Free Software, as defined by GNU

I was hoping that you could clarify where the party stands in relation to Free Software (under the definition provided by

A program is free software if the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  1. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  3. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

It’s important not to confuse this with open-source or free as in provided at no cost (gratis).

To quickly cover a few examples of non-free software

  1. Windows
  2. OS X
  3. Flash Player
  4. iOS
  5. Playstations/Xbox

Common properties of non-free software

  1. Ability to remotely delete applications (eg. iOS/Kindle)
  2. Ability to remotely install updates (eg. Windows)
  3. Ability to aggregate mass data on users (eg. Google)
  4. Limiting the software that can be installed (eg. iOS)
  5. Inability to install modified/custom software on device (eg. iOS)
  6. Inability to resell/lend/gift purchases including ebooks and apps (eg. iOS, kindle, iTunes)

Basically, industry has slowly eroded users rights to own the products they buy. Not only are people unable to freely modify and customise their purchases, companies use digital handcuffs to limits a customers right their access and share their purchases. Essentially, people just lease access - their right to own what they buy is under siege.

I don’t believe the party has an official position on Free Software as defined by GNU.

Some of the problems you rightly mention with non-free software are touched on in our policies, for example see the “Curtail attempts to restrict consumer rights” section of the copyright policy, which addresses DRM.

The copyright policy also states that “government funded software will be made open-source, excepting cases where disclosure threatens national security”. The rationale for this can be found in the Pirate Congress 2011 motions, which certainly echoes GNU’s first two freedoms. Note that the policy does not currently mandate a specific software license be used.

The Party’s Programming Team Terms of Reference state that “All software produced by the group is to be made open source, the licensing structure of which is at the discretion of the group.”


I’m not sure what such a policy would actually say.

PPAU have generally shied away from policies which limit the rights of individuals and corporations. While I’m sure many Pirates support Free/Libre software, I’m with Mozart in that I’m unsure what kind of legislation that entails. We could do something similar to some South American countries and enforce Free software by government institutions whenever possible, but I can’t think of anything other than that. I’d have no problem with evangelising free software as a movement though.

I’ll have a think in more detail, but I can give an easy example. Keep in mind I haven’t read the Pirate Party education policies yet.

One objective of supporting free software is to let our governments lead by example and use free software where possible. There are many governments around the world that are switching to GNU/Linux based operating systems. See for a rough list. A benefit of using these free systems is the ability to contribute back and invest directly in their development. As users, they will also be improving the tools for everyone. This can also include releasing suitable internal software publicly. In this sense, governments could help each other and work to build the right tools they need to be efficient. Why can’t the government share the same platforms for managing local events with the community, to help them organise and hold events more often.

A second key objective is to use free software in education. There is no reason we should be solely exposing children, who are learning how to use computers, to Microsoft and Mac based systems. Not only are they extremely costly, to purchase and maintain, they are essentially an on-boarding tool for large corporations to lock children into only knowing their systems. The Free alternatives have great support for internet access, messaging, office tools, image editing, video editing, etc. It is not the case that we would be switching to a less rich ecosystem.

Additionally, it would be nice to have a fund available to invest back into, free software projects that benefit the community. Without change, there is a risk that (global) corporations will be successful in filtering out free alternatives, and people will be left only with propriety products.

I by no means seek to limit the freedoms of people, but I think the government can set a good example. And I think switching to free software can be a highly beneficial strategy in the long run.

One related sidenote, and I haven’t completely read the existing policies, is supporting open government data. Melbourne seems to be doing this well now, but I am sure we can do more. There is no additional work needed to store this data in open/standard formats, other then updating existing systems. The location data of community services, like buses, trains, hospitals, toilets, campgrounds, etc, are all useful to expose beyond internal government systems and websites.

I must say, we don’t shy away from anything, and I can give you quite a few examples where we explicitly put the interests of corporations below those of people:

Corporations don’t have rights—they only have the privileges that we as natural persons choose to grant them, whereas we see basic human rights as inalienable.

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Perhaps badly phrased. I had originally written that with a fairly lengthy qualifying statement but it got too cumbersome. You’re right though, I should definitely have removed the “and corporations” part after removing the other bits. However, in this particular case, I think we’ve discussed this in the context of DRM, and decided upon allowing companies to keep having DRM, but also allowing reverse engineering and working around that DRM.

