimers of fitness" for commercial products... and all such games. And don't even get me started on software patents, a concept so obviously corrupt and ridiculous that we are frankly a laughingstock for ever considering them, let alone occasionally honoring them...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:49AM (#14784986)
        If you want to eliminate ELUA's, you need to get your local taxing authority educated on them.

        If I paid for Microsoft Office and all I got was the right to use it, it's pretty worthless to the taxing authority in terms of property tax. But whoever owns the license is leasing property in their taxing jurisdiction. They own property tax based on the ELUA. So if Office sells for $500, a certain amount of personal property tax needs to be paid by Microsoft each year.

      • by fossa (212602) <pat7.gmx@net> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:09PM (#14785181) Journal

        I'm mostly in agreement with what you say, but I'd just like to clarify that there is a huge difference between licenses like BSD, GPL, etc. (free and open source software licenses) and the typical commercial EULA: the GPL need not be agreed to in order to use the software. At worst, you don't abide by the GPL and are bound by the copyright law of your land. If you do abide by the terms of the GPL, then you are granted permission to do things (probably) forbidden by copyright law such as copying and redistribution. The EULA on the other hand, attempts to force you (legally dubiously) to agree to it as a precondition to using the software. It attempts to impose restrictions over and above those imposed by copyright law. Like you, I find this practice heinous. A pack of lawyers vs. the average Joe who has already bought and paid for the software does not seem a fair negotiation.

        Two questions: When copyright expires on a piece of software, am I still bound by the EULA (assume for a moment that the EULA is a valid contract)? I suppose I could read the EULA to search for an expiration... And second, is there any commercially available proprietary software that does not include a EULA (other than the default copyright restrictions)? I think I would buy it just on principle.

        • Two questions: When copyright expires on a piece of software, am I still bound by the EULA (assume for a moment that the EULA is a valid contract)? I suppose I could read the EULA to search for an expiration... And second, is there any commercially available proprietary software that does not include a EULA (other than the default copyright restrictions)?

          First of all, the Law of the Land gives you rights that nothing can take away. If the EULA does not contain words to the effect of "Your statutory righ

      • by chrism2k (31528) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:15PM (#14785260)
        In other news, government officials express concern that women having sex for free will make it "virtually impossible for us to enforce prostitution laws."
    • I'm not sure I see the stupidity here; the woman called to inquire about the licensing status of the software, just as she should have. Stupid would have been to prosecute without having taken that critical step.

      Guilty as charged for ignorance of FOSS, though...

      • Shutup! Have you forgotten your place here?! This is /. and we shall mock anyone who doesn't understand things on the same level we pretend to. I think most people here agree she did the right thing by gathering information before prosecuting, but ultimately she made an inane statement about software and thus shall be mocked furiously.
    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:24AM (#14784735)
      The problem here is NOT that they misunderstand free software licenses. It's that they don't understand COPYRIGHT. Companies with proprietary licenses have been selling this piracy thing so much that they've convinced everyone that copyright infringement always happens when software is copied. The fact is, copyright licenses can say almost ANYTHING. It's not the government's place to sell one specific (and incorrect) interpretation of what copyright is. uk.gov needs to completely rethink this.
      • On a similar tack, there's a lot of hype about "downloading music is illegal", which ends up tarring every provider/downloader with the same brush. What they probably mean is "downloading (our) music (without paying for it) is (a breach of copyright)", but that's not as catchy. I could imagine that the T.S. officer was susceptible to this if-it's-copied-it-must-be-illegal argument, which is probably just how the large software and music companies like it.
  • by cbelt3 (741637) <cbelt.yahoo@com> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:42AM (#14784331) Journal
    My GOD ! They're giving it away ! How can we control this !
  • by Ossifer (703813) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:42AM (#14784333)
    ... you're going to put us out of our jobs, I mean, who would we prosecute then??!?!"
  • Not the first time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:42AM (#14784335) Homepage
    As having been arrested for picking up litter - I can understand this problem. Police are mmotivated to enforce the status quo, actual facts are too bothersome.
    AIK
  • why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Errtu76 (776778) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:43AM (#14784340) Journal
    If they bothered to read the license Mozilla has attached to its products, they wouldn't be so surprised.
  • Free Beer (Score:5, Funny)

    by wwwillem (253720) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:43AM (#14784350) Homepage
    Someone should take this guy to the bar and explain it to him over a 'free beer'.....
    • Someone should take this guy to the bar and explain it to him over a 'free beer'.....

