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Books were printed only on printing presses until recently. It was possible to
make a copy yourself by hand, but it wasn't practical because it took so much
more work than using a printing press. And it produced something so much less
attractive that, for all intents and purposes, you could act as if it were
impossible to make books except by mass producing them. And therefore copyright
didn't really take any freedom away from the reading public. There wasn't
anything that a book purchaser could do that was forbidden by copyright.
But this isn't true for computer programs. It's also not true for tape
cassettes. It's partly false now for books, but it is still true that for most
books it is more expensive and certainly a lot more work to Xerox them than to
buy a copy, and the result is still less attractive. Right now we are in a
period where the situation that made copyright harmless and acceptable is
changing to a situation where copyright will become destructive and
intolerable. So the people who are slandered as “pirates” are in fact the
people who are trying to do something useful that they have been forbidden to
do. The copyright laws are entirely designed to help people take complete
control over the use of some information for their own good. But they aren't
designed to help people who want to make sure that the information is
accessible to the public and stop others from depriving the public. I think
that the law should recognize a class of works that are owned by the public,
which is different from public domain in the same sense that a public park is
different from something found in a garbage can. It's not there for anybody to
take away, it's there for everyone to use but for no one to impede. Anybody in
the public who finds himself being deprived of the derivative work of something
owned by the public should be able to sue about it.
-- Richard Stallman, interview in BYTE, 1986
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