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UK Government Confiscates Firefox CDs

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the can't-just-give-it-away dept.

540

Alsee writes "The idea that Free Software can be sold has some government officials perplexed. Times Online has the story. A UK Trading Standards officer contacted the Mozilla Foundation to report catching a business selling copies of Firefox. The organization confiscated the CDs with the intent to prosecute said business. When informed that such distribution was authorized, the officer first expressed disbelief that Free Software could be sold then said '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'."

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540 comments

I love Mozilla (0, Offtopic)

Nick Fury (624480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784312)

I 3 Mozilla Foundation.

Re:I love Mozilla (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784329)

Where's the (-1, Too Stupid to Correctly make a <)?

YOU "3" THE MOZILLA FOUNDATION? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784378)

What the fuck does that mean? Go learn some HTML entities [google.com], cocksmoker!

Re:YOU "3" THE MOZILLA FOUNDATION? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784520)

It means "I put my motherfucking balls in Mozilla-Foundation's Mitchell Baker's [mozillazine.org] nigger-cock worshiping mouth."

Re:I love Mozilla (3, Funny)

tuckerteeth (560608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784424)

Junior ministers have already been deployed to find out what the government should do about free software...
"It goes against the grain to have this sort of thing going on in Great Britain. We've partially dismantled free speech and the freedom of movement. We will need to review what can be done to combat this new threat." (quote was made up).

Licenses (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784321)

Some of the licenses allow for people to charge for distributing the software. After all, they burned it to a disc and probably did all the labeling. You're paying for nothing more than the time and resources that went into this. Is it wrong to charge $10 per CD with Mozilla on it? Probably, but I don't think it's illegal. You simply have to disclose that there is no warranty and state that the software falls under the MPL [mozilla.org].

As Section 3.5 states:
You must duplicate the notice in Exhibit A in each file of the Source Code. If it is not possible to put such notice in a particular Source Code file due to its structure, then You must include such notice in a location (such as a relevant directory) where a user would be likely to look for such a notice. If You created one or more Modification(s) You may add your name as a Contributor to the notice described in Exhibit A. You must also duplicate this License in any documentation for the Source Code where You describe recipients' rights or ownership rights relating to Covered Code. You may choose to offer, and to charge a fee for, warranty, support, indemnity or liability obligations to one or more recipients of Covered Code. However, You may do so only on Your own behalf, and not on behalf of the Initial Developer or any Contributor. You must make it absolutely clear than any such warranty, support, indemnity or liability obligation is offered by You alone, and You hereby agree to indemnify the Initial Developer and every Contributor for any liability incurred by the Initial Developer or such Contributor as a result of warranty, support, indemnity or liability terms You offer.
Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
'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.'
Well, Mozilla falls under the MPL. I'm not sure any other software falls under this license. For that reason, anyone distributing software that falls under other licenses should be investigated. I'm not sure how people distributing Mozilla legally at a charge prohibits you from arresting people who are distributing copyrighted software which they made their own copies of.

Re:Licenses (1)

MooCows (718367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784425)

Is it wrong to charge $10 per CD with Mozilla on it?

Actually, I believe it is.
Mozilla (and Firefox, etc.) are trademarks of the Mozilla Foundation.
IANAL but I don't think you can go around selling Mozilla-branded items without permission from the Mozilla folks.

Re:Licenses (4, Informative)

albalbo (33890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784513)

You can, so long as it's the original. If you modify the software, you have to rebuild it without the branding, unless you have MoFo's permission.

Re:Licenses (4, Informative)

drakaan (688386) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784541)

The IANAL comment saves you on this one. Trademark prevents another company making another product from confusing customers by using your mark.

If they were distributing a different browser and calling it Mozilla or Firefox then they'd run afoul of trademark law. What's at issue here is copyright, which is added to by the MPL that explicitly allows for copying.

The fact that the cops can't comprehend what's allowed via the MPL is humorous, as is their failure to understand how it relates to copyright with no additional permissive license.

