Richard Stallman, GNU philosopher and father of the free software movement recently wrote an article about how the copyright reforms which by the Swedish Pirate Party want would damage free software. Stallman quite rightly argues that shortening the term of copyright to five years would cause copyleft protected source code to fall into the public domain, where it would be snapped up by proprietary software developers and embedded into non-free software, removing the freedoms which free software aims to protect.
The same wouldn’t apply the other way, companies could keep their source code a secret and unless leaked, it would never enter the public domain. rms proposes two solutions, firstly that the term of copyright be extended for free software. Piratpartiet don’t like this idea, for the obvious reason that it causes copyright to be extended for a special case, and I agree with them. His second solution is to put the source into an escrow, after copyright expires the source code is released. I don’t like this either, it means a separate government body for each country which looks after the source code, and if I submit obfuscated source then nobody will find out until five years later.
My solution is simpler. Copyright is supposed to be a short term monopoly given to authors, after which time the public reap the rewards in the form of new works in the public domain. This doesn’t apply to precompiled binaries, after 5 years binaries are out of date and next to worthless. Even if the term of copyright was 25 years from publication, binaries from the 8-bit days are only useful today if you want to play Chuckie Egg on your mobile phone.
So, I think we should remove copyright protection from any binaries which are released without source code. If authors want the privilege of a monopoly over the computer programs they publish, then they must also publish the source code.
Combined with a shorter copyright term this may kill copyleft, but granting more freedoms across the board is IMO better than restricting freedoms in order to protect them.