THE FREE SOFTWARE FOUNDATION (FSF) has been one of the surprise backers of people who the RIAA thinks should pay massive fines for sharing copyrighted music files online.
Joel Tenenbaum, who is being sued by RIAA member companies for copyright infringement, has appreciated receiving the support of the FSF, and that has set the RIAA to whingeing.
However John Sullivan, Operations Manager at the FSF told Torrent Freak that the RIAA's antics are inimical to free software and its technology. He thinks that if the cartel gets its way then the free software movement could be scuppered.
Sullivan filed a friend of the court brief in Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum arguing that the RIAA's theory of statutory damage awards is unconstitutional.
He said that the lawsuits represent a concerted attempt to rewrite copyright law in a way that threatens to undermine the ultimate goals of the free software movement. The RIAA's legal theories are also being used to justify the use of DRM and other measures to monitor and control the flow of information over the internet.
Sullivan thinks that if left unopposed, these lawsuits could create a culture in which people become afraid to share, presuming sharing to be theft.
The RIAA agrees, saying that the FSF is an organisation "dedicated to eliminating restrictions on copying, redistribution, and modifying computer programs, and classic intellectual property." In short it thinks that the free software movement aims to liberalise copyright law, which it thinks places free software squarely on the side of illegal file-sharers.
This argument is cobblers and wrong, of course, because free software itself relies on strong copyright laws to protect its requirement that the source code of all downstream modifications to free software be freely redistributed, thus preserving both the original authors' and all subsequent users' rights.
It also means that ultimately the RIAA and its ilk must work to shut down the free software movement to make sure their proprietary companies and their faltering business models dependent upon exploiting artificial scarcity are protected.
This is bad news for US open sauce software proponents, as it seems that the RIAA has managed to get one of its sock puppets in the form of Vice President Joe Biden into a position of power in Washington.
Biden has assured the MPAA that President Obama will find the "right" copyright czar and Obama has appointed RIAA lead attorneys Tom Perrelli and Donald Verrilli to associate and deputy associate attorney general positions. We have also seen the Obama administration attempt to influence the policy of a NATO ally so that it toes the RIAA line on software copyright.
The fear is that with its puppets in place, the RIAA can skew copyright law in its favour, with the result that proprietary companies get protected at the expense of software freedom.
Sullivan said that already we have seen cases of schoolteachers who have assumed that a student handing out GNU Linux disks in class was breaking the law, and he fears that this will just be the tip of the iceburg.
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