Re:Licenses (3, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784429)

Why on earth would it be wrong to charge (any amount) for Firefox?! The benefits are vast:
  • Everyone who buys it is reducing load on the download servers and mirrors
  • Those who actually offer some added value will sell better. This encourages Firefox development (in the same way that Red Hat, Mantiva, Novell, IBM and many others have contributed to Linux).
  • In many places, offering a product for sale implies a certain amount of warantee which cannot be disclaimed, on the part of the seller (lemon laws, etc). This gives consumers leverage by which to demand things like security updates, which further incents distributors to participate in Firefox development.
  • Many people in the world with very slow, noisy connections to the Internet cannot reasonably download something as large as Firefox.
  • For every dollar (or Euro or Pound) spent on Firefox CDs, there is more measurable sale of open source software.
  • Overseas sales will encourage better regionalization enhancements.
  • Since you can download it for free, those purchasing it are likely people who would NOT have used Firefox otherwise (perhaps they just don't trust free software, or perhaps they would not have come acorss it other than on a shelf).

Re:Licenses (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784441)

You can charge for GPL'd software also. The important thing is the freedom to review and edit the way the program works, not the fact that GPL software is TYPICALLY, BUT NOT ALWAYS, distributed for free.

In that respect, it's no different than the MPL or the multitude of similar open source licenses ou there.

Re:Licenses (1, Insightful)

albalbo (33890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784534)

Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
Well, indeed, but how is that relevant ? The GPL allows you to charge for distribution also. The only thing you're not allowed to do is charge an unreasonable amount for the source code.

Re:Licenses (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784590)

Is it wrong to charge $10 per CD with Mozilla on it?

Do you mean from an ethical point of view? i.e. Is it wrong to charge people that much for doing so little work? If that's what your asking, my answer is "no". It's also not wrong for me to charge $9 for the same CD. Free market forces work rather nicely here.

Re:Licenses (3, Insightful)

sepluv (641107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784591)

Do not confuse the MPL with the GPL, folks.
The GNU GPL clause on this is different how?

In fact, restricting commercial distribution would make the software non-free (see the FSF's free software definition, the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the OSI's open-source definition).

Re:Licenses (1)

sepluv (641107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784616)

Mozilla legally at a charge prohibits you from arresting people who are distributing copyrighted software which they made their own copies of.
Well..clearly...TS assume that anyone making copies of anything that they didn't write themselves is unlawful. Someoene tell them about these things called copyright licenses...oh and fair use, the public domain and uncopyrightable works.

What they mean to say is.... (5, Insightful)

winchester (265873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784327)

"we are too stupid to make a distinction between Free software and commercial software. We can't read nor do we understand licence agreements."

In other words, they can't do their job in a proper way.

Re:What they mean to say is.... (1)

mausmalone (594185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784391)

Don't be overly harsh. They probably just erred on the side of caution and came out wrong this time. Their incredulous response, however, is thoroughly mockable.

Re:What they mean to say is.... (5, Insightful)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784502)

I don't think it's overly harsh to expect a copyright enforcement agency of the government *to*read*and*understand*copyrights* before starting an enforcement action.
I'd certainly expect a traffic cop to read the speed limit sign before writing a speeding ticket.

Re:What they mean to say is.... (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784599)

the idea that something free can be sold perplexes me. i don't think it has anything to do with copyright and more to do with the word 'free'

Re:What they mean to say is.... (4, Interesting)

sepluv (641107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784551)

we are too stupid to make a distinction between Free software and commercial software
Actually, if anything, the opposite is true: she failed to understand that free software can be commercial.

However, I think she doesn't know anything about free software (or software for that matter) and her assumption was actually that if you don't hold the copyright on a work and are copying it you must be breaking the law, so, actually, she seems to not to be able to comprehend the idea of a copyright license, full stop (i.e.: she thinks that copyright shouldn't allow you to pass on your exclusive right to copy to a third party).

It is as if she thinks it is the duty of everyone to keep their works a secret and not publish them (otherwise the masses might learn stuff). I wonder when she'll find out about the public domain: an evil conspiracy by the government to allow information to be copied by anyone without anyone having the right to restrict this immoral act. No one tell her about these evil things called libraries...

Although, being in a nortoriously corrupt UK TS dept., I'm not surprised that she is scared of the idea of freedom of information and thinks freedom of expression is immoral somehow.