      The guy you mention from the article is actually a woman. I supposet this is sort of a reverse Crying Game.

      WWWillem: "God, that is a relief. I was really attracted to you, and I was hoping it was just the beer..."

      This is the sort of messed up situation that causes well adjusted gay men to run screaming for the closet. (Thanks to MST3K for that joke..)
    • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @02:47PM (#14786691) Journal
      Someone should take this guy to the bar and explain it to him over a 'free beer'.....

      Giving out beer for free is illegal. I am guessing due to some copyright issue with the originating monk.
  • This sounds like a job wherein I'd never have to use my brain. Is this some kind of civil service position? What are the requirements to get this job? Can I get a work permit if I show that I'm qualified to understand the difference between pirated and simply copied software? (You'd think they'd spend more time cracking down on the people selling on eBay.co.uk, right?)

    Then again, I think I'd be quite bored.
    • 1. Brain size less than the radius of a CD.
      2. Strict adherence to every rule you've ever been told.
      3. Ability to correlate carpooling with the end of the automotive industry.
      4. Ability to leap to tall conclusions in a single bound.
      5. Complete eagerness to swallow everything spewed forth by the BSA.

      "When I consider the rules for grammar, I think
      'Any fool can make a rule
      and every fool will follow'."
      By some famous poet, I forget his name right no
  • Thise word..."Free Software"...I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by iosmart (624285) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:46AM (#14784368)
    A while ago when broadband and CD burners weren't too popular, I tried selling burned Linux CDs on eBay for people with dialup. Within a day or two, they pulled my auctions and said "You can't sell burned CDs of any type on eBay."
    • As someone who paid for a copy of Mandrake 5, I actually understood the need to pay $5 for a CD... Seemed like a fair purchase to me at the time...

      Granted that was when Linux on the desktop sucked balls...
  • by jonbeckett73 (847732) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:50AM (#14784403) Homepage
    Does this mean the DTI is going to try and confiscate all boxed copies of Linux for sale in the UK?
  • by sane? (179855) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:50AM (#14784405)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4740668.s tm [bbc.co.uk]

    Looks like someone on high has been told to allocate resources to copyright infringment. You can see how the idea that people can sell things which are free would confuse PC Plod.

    Here's hoping they get equally confused with the idea you can buy something, but not be able to do what you want with your property and in consequence arrest the chairman of EMI.

  • Hilarious... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@REDHATgmail.com minus distro> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:50AM (#14784406)
    Having experience of TS officers, I know this level of stupidity is more than expected. What surprises me most is that TS actually pursued a complaint. (Actually, they probably thought that MF was a big corp. who would provide them with brown envelopes, which is different from persuing complaints from consumers.)

    Also, see Gervase's blog entry [mozillazine.org], and it is also on digg [digg.com].

  • submitter: RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by l2718 (514756) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:50AM (#14784407)

    The blurb is highly misleading. No CDs were confiscated. Rather, the officer did the right thing: upon uncountering the "suspicious" distributor, he first contacted the copyright owner (the Mozilla Foundation) to ask what gives. In particular, no confiscated CDs had to be returned.

    As another poster above points out, the Trading Standards Office should have been able to figure this out by reading the license, but you cannot fault them for going to the people who licensed the software initialy.

    • upon uncountering the "suspicious" distributor, he first contacted the copyright owner

      RTFA yourself:
      A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town
    • Re:submitter: RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

      by leuk_he (194174) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:50AM (#14784996) Homepage Journal
      Well, reading the licence on the cd should not believed. Hypothacally I would be able to create a cd containing Oracle and stamp a gpl licence notification on it. Am i allowed to distribute it then.I do not think so. So the lady was correct.

      The other way arround happens also by the way. Some gpl software gets retagged by someone who thinks he can getaway with it. You cannot sell that one because you do not have a valid licence for the software. (even if you say you have. )
  • response (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid (31490) * on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:51AM (#14784417)
    "If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

    Here is the crux, Miss, what is/is not permitted regarding software is entirely a function of the license that is agreed to by the involved parties. There is no blanket set of rules - what one party's license prohibits, another party's license may encourage or require. The 'general advice' you should give to businesses is that they need to read and understand the licenses associated with whatever software that they are involved with (something you apparently had difficulty doing yourself)
  • by gowen (141411)
    Anyone notice how "A Trading Standards Officer" has mutated into "UK Government...."

