Wonderful piece in the Times by Gervase Markham, who looks after licensing for the Mozilla Foundation.
A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town. 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).
Unfortunately, this was not well received. Her reply was incredulous:
“I can’t believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?” she asked.
“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.”
I felt somewhat unnerved at being held responsible for the disintegration of the UK anti-piracy system. Who would have thought giving away software could cause such difficulties?
Who indeed? Sometimes, it’s difficult to explain altruism to people. Sigh.
Thanks to Seb for the link.