It's even better than that (3, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784557)

Because basically what is happening lately is the legal community is trying, for fun and profit, to use EULAs and licenses and things like UCITA, to make every transmission of information into a contract negotiation of unlimited dimensions.

Imagine a "negotation" between, for instance, a team of 30 Sony corporate attorneys in New York, versus a 12 year old in Arkansas who just wants to listen to Eminem. One where the outcome is never recorded but always presumed. And now you see how absurd the legal fiction of the EULA really is.

And here is our biggest gift ever. unintentionally, the government itself is admitting that it is "virtually impossible" to handle this situation.

Everybody throw a party.

This wild-west/mafia nonsense with "IP law" needs to stop, because it's hurting our economy and rendering us unable to compete effectively against countries with sane, normal laws.

The GPL has been a wonderfully subversive attempt to fight the system within the system, but ultimately even the FSF will tell you that "the proliferation of licenses" is a problem. No fucking duh it's a "problem;" it plainly illustrates how completely fucking ridiculous, egotistical and largely futile the whole concept of a "license" is.

The powers of copyright holders to make licenses need to be delineated; EULAs need to be explicitly outlawed. Types of copyright exercise should be explicitly codified (a "whitelist" of acceptable options): i.e. conventional, bsd, gpl, etc. Then things can begin to be sane. No more EULA fine print preventing "benchmarking" or "backups," or "disclaimers of fitness" for commercial products... and all such games. And don't even get me started on software patents, a concept so obviously corrupt and ridiculous that we are frankly a laughingstock for ever considering them, let alone occasionally honoring them...

Re:What they mean to say is.... (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784595)

I'm not sure I see the stupidity here; the woman called to inquire about the licensing status of the software, just as she should have. Stupid would have been to prosecute without having taken that critical step.

Guilty as charged for ignorance of FOSS, though...

No-one expects the British Inquisition ! (5, Funny)

cbelt3 (741637) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784331)

My GOD ! They're giving it away ! How can we control this !

Re:No-one expects the British Inquisition ! (0, Redundant)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784388)

Poke them with the soft cussions! If they don't work ... bring in THE COMFY CHAIR !!!!

"If your software's free... (5, Funny)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784333)

... you're going to put us out of our jobs, I mean, who would we prosecute then??!?!"

Re:"If your software's free... (2, Insightful)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784452)

I mean, who would we prosecute then??!?!

Um, people who violate OSS licenses, perhaps? It shouldn't matter who gets paid, as long as the lawyers get paid, you know?

(I know you tried to be funny, and succeeded, too. =)

Re:"If your software's free... (2, Funny)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784491)

"The people who violate OSS licenses? How could anybody violate something that's free?!?" ;-)

Re:"If your software's free... (2, Informative)

harrkev (623093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784612)

Simple -- by modifying it, distributing it, and NOT giving away the source code.

People have gotten in trouble for doing exactly this.

Brits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784334)

Are the British REALLY into finding and prosecuting people who pirate software/music/videos?? I found it strange when I got a message from an Music Industry "Representative" based in London for some unauthorized content a user uploaded onto my US based server. Now they're confiscating Firefox CDs??? Is it a big way of making money over there? Try to find people pirating stuff and REPORT THEM! They're nuts.

Not the first time (3, Interesting)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784335)

As having been arrested for picking up litter - I can understand this problem. Police are mmotivated to enforce the status quo, actual facts are too bothersome.
AIK

Re:Not the first time (1)

ThePowerGorilla (930379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784522)

Pardon my ignorance, but how do you get arrested for picking up litter?

Re:Not the first time (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784578)

Litter is British slang for prostitutes.

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784337)

Guess the guy in the UK has no idea that you can take linux, package it yourself, and sell it if ya want...and have been able to for years - because the license pretty much lets ya do it...

But like, it has no effect on anti-piracy laws, because, well, selling copies of Firefox on CD isn't piracy?