    Because stories are more interesting when it's "Entire Government Proved to be Incompetent" and less interesting when the story is "Some Guy/Gal screws up".
  • So even in the UK, which is one of the G8 countries, which means that the UK people are very rich and educated and the country is developed...

    It also means that government bodies are well facilitated with knowledge or tools to obtain it. But what do we see?

    Ignorance as if we are talking about some third world country! We live in interesting times, don't we?

    • C'mon man, just because one lady was a little confused about licensing doesn't mean the whole island sucks!

      I don't know where you're from but you don't have to look far in any society to find incompetent gov. worker bees.
  • by spiritraveller (641174) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:55AM (#14784456)
    They had encountered businesses which were selling copies of Firefox, and wanted to confirm that this was in violation of our licence agreements before taking action against them.

    At least she tried to confirm this before running out to arrest people. She may not understand WHY she has to confirm a violation of the licensing agreement... but the fact that she followed the procedure indicates that we aren't all about to be raided for having "pirated" copies of Firefox on our computers.

    There is certainly no shortage of dense people in the world. But that's why we have procedures... we say "do this! this way!" And they do... even if it makes them incredulous. Bravo standards-bearers! Bravo.
  • It's a sad day (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:55AM (#14784460)
    when the executive branch does not understand, and thus cannot enforce, what the legal branch created. This could probably mean that the laws don't make sense? Just maybe?

    It's even sadder to realize that the bullspit around "copying is illegal" appearantly managed to take precendence over actual and factual law in the heads of the executive branch.
  • Reminds me of all these businesses making money off of selling free software on eBay/websites that I won't add to the pagerank of. It's pretty pathetic, but mostly legal. I think they should figure out a way to change licenses to disallow that type of thing. I know if I told my uncle that FireFox is an amazing program and everyone should have it, there's a good chance he'd go home and pay 15 bucks for it haha.
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:57AM (#14784476) Homepage Journal
    Will someone please tell me what the hell this is supposed to mean?!

    If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation.

    This is one of the most asinine things I've heard in a long time! Just because one piece of software says that it can be distributed even though it's free does not mean that suddenly anti-piracy legislation is unenforceable! In fact, anti-piracy legislation does not even come into play here because there was no piracy going on! Either that quote is being taken way out of context or they are actually trying to say that not being able to prosecute those who copy Firefox means that they won't be able to prosecute those who copy Windows, Photoshop, or other programs that clearly fall under anti-piracy legislation!

    In fact, this kind of distribution and marketing has been going on since the Commodore 64 days! Free software would be distributed for about $2 per floppy disk at local computer meets to cover the cost of media and duplication. In fact, that's how a lot of PC shareware got distributed. I used to write some shareware apps that were free to distrubte, just not free to use. I sent disks all over the country to PC user groups with permission to copy and charge a nominal fee for their efforts. I was still getting registration fees a few years after I stopped supporting the software, so that method clearly worked and there was nothing illegal about it. But there certainly would have been laws broken if those user groups tried to do the same with Lotus 1-2-3 or dBase!

    Please tell me that I've misunderstood something here!
    • by Otto (17870) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:38AM (#14784860) Homepage Journal
      If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation.


      This is one of the most asinine things I've heard in a long time! Just because one piece of software says that it can be distributed even though it's free does not mean that suddenly anti-piracy legislation is unenforceable!

      I don't disagree with you that it's asinine, but you have to understand it from their point of view.

      The word is coming down from on high to start policing copyright infringement, because some politicians are getting paid by the RIAA (or the UK equivalent). So government kicks into action to try to police that sort of thing. They encounter somebody burning copies of software and selling those. This is an instant red flag to them. Then they come to find out that not only is it totally legit, but actually encouraged.

      In their mind, this makes the main thing they're looking for suddenly not always illegal. They don't know the license on each and every piece of software or other copyrighted material. They are looking to do their job in the easiest way possible. They were thinking somebody selling burned CD's = illegal. They were operating on that assumption. Now they are told that they must actually verify what's on those CD's and the licensing terms.

