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LinuxWorld: Napster and DeCSS: Is it about free speech or free stuff?

“I’m an open source, free software, and free speech advocate.
But some of the catchphrases of the open source generation are
really beginning to annoy me, as do many of the attitudes of the
people who chant them and abuse them for personal gain. Take
this mantra: “Information wants to be free.” Horsehockey.
Information doesn’t want anything. People want information to be
free. But face it: people want corned beef sandwiches on rye to be
free, too. That doesn’t mean we are entitled to them.

“The fact is that our current system entitles us to some free
information, and it requires us to purchase or license other
information. You may not like the fact that some information must
be licensed, but that’s how it is. Those who want information to be
free as a matter of principle should create some information and
make it free. They should encourage others to do likewise. But what
they shouldn’t do is license or buy existing information that is
not free and then cut it loose without permission. That’s just
plain wrong, and people who do it are demonstrating that what they
are interested in is not free speech, but getting stuff without
having to pay for it.”

“This is the problem I have with the Napster controversy.
Napster is a fine technology that could be put to good use. But so
far the controversy over Napster doesn’t seem to be about free
speech, but rather about free stuff. It’s about a technology that
makes it possible to circumvent the intent of publishing music on
CDs. Napster is being used to distribute music that was never
intended to be shared in such a fashion; so far, few people have
suffered severe consequences, and that’s the reason the controversy
persists. But the situation could change.”


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