LoL

What's a sig? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784338)

And how do I view it?

why? (2, Insightful)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784340)

If they bothered to read the license Mozilla has attached to its products, they wouldn't be so surprised.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784492)

It's been regularly pointed out on /. that there are too many licences for that to work. Every piece of commercial software has a different EULA, they're all long and written in obfuscated language, and it's as unreasonable to expect us to read and understand them as it is to expect the Trading Standards people. If you're expecting a piece of software to be commercial then you ignore the licence.
Free software does a bit better in that usually all you need to do is see "GPL" or "BSD" and you're fine, but there are still too many Free licences too, e.g. Firefox is under the MPL. I've never read the MPL and never intend to. For all I know it could forbid me from distributing Firefox, the only reason I think it doesn't is because it's usually referred to as Free on /..

Re:why? (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784530)

In all honesty, i'd have to admit that i never read it either. By the same assumptions as you i've made my conclusion too. And yes, i normally see either GPL, BSD, or similar and feel 'safe'.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was some line in it saying "Congratulations for reading up to this point. We never thought somebody actually bothered, but you have our deepest respect and gratitude from this moment on." , and nobody would notice it until Firefox 2.0 was released :P

Re:why? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784606)

Any license listed on the Open Source Initiative's Licenses [opensource.org] page is certified to adhere to the Open Source Definition [opensource.org], and the very first item on that list is Free Redistribution. Thus, knowing that the MPL is an OSI-certified Open Source license, you can be sure that it allows you to redistribute MPL software without ever having to read the MPL itself.

Furthermore, Firefox is dual-licensed (GPL/MPL). Since you (probably) know that the GPL allows redistribution, you don't actually need to know whether the MPL allows it or not, since you could simply redistribute it under the GPL's terms instead.

Disclaimer: IANAL and this is not legal advice.

This makes me ashamed to be british. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784342)

How godddamn retarded is that? They've missed the entire point of anti-piracy legislation...

Free Beer (5, Funny)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784350)

Someone should take this guy to the bar and explain it to him over a 'free beer'.....

Re:Free Beer (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784593)

Someone should take this guy to the bar and explain it to him over a 'free beer'.....

The guy you mention from the article is actually a woman. I supposet this is sort of a reverse Crying Game.

WWWillem: "God, that is a relief. I was really attracted to you, and I was hoping it was just the beer..."

This is the sort of messed up situation that causes well adjusted gay men to run screaming for the closet. (Thanks to MST3K for that joke..)

Can I get this job? (1)

Cyphertube (62291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784356)

This sounds like a job wherein I'd never have to use my brain. Is this some kind of civil service position? What are the requirements to get this job? Can I get a work permit if I show that I'm qualified to understand the difference between pirated and simply copied software? (You'd think they'd spend more time cracking down on the people selling on eBay.co.uk, right?)

Then again, I think I'd be quite bored.

Job Requirements (1)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784427)

1. Brain size less than the radius of a CD.
2. Strict adherence to every rule you've ever been told.
3. Ability to correlate carpooling with the end of the automotive industry.
4. Ability to leap to tall conclusions in a single bound.
5. Complete eagerness to swallow everything spewed forth by the BSA.

"When I consider the rules for grammar, I think
        'Any fool can make a rule
          and every fool will follow'."
By some famous poet, I forget his name right now.

All the more reason... (1, Flamebait)

perigee369 (837140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784362)

All the more reason why all this anti-piracy witchhunt should be banished... Governments need to realize that they need to do as the majority wants, not what a select group of rich companies want... My $0.02 worth.

Re:All the more reason... (1)

ryanjensen (741218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784540)

But the majority never should be able to remove the rights of even the smallest minority. In this case, the select group of rich companies have a right to control the distribution of the software they create - that's copyright.

It's like in the US right now: should the majority (religious persons) be able to take away the right of the minority (atheists) to not practice religion? Should the majority (caucasians) be able to take away the rights of the minority (other races) just because they wanted the government to? (not that they do)

eBay also did/does this to some extent (5, Interesting)

iosmart (624285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784368)

A while ago when broadband and CD burners weren't too popular, I tried selling burned Linux CDs on eBay for people with dialup. Within a day or two, they pulled my auctions and said "You can't sell burned CDs of any type on eBay."