      The "virtually unenforcable" is the giveaway line here. It's still perfectly enforcable, this woman just found out that it's not easy to enforce. They could see two people selling burned CD's, and one of them is legal while the other is not. The actions, on the surface, are identical, now they actually have to do work to determine legality.

      It's a simple failure of comprehension of the task that they have been asked to do. They thought it was simple, but it's not, and they're understandably in shock at that fact. Okay, you and me understand copyright, and we knew this from the beginning, but this person clearly didn't. That is the disturbing part, and shows that the message being put forth by the RIAA is taking greater hold. Violating copyright is indeed illegal, but what constitutes that violation is more complex than simply burning CD's and selling (or giving) them to other people. The message they're pushing is that it's always wrong, and that message is getting through.
      • It's a simple failure of comprehension of the task that they have been asked to do. They thought it was simple, but it's not, and they're understandably in shock at that fact. Okay, you and me understand copyright, and we knew this from the beginning, but this person clearly didn't. That is the disturbing part, and shows that the message being put forth by the RIAA is taking greater hold. Violating copyright is indeed illegal, but what constitutes that violation is more complex than simply burning CD's and
  • by Morganth (137341) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:57AM (#14784482) Journal
    "I can't believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?" she asked.

    Isn't that something! Maybe you didn't get the memo, but this is how everything works now. Songs play on a radio, but people still buy CDs, because who wants to go recording all the songs. Books are given away for free online, but people pay for the bound version. Artists give tracks away on their website, but people still buy their CDs.

    It's called making money off distribution and convenience of medium, rather than off the production of the intellectual property in question. In fact, considering that most software (proprietary or not) has a one-time "production" cost which exists independent of the number of copies distributed. this makes a bit of sense.

    The reason we don't mind if people sell copies of Firefox is because the Firefox developers, if they care about the "marketplace" of their product at all (which many developers I'm sure do not), they care only about one thing: more people using the software. If that means Joe in Indiana who only has dial-up and won't download Firefox would rather pay someone $5 for a CD, so be it.

    The question asked above shows the general "negative" attitude of the state of our anti-piracy laws. In particular, it seems unfathomable to "let" another company make money off something you give away for free. We're already giving the software away, so how is this in any way a "harm" to us, the developers of the software? We don't "lose" money when another company sells our free product; instead, we simply gain marketshare. Isn't that good enough reason to allow it? Or, put better, wouldn't it be downright silly to disallow it?

    I wish more people would sell Firefox. Like, say, Linux machines loaded with Firefox, at Circuit City or Best Buy, for $200 less than the Windows counterparts. Then we'd really be losing money on the OEM deals, us open source developers! We'd have to call the FBI upon all those piraters.

    This article is somehow refreshing. Dealing with open source software usually means you see how dark and restrictive the proprietary/commercial world has become.
  • In TFA there's a reference to the fact that the trading standards body is responsible, essentially, for letting people know what's allowed and isn't when it comes to duplicating software. Essentially, if you come from a mentality of "all random copied CDs are wrong," then you're not going to easily understand the OSS phenomenon.

    But the more interesting thing is honestly that OSS people essentially want everybody to be in the position of:

    • Seeing Random Software CD for sale.
    • Knowing whether the software is
  • by Benanov (583592) <`gro.fsf.rebmem' `ta' `pmek.nairb'> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:01AM (#14784505) Journal
    I was waiting for this to happen--when the legal hacks that are Free Software (they're beautiful hacks, too) run head-first into all of the silly laws that the proprietary software industry keeps enacting.

    "I'm sorry, we granted permission implicitly to do that..."

    It's a beautiful thing.

    Now if I could get my luser friends to stop paying for warez by using Free Software, I'd be happy. Maybe I could make them pay for Free Software? :)

  • by ribuck (943217) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:01AM (#14784506) Homepage
    In other news, my local supermarket hosted a free food-tasting session.

    The Trading Standards Officer's reply was incredulous: "I can't believe you are giving away food for free. This makes it virtually impossible for the police, from a practical point of view, to catch and prosecute shoplifters."

  • "If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

    It's called reading the license agreement. If a product specifically states that copies of said product are free to be distributed, they're okay.

