Gervase Markham, who blogs at Hacking for Christ, works for the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit “dedicated to promoting choice and innovation on the internet”. He writes about his recent encounter with a UK Trading Standards officer:
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.
I wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft – that the software was free, both as in speech and as in price, and that people copying and redistributing it was a feature, not a bug. I said that selling verbatim copies of Firefox on physical media was absolutely fine with us, and we would like her to return any confiscated CDs and allow us to continue with our plan for world domination (or words to that effect).
Many people would find the official’s reaction to that surprising; but they do not call them disruptive technologies for nothing. The woman replied:
“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 unclear exactly what role the Mozilla Foundation plays in enforcing the UK’s anti-piracy laws, or exactly why they shouldn’t be allowed to license their software however they want, just to make things easier for some civil servants. If nothing else, it merely indicates how deeply ingrained people’s preconceived notions about software “piracy” are. And it’s disappointing that a government officer whose job it is to enforce copyrights can’t seem to get their head around the idea that there is another way to license software than how most entrenched developers and companies handle it.
Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? Not really.
Crossposted from the Engagement Alliance