The Linux/Unix/Gnu group in Chattanooga asked a few fascinating questions at the meeting where attorney Ed Nanney presented on intellectual property laws.
When hearing of the Vernor vs. Autodesk case where an eBay Powerseller auctioned off used AutoCAD software (The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of AutoDesk), Chugalug members asked:
- What if money is removed from the transaction? Is it illegal to give/gift used software to someone? Ed Nanny pointed out the unlikeliness of the transaction being detectable without a monetary exchange in a public place like ebay, but still, Autodesk stated that the software license is nontransferable, that it could not be transferred or leased without Autodesk’s written consent. Legally, that sounds like the money component is irrelevent, but the case appears truly absurd if we change the ebay auction to an exchange between neighbors.
Ed Nanney moved into the interesting circumstances of bitcoin, the decentralized peer-to-peer digital currency. Nanney presented a number of related legal conundrums associated with a currency that is completely anonymous and untraceable--how to impose regulation and prevent tax evasion, for example. Nanney recognized that the legal system can't keep up with technological innovations. which sent Chugalug questions and comments in motion. A Chugalug member asked whether the time has come for law to go open source.
His suggestion was not taken seriously at the time--the thought police came onto the scene in a hurry armed with sarcasm and laughter--but it deserves more credit. Democracy is arguably designed to be an open source political system. We're supposed to be able to access the legal code governing us and have tools to tweak it, to improve it over time. Someone who collaborates on open source projects, who has seen the effectiveness of a bunch of dedicated people contributing their areas of expertise to a product and is being confronted with the absurdity of various legislative and judiciary outcomes related to the Internet and technology, might understandably have a different take on what rule by the people could look like given the set of new tools we have.