GNU draft GPLv3 needs a Fifth Freedom

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has released draft 3 of version 3 of the GNU General Public License and it is up for discussion this month. There is also an audio by Richard Stallman introducing the latest changes and the philosophy behind the license.

FSF defines Free Software as giving the user has four essential freedoms:

  • Freedom zero is the freedom to run the program as you wish.
  • Freedom one is the freedom to study the source code and change it so that the program does what you wish when you run it.
  • Freedom two is the freedom to help your neighbour; that is, the freedom to distribute exact copies to others, when you wish.
  • Freedom three is the freedom to contribute to your community; that’s the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions, when you wish.

I believe there needs to be a fifth freedom added to this list:

  • Freedom four is the freedom of the author to identify his or herself as the author of the original work.

Authorship, of course, is implied in that the license is created under the powers of the copyright regime and that in turn implies that there was an author who claims the copyright and places the copyright notice on the work but if the ‘authorship identity freedom’ was explicitly stated it might clear up at least one important issue:

Section 3. of the draft refers to “No Denying Users’ Rights through Technical Measures” and the aim of this section is to prevent content from being locked up with technical protection measures thus potentially inhibiting access to content that should be legally or morally available to the user. However, as I read this section, it also prevents free software from being used to technically protect information linking the author to an intellectual work they have created and to which they own the copyright.

Protecting the fifth freedom of author by protecting information on their rights would have no impact on the other four freedoms of the user; protected metadata does not inhibit access to the content. And, protecting authorship can fulfil an important role of keeping an intellectual work free by preventing a third party illegally claiming the work as theirs and thus restricting access.

I believe that in a P2P environment there needs to be a balance between author and user freedoms and although the FSF is doing a good job protecting users it should not unnecessarily limit protection of author rights. If you feel the same please comment on the draft.

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