Re:eBay also did/does this to some extent (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784423)

As someone who paid for a copy of Mandrake 5, I actually understood the need to pay $5 for a CD... Seemed like a fair purchase to me at the time...

Granted that was when Linux on the desktop sucked balls...

Re:eBay also did/does this to some extent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784440)

They might want to tell that to all the people running literally thousands of auctions for burned CDs that contain scanned, unauthorized copies of product manuals on there. I see them *all* the time...

Re:eBay also did/does this to some extent (1)

kid_oliva (899189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784451)

When you list it as "Burnt Ass Copy of Linux" yeah, they're going to pull it. People sell burnt copies of stuff all the time on Ebay. They explain it in the body what it is and how it is a backup and should only be used as such. Looks like you forgot to eat your Wheaties.

Re:eBay also did/does this to some extent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784538)

people do it all the time...in violation of ebay policy they just are not "caught"

for right or wrong, the ebay policy is extremely simple, NO CDRS of any kind.

And this is why... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784374)

The UK goverment should consider an import blockade on banana's.

Good Lord! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784380)

Those Brits are dumb, aint they?

Go ahead.. Mod me a troll. I'm still laughing!

Re:Good Lord! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784481)

The Brits are dumb, along with every other country that has elected officials making technical decisions. They are not alone in being victimized by irrational laws. For example, the state of Colorado, USA, does not permit the sale of cars or trucks on Sunday. What happens to me if I sign over my car to my GF and date the title on a Sunday?

This is SO funny (3, Funny)

jonbeckett73 (847732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784403)

Does this mean the DTI is going to try and confiscate all boxed copies of Linux for sale in the UK?

Hmm, might have something to do with this (4, Interesting)

sane? (179855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784405)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4740668.s tm [bbc.co.uk]

Looks like someone on high has been told to allocate resources to copyright infringment. You can see how the idea that people can sell things which are free would confuse PC Plod.

Here's hoping they get equally confused with the idea you can buy something, but not be able to do what you want with your property and in consequence arrest the chairman of EMI.

Hilarious... (2, Interesting)

sepluv (641107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784406)

Having experience of TS officers, I know this level of stupidity is more than expected. What surprises me most is that TS actually pursued a complaint. (Actually, they probably thought that MF was a big corp. who would provide them with brown envelopes, which is different from persuing complaints from consumers.)

Also, see Gervase's blog entry [mozillazine.org], and it is also on digg [digg.com].

submitter: RTFA (5, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784407)

The blurb is highly misleading. No CDs were confiscated. Rather, the officer did the right thing: upon uncountering the "suspicious" distributor, he first contacted the copyright owner (the Mozilla Foundation) to ask what gives. In particular, no confiscated CDs had to be returned.

As another poster above points out, the Trading Standards Office should have been able to figure this out by reading the license, but you cannot fault them for going to the people who licensed the software initialy.

Re:submitter: RTFA (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784437)

Implication from TFA is that there may have been confiscation

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).

Re:submitter: RTFA (2, Funny)

Hieronymus Howard (215725) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784574)

upon uncountering the "suspicious" distributor, he first contacted the copyright owner

RTFA yourself:
A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town

response (5, Insightful)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784417)

"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."

Here is the crux, Miss, what is/is not permitted regarding software is entirely a function of the license that is agreed to by the involved parties. There is no blanket set of rules - what one party's license prohibits, another party's license may encourage or require. The 'general advice' you should give to businesses is that they need to read and understand the licenses associated with whatever software that they are involved with (something you apparently had difficulty doing yourself)

I love sensationalism... (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784426)

Anyone notice how "A Trading Standards Officer" has mutated into "UK Government...."

Because stories are more interesting when it's "Entire Government Proved to be Incompetent" and less interesting when the story is "Some Guy/Gal screws up".

Re:I love sensationalism... (1)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784470)

Unless the single person's initials are GWB, then they most definitely sensationalize on the person...

Re:I love sensationalism... (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784587)

Because stories are more interesting when it's "Entire Government Proved to be Incompetent" and less interesting when the story is "Some Guy/Gal screws up".

True - but it's the Government that gave that one person the power to do that. If they allow one person to have that power without safeguards to prevent abuse, then arguably they are still nonetheless responsible.