Would you prefer to make DRM actually illegal?


I like the general idea of government using more open source and free software.
At the next PDC meeting, I’m going to propose the topic be added to the backlog of policy development areas.

Thanks for the suggestion …AndrewD - Policy Development Officer.

Not sure if you are asking me, but I’m fine with companies creating locked up boxes of bytes. You can start a company that has 100 layers of DRM and that would be fine. I just won’t give you any money.

The problem is when you try and sell the products and claim that you are transferring full ownership, when in fact you are leasing restricted access. The best comparison is a (physical) book. When you buy a book, you actually own that book. You can read it, donate it, share it, loan it, or whatever you like - except make copies and sell it as your own. “You can lease (rental is different) this iTunes movie for $25” certainly doesn’t sound as sexy to consumers.

If people want to rent or lease something, because it is cheaper then owning it or owning it doesn’t make sense in their case, then that option can be valid. However, using devices and DRM, along with misrepresentation in marketing, must be stopped. Companies should not be able to ‘sell’ you ownership of a product, and be able to take it away (remove it remotely), control how you access it (lock you to a device or platform), prevent you from sharing it with family, stop you from selling it, etc.

DRM is really just a market grab. They know that the population only grows so fast, and they want to milk the public out of as many future generations as they can. Imagine if you could sell the same book to each and every person in a family of four. That is why it must be stopped.

There is one other potential problem. With DRM it is a possibility that monopolies might lock out the public from ownership and enforce a leasing model - by removing other alternatives. This is also a dangerous outlook, and measures to ensure that this doesn’t happen are also important. Imagine if you could only ‘lease’ music through iTunes, Google and Amazon. Ownership could be lost.


We are well across those issues. We agree with you.
From our copyright policy

  • “Consumer rights are being eroded as technology becomes increasingly crippled though measures such as Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM can be a prelude to surreptitious surveillance and unauthorised data collection. It cripples culture and knowledge distribution, and is an electronic equivalent of a barbed wire fence around data consumers rightfully own.”


Curtail attempts to restrict consumer rights

  • The 'Technological Protection Measures’ within the Copyright Act 1968—which grant legal foundation to the enforcement of Digital Rights Management (DRM)—will be repealed.
  • Any restrictions or limitations on purchasable items enacted in the name of copyright protection will be required to include information to consumers on the nature of the restrictions, the additional software that will be installed, and any tracking or data collection that will be imposed.
  • A 14 day grace period will be legislated allowing consumers to return any product which includes DRM.
  • Products which include DRM will be considered as being licensed, not sold. Accordingly promotions and offers for such products will be obliged to state that the sale is for a licence only.
  • Restrictions on format-shifting will be banned in cases of:
  • Technological format-shifting, whether physical or digital,
  • Translation into another language, and/or Adaptation for the blind,deaf or similarly impaired, including Braille translation,
  • transcription of speech, or creation of spoken books.

Promote fair pricing and discourage artificial market segmentation

  • Implement the recommendations of the IT Pricing Inquiry[18] in particular:
  • Lifting the parallel importation restrictions still found in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).
  • Allowing consumers to circumvent technological protection measures that control geographic market segmentation (see “Curtail attempts to restrict consumer rights” above).
  • Educating Australian consumers and businesses as to how to circumvent geoblocking mechanisms, and what rights might be affected as a result.
  • Creating a right of resale in relation to digitally distributed content.
  • Restricting vendors’ abilities to lock digital content into particular ecosystems.
  • Introducing a ban on geoblocking to address persistent market failures.
  • Amending the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) so that contracts or terms of service attempting to enforce geoblocking are considered void.
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Copyright has never worked on a “consumer owns” basis. It has always been on a licence basis. What we are seeing is a change in the way those licences are granted, from comparatively permissive licences to restrictive licences. I would suggest this reflects the ease with which data and access can now be transferred. “Ownership” of a book, CD or DVD has always been ownership of the physical item coupled with a licence to the content thereon: ownership of the content has always remained with the copyright holder. This is the nature of the beast.

Having said that, I think in the interests of consumer protection it would be good to create a minimum standard of licence, say through the Australian Consumer Law.