So that everyone understands whats being talked about ACTA stands for Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It is a trade agreement being set up between America, Europe, Japan and pretty much anywhere in the world where piracy appears to be a problem.
The Free Software Foundation has run an article on this outlining some of the areas that will be affected if this goes into action.
So where do I stand on this? I actually dont see a problem. I will start with the DRM issue. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and basically prevents people from sharing commercial music/video (check out the Wikipedia link for a more detailed description). Software freedom for me, means exactly that. Its freedom for the user to choose which software is best for them, be it free or commercial, but that freedom has to go both ways and be fair for developers or people who own the intellectual property.
Let me give an example. I write an application, which I release as a binary as freeware. I dont want people to modify my source code and I dont want people to have it. Isnt that my right as a developer? The end user is still getting free software, and I get to distribute my software in the way I want. Everyones a winner. If people dont like the fact that my software is not open source, then they can find a similar package that is. That to me is real software freedom.
So lets say the copyright owner of a TV show that is being streamed on the net, doesnt want people recording it, maybe because it can be resold to other TV companies later or maybe because they are planning to sell a DVD of it, isnt that their right as the owners? Just as I, in the above example didnt want to release my source code, a TV show producer may not want people to record a copy. Isnt that real freedom? If people dont like the policy then Id suggest that they dont watch/listen to that particular product. At the end of the day, the owner has a right to distribute/display THEIR material in any way they see fit.
I agree with the fundamental ethos of sites like Free Software Foundation, however I think there are some individuals who take the software freedom issue to far, and forget that true software freedom, should be freedom for the individual AND for the developer. Its that freedom, which if the user doesnt like a particular developer/owners way of distributing they can boycott the product.
Unfortunately people who speak out against this type of agreement try to make the problem sound worse than it is. Heres a qoute from the FSF article:
“It will make it harder for users of free operating systems to play media: Consumers will no longer be able to buy media without DRM — and DRMed media cannot be played with free software.”
Are they saying that the tallented people behind all the free software we enjoy, wont be able to find a solution? are they saying that a possible market of Linux customers will be ignored, just because Linux is free? Id suggest if they feel that strongly against DRM, simply boycott any product that utilises it. There simple.
I say again, software freedom is for both developer and end user, If I wrote a piece of software and only wanted people who liked to wear red hats to have it, that would be my right as the owner/creator of that work, if you dont want to wear a red hat, go and download an alternative.
Commercial software is good for Open Source or Free software and vice versa. Free/Open Source forces commercial products to offer better value and functionality/support for its users and Commercial software sets benchmarks for the level at which open source is judged.
I have in the past, after looking at all alternatives found that a commercial package is better suited for me. The argument that you buy something only to find it useless is very rare these days. Most commercial packages offer a trial period so that you can ensure that its what you want. Ive been very happy with the commercial purchases I have made, they have been made as a result of an informed decision. Again, isnt this true software freedom? the freedom of choice?
The whole argument starts to slip into the debate about Piracy, which is something that wont be discussed fully, however I would give you the following example: Imagine you were selling your own oil paintings from your house, your nextdoor nieghbour decides to sell copies of your work, either cheaper or giving them away for free. Would you be able to make a living? Wouldnt you consider doing something else? The same is for companies. If they dont make money, they wont do it. Its not rocket science. If a company wants to release its material in a certain way, it can, thats their right. Thats true software freedom, afterall you dont have to buy it.