Language inadequacy... (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784435)

Yet another example of the inadequacy of the english language. The capability to properly differentiate the several contextual meanings of the word "Free", and other such "context-based" words has always been, and always will be a problem.

I am very suprised! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784439)

So even in the UK, which is one of the G8 countries, which means that the UK people are very rich and educated and the country is developed...

It also means that government bodies are well facilitated with knowledge or tools to obtain it. But what do we see?

Ignorance as if we are talking about some third world country! We live in interesting times, don't we?

Re:I am very suprised! (1)

ami-in-hamburg (917802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784609)

C'mon man, just because one lady was a little confused about licensing doesn't mean the whole island sucks!

I don't know where you're from but you don't have to look far in any society to find incompetent gov. worker bees.

Re:I am very suprised! (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784619)

which means that the UK people are very rich and educated and the country is developed..

Yes, but like every other country in the world, educated or otherwise, we have our fair share of people who were dropped on theirs heads as babies who you simply cannot educate much beyond walking, talking, reading and sometimes writing.

Our solution is to give them a job in government.

Bogus article headline (1)

madman101 (571954) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784443)

Nowhere in the article does it say they conficated CD's. They were contacting him BEFORE they took action. While he says they should return any conficated disks, it doesn't say they actually had confiscated any.

And their point is? (1)

Captain Zep (908554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784453)

'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'

So what are they saying? Mozilla shouldn't be allowed to do this?

I wouldn't say that spending five minutes to visit a company web-site to find out whether they permit copying is impractical.

Z.

At least she followed procedure (2, Informative)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784456)

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.

At least she tried to confirm this before running out to arrest people. She may not understand WHY she has to confirm a violation of the licensing agreement... but the fact that she followed the procedure indicates that we aren't all about to be raided for having "pirated" copies of Firefox on our computers.

There is certainly no shortage of dense people in the world. But that's why we have procedures... we say "do this! this way!" And they do... even if it makes them incredulous. Bravo standards-bearers! Bravo.

It's a sad day (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784460)

when the executive branch does not understand, and thus cannot enforce, what the legal branch created. This could probably mean that the laws don't make sense? Just maybe?

It's even sadder to realize that the bullspit around "copying is illegal" appearantly managed to take precendence over actual and factual law in the heads of the executive branch.

eBay, etc. (1)

SteelV (839704) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784461)

Reminds me of all these businesses making money off of selling free software on eBay/websites that I won't add to the pagerank of. It's pretty pathetic, but mostly legal. I think they should figure out a way to change licenses to disallow that type of thing. I know if I told my uncle that FireFox is an amazing program and everyone should have it, there's a good chance he'd go home and pay 15 bucks for it haha.

incorrect headline? (1)

Aqws (932918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784463)

Where is the information you made that summary from? He wrote "we would like her to return any confiscated CDs" or words to that effect. I didn't find that that actually happened.

Slashdot: News for Nerds. Stuff that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784465)

Digg [digg.com] had yesterday

Folks, you really need to sharpen up a bit.

Re:Slashdot: News for Nerds. Stuff that ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784583)

Why? So we can all fit in with the intelligentsia who hang out on Digg?

What the ...? What kind of logic is he using?!! (4, Interesting)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784476)

Will someone please tell me what the hell this is supposed to mean?!

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.

This is one of the most asinine things I've heard in a long time! Just because one piece of software says that it can be distributed even though it's free does not mean that suddenly anti-piracy legislation is unenforceable! In fact, anti-piracy legislation does not even come into play here because there was no piracy going on! Either that quote is being taken way out of context or they are actually trying to say that not being able to prosecute those who copy Firefox means that they won't be able to prosecute those who copy Windows, Photoshop, or other programs that clearly fall under anti-piracy legislation!

In fact, this kind of distribution and marketing has been going on since the Commodore 64 days! Free software would be distributed for about $2 per floppy disk at local computer meets to cover the cost of media and duplication. In fact, that's how a lot of PC shareware got distributed. I used to write some shareware apps that were free to distrubte, just not free to use. I sent disks all over the country to PC user groups with permission to copy and charge a nominal fee for their efforts. I was still getting registration fees a few years after I stopped supporting the software, so that method clearly worked and there was nothing illegal about it. But there certainly would have been laws broken if those user groups tried to do the same with Lotus 1-2-3 or dBase!