    She just wants the answer to be easier. She wants to say "No," and be done with it.

  • I once had a homeless guy try to sell me a copy of The Onion for a dollar, and I replied "If you are going to charge me for a paper, at least pick one with a price tag" (The Onion is distributed for free around NYC). He smiled, and pointed to the $2.00 pricetag that I'd never even noticed before, and said he was giving me a discount.

    Sure, he's probably not alowed to sell it like that, but I gave him the dollar anyway.
  • by osgeek (239988) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:03AM (#14784532) Homepage Journal
    Government official: Must... apply... thought... to... job..... Must... think... *ugh* outside... of... the... box... *gah*.
  • by 91degrees (207121)
    Bet he wasn't expected Free software to have this direct an effect.
  • There's a shocker! From the article:

    They had encountered businesses which were selling copies of Firefox, and wanted to confirm that this was in violation of our licence agreements before taking action against them.

    Regardless of this one town official's attitude towards Free Software, the fact is that they checked their facts before they did anything. Not only that, but they were savvy enough to check this wasn't some random kook, unlike businesses as Internet-aware as Amazon, who have believed a

  • When I first read the article I thought this was a new Python Skit. It sure seems like it. A few tweaks and it would probably be appropriate. Obviously the skit would take things to the logical conclusion of destroying civilization.
  • A few things. First off, we aren't told whether the outfit selling the Firefox disks was kosher or whether the disks had come to light as a result of the outfit getting into trouble for genuine offences, in which case Trading Standards would have been remiss not to have followed by all the leads. Second, the lady from Trading Standards had the decency to call and was prepared to listen. In my experience, many branches of government never do either.

    Finally, it's rather narrow-minded saying that Trading St
  • The question is: how come the Trading Standards Office was looking at this? Did they do it through their own normal processes, or was it based on a complaint? If the latter, then somebody wasted tax payer's money. And why would they do such a thing?
  • by Kjella (173770)
    ...because I borrowed away my car, the police are unable to enforce laws on car theft? Or because I let people punch me in a boxing ring, we can't enforce laws on violent assault? It's hilariously absurd, are they decendants of Monthy Phyton? Or I could give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they meant to say "If the Mozilla foundation let people sell copies of their software, we're not going to be able to enforce the Mozilla Foundation's copyright. Which is sort of the point of the copyleft license
  • Steal This Comment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flwyd (607088) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @01:40PM (#14786057) Homepage
    My high school's bike lab did maintenance for Boulder's [boulder.co.us] "green bike" program. The program took donated bikes, fixed them up, painted them green, put on a basket and some information about the program, and made them available for the public to use with the understanding that when you were done riding the bike (to the library, say) you left it for someone else to use.

    We did a short documentary on the program. When we interviewed the guy in charge of maintenance we asked about theft issues. His response was "You can't steal a free bike." The same quip applies to free software. Projects like Mozilla and Linux want as many people to "steal" their software as possible.

  • Sour Grapes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turgid (580780) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:00PM (#14787278) Journal

    Sounds like a case of Sour Grapes from the UK Establishment.

    Tony Blair and his Cronies are best buddies with Chairman Bill and Steve from Microsoft. In fact, there have been notable large Public Sector contracts in the UK where Microsoft has given huge discounts to get the customer (funded by the UK tax payer) locked in.

    It must be much to the chagrin of these PHBs and ignorant politicians to have to acknowledge that there exist cheaper, free-as-in-speech, open alternatives.

    The "free-as-in-speech" and "open" parts are doubly painful to the Blair Administration, while they do everything possible to take away our democracy [bbc.co.uk].

  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:08PM (#14787838) Homepage
    ...the propeller-heads that coined the term "free as in beer, not as in speech" thought it was so cute and witty that it didn't matter of the average Joe still can't understand the concept.

    The overloaded naming convention is one of the largest obstacles to this concept. And it seemed like (prior to finally "getting it") whenever I asked an expert to explain it, I was spoken down to as an inferior for not grasping such and obvious concept.

    Maybe a better communicator can rename the entire movement and save some confusion.

    Eh, in the words of the ZIL interpreter:

    Not bloody likely.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @07:56PM (#14789173) Homepage

    The proper response to her "virtually impossible" comment would be "Ummm, and as copyright holders that's our problem how again?". :)

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