Please tell me that I've misunderstood something here!

Now we all know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784480)

where the paste eaters gained employment in the U.K.

Incredulous ignoramus ignores issue (3, Interesting)

Morganth (137341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784482)

"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.

Isn't that something! Maybe you didn't get the memo, but this is how everything works now. Songs play on a radio, but people still buy CDs, because who wants to go recording all the songs. Books are given away for free online, but people pay for the bound version. Artists give tracks away on their website, but people still buy their CDs.

It's called making money off distribution and convenience of medium, rather than off the production of the intellectual property in question. In fact, considering that most software (proprietary or not) has a one-time "production" cost which exists independent of the number of copies distributed. this makes a bit of sense.

The reason we don't mind if people sell copies of Firefox is because the Firefox developers, if they care about the "marketplace" of their product at all (which many developers I'm sure do not), they care only about one thing: more people using the software. If that means Joe in Indiana who only has dial-up and won't download Firefox would rather pay someone $5 for a CD, so be it.

The question asked above shows the general "negative" attitude of the state of our anti-piracy laws. In particular, it seems unfathomable to "let" another company make money off something you give away for free. We're already giving the software away, so how is this in any way a "harm" to us, the developers of the software? We don't "lose" money when another company sells our free product; instead, we simply gain marketshare. Isn't that good enough reason to allow it? Or, put better, wouldn't it be downright silly to disallow it?

I wish more people would sell Firefox. Like, say, Linux machines loaded with Firefox, at Circuit City or Best Buy, for $200 less than the Windows counterparts. Then we'd really be losing money on the OEM deals, us open source developers! We'd have to call the FBI upon all those piraters.

This article is somehow refreshing. Dealing with open source software usually means you see how dark and restrictive the proprietary/commercial world has become.

Actually raises an interesting issue (1)

MemRaven (39601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784485)

In TFA there's a reference to the fact that the trading standards body is responsible, essentially, for letting people know what's allowed and isn't when it comes to duplicating software. Essentially, if you come from a mentality of "all random copied CDs are wrong," then you're not going to easily understand the OSS phenomenon.

But the more interesting thing is honestly that OSS people essentially want everybody to be in the position of:

  • Seeing Random Software CD for sale.
  • Knowing whether the software is under copyright or not.
  • Knowing whether the license allows the Random Seller to sell that CD
before entering into a transaction. Yeah, for common stuff ("Linux") you might have some idea, but what if it's "Flibberty Gibbit v.1.2.1"? What's that? Can you safely buy it? What about "Red Hat Enterprise Linux"? It's got "Linux" in the name, but you can't actually grab the CDs unless you build them yourself (yada yada yada), which means that even "Linux" isn't always safe.

For everybody who reads Slashdot, that should be pretty self-explainatory: you know that it's open source, so it's okay (and you're probably not in the habit of buying software out of the back of a car). But think of someone's mother (probably not your own). Mine knows about OSS software because I used to work for an OSS software company and have her machine fully tricked out with Mozilla stuff, but her friends? They don't have a farking clue. They just know that they've had it drilled into their heads that software costs money, comes with your computer, and if someone's trying to sell you a CD with some software for a price that seems too low, it's probably pirated.

What this essentially indicates to me is that there's a whole separate marketing effort that needs to go on to make sure that society as a whole knows that there is such a thing as OSS software and some people will gladly give you some software, and some won't.

Oh, yeah, and the trading standards people are d00bs for not actually doing a google search on WTF OSS software is before contacting them. Foolios.

I was waiting for this (2, Interesting)

Benanov (583592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784505)

I was waiting for this to happen--when the legal hacks that are Free Software (they're beautiful hacks, too) run head-first into all of the silly laws that the proprietary software industry keeps enacting.

"I'm sorry, we granted permission implicitly to do that..."

It's a beautiful thing.

Now if I could get my luser friends to stop paying for warez by using Free Software, I'd be happy. Maybe I could make them pay for Free Software? :)

Supermarket food-tastings (3, Insightful)

ribuck (943217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784506)

In other news, my local supermarket hosted a free food-tasting session.

The Trading Standards Officer's reply was incredulous: "I can't believe you are giving away food for free. This makes it virtually impossible for the police, from a practical point of view, to catch and prosecute shoplifters."

RTFLA? (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784519)

"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."

It's called reading the license agreement. If a product specifically states that copies of said product are free to be distributed, they're okay.

She just wants the answer to be easier. She wants to say "No," and be done with it.

The Onion is free AND $2.00 at the same time. (1)

eMartin (210973) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784531)

I once had a homeless guy try to sell me a copy of The Onion for a dollar, and I replied "If you are going to charge me for a paper, at least pick one with a price tag" (The Onion is distributed for free around NYC). He smiled, and pointed to the $2.00 pricetag that I'd never even noticed before, and said he was giving me a discount.

Sure, he's probably not alowed to sell it like that, but I gave him the dollar anyway.

The real problem is (3, Funny)

osgeek (239988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784532)

Government official: Must... apply... thought... to... job..... Must... think... *ugh* outside... of... the... box... *gah*.

niggers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14784553)

are inferior mud people. hurricane katrina we thank you!

Misleading summary... (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784555)

There's a shocker! From the article:

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.

Regardless of this one town official's attitude towards Free Software, the fact is that they checked their facts before they did anything. Not only that, but they were savvy enough to check this wasn't some random kook, unlike businesses as Internet-aware as Amazon, who have believed anybody who can register a plausible-sounding Hotmail account is a book author in the past.

The headline reads "UK Government Confiscates Firefox CDs". No CDs were confiscated, this was just a lazy official who thinks telling people "all copying is bad" is easier than explaining the difference between good copying and bad copying.

I find it problematic... (1)

jerryodom (904532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784561)

That a person like this Trading Standards official in question is put in a position to make decisions and communicate with IT companies such as Mozilla. You would think that they'd at least hire people with some knowledge on the subject or have their people educated on the subject? Perhaps they should make reading Slashdot.org for a half hour daily mandatory for all employees?

New Python Skit? (1)

kmahan (80459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784582)

When I first read the article I thought this was a new Python Skit. It sure seems like it. A few tweaks and it would probably be appropriate. Obviously the skit would take things to the logical conclusion of destroying civilization.

So what (1)

FishandChips (695645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784598)

A few things. First off, we aren't told whether the outfit selling the Firefox disks was kosher or whether the disks had come to light as a result of the outfit getting into trouble for genuine offences, in which case Trading Standards would have been remiss not to have followed by all the leads. Second, the lady from Trading Standards had the decency to call and was prepared to listen. In my experience, many branches of government never do either.

Finally, it's rather narrow-minded saying that Trading Standards should have sorted it out themselves by reading the licence. Software licences are a complete maze and open source ones are a maze inside a maze. Even if you're up with the industry it's hard enough to figure them all out and keep track of them. What this probably suggests is that to anyone who isn't a geek open source licences are no different from proprietory ones. Both are incomprehensible, and most folks get a queasy, bad-news feeling at the sight of any kind of legal document.

At least Mr Markham was kinder to the lady from TS than a lot of Slashdot readers would have been. Perhaps some open source gurus could take time off from jetting around the world fulminating against DRM and conduct a few seminars for government agencies to explain exactly what open source licensing means.

Based on a report? (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784602)

The question is: how come the Trading Standards Office was looking at this? Did they do it through their own normal processes, or was it based on a complaint? If the latter, then somebody wasted tax payer's money. And why would they do such a thing?

So... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14784605)

...because I borrowed away my car, the police are unable to enforce laws on car theft? Or because I let people punch me in a boxing ring, we can't enforce laws on violent assault? It's hilariously absurd, are they decendants of Monthy Phyton? Or I could give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they meant to say "If the Mozilla foundation let people sell copies of their software, we're not going to be able to enforce the Mozilla Foundation's copyright. Which is sort of the point of the copyleft licenses. Also, I think all Linux distributors should look out for British police...
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