PropertyLeft is to PropertyRight? as CopyLeft is to CopyRight

[image of a Philosophical Gnu]

PropertyLeft is a general method for making an Object Free, and requiring all Modified, Copied and Shared versions of the Object to be Free as well.

The Objects of Physical Sources (apples for instance) are rivalrous, so, unlike Virtual Sources, Physical Sources must have Owners. This means Users need to gain some control over some physical Sources (such as land, water, tools and apple tree) used to make more copies of the Objects they Use.

But all Objects (whether Virtual or Physical) have Physical Sources. You can’t create software without some hardware; movies need cameras, projectors and screens, audio requires microphones and speakers and they all need optical, magnetic or analog media for storage and some kind of power to drive them.

To Use(0) software requires: media to store it, a computer, keyboard, monitor, electricity.

To Modify(1) software requires all of Freedom 0 AND: source-code, editor, compiler.

To Copy(2) software requires all of Freedom 0 AND: new media (maybe just more of your hard-drive) to store the new instance.

To Share(3) software requires all of Freedom 2 AND: network connection to transfer or hardware to burn onto removable media.

PropertyLeft is accomplished as a Contract between Owners that requires every new User be offered controlling Ownership in the investment and upkeep for the Sources needed to create more Copies of that same Object in the amount that User pays above Cost calculated for that round of production. All that is usually calculated as Profit is now offered to the User as an investment on his behalf, with the requirement that he also abide by the terms of the GeneralPublicLaw? with respect to those holdings.

In this way, Object Users become Owners of physical Sources at a rate determined directly by their demand, as paying Cost is a measure of current demand, and paying Profit is a rough measure of future demand, as is the User’s desire to grow, so becomes his own investment in more Sources of that kind.

Definitions within the context of this document

The simplest way to make physical Source open is to put it in a public place, unprotected. This allows people to share the Objects of that Source and their improvements, if they are so minded. But it also allows uncooperative people to take more of the Objects than they pay to maintain the Sources or they may Own and organize many Sources, but might hold them and their Objects proprietary, away from users for the purpose of profit. They may disallow others from ever using Sources of those Objects, or they may make changes, many or few, and distribute the resulting Objects as a proprietary product. People who want to use the Object or a modified form do not have the Freedom that the original Owner gave; the middleman has stripped it away.

In the GNU project, our aim is to give all users the freedom to use GNU Objects. If middlemen could strip off the freedom, we might have many users, but those users would not have freedom. So instead of putting a GNU Object in the public domain, we property left it. Property left says that anyone who uses the Object, with or without changes, must pass along those Freedoms. Property left guarantees that every User has freedom.

Property left also provides an incentive for Owners and Workers to add to free sources.

Property left also helps investors of money or effort who want to contribute improvements to Free Objects get permission to do that. These investors often work for companies or universities that would do almost anything to get more profit. An investor may want to contribute her changes to the community, but her employer may want to turn the changes into a proprietary product.

When we explain to the employer that it is illegal to distribute the improved version except as a free Object, the employer usually decides to release it as a free Object rather than throw it away.

To property left an Object, we first state that it is Owned; then we add use and distribution terms, which are a legal instrument that gives everyone the rights to Use, Modify, Copy and Share the Object or any Object derived from it but only if the distribution terms are unchanged. Thus, the Use and the Freedoms become legally inseparable.

Proprietary owners use property rights to take away the users’ freedom; we use property rights to guarantee their freedom. That’s why we reverse the terms, changing property right into property left.

Property left is a general concept; there are many ways to fill in the details. In the GNU Project, the specific distribution terms that we use are contained in the GNU GeneralPublicLaw?. The GNU GeneralPublicLaw? is often called the GNU GPL for short.

This law is designed so that you can easily apply it to your own objects, assuming you are the owner. You don’t have to modify the law to do this, just include a copy of the law in or on the object, and add notices in or on the sources of that object that refer properly to the law.

Using the same terms for many different objects makes it easy to various different objects in harmony. Since they all have the same terms, there is no need to think about whether the terms are compatible.

[image of a Philosophical Gnu]

We maintain this Free Source definition to show clearly what must be true about a particular Object for it to be considered Free.

The Object (the objective, output or goal of use) of any Sources is, at some other time, and in some other way, a Source in the creation of new Objects. All Objects are Sources, and all Sources are Objects; they are separated by time.

Free Source is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of Free as in free speech, not as in free beer.

Free Source is a matter of the Users’ freedom to Use, Modify, Copy and Share any Object of that Source. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the Objects of the Free Source:

An Object has Free Sources if users have all of these freedoms. Thus, you should be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere. Being free to do these things means (among other things) that you do not have to ask or pay for permission.

You should also have the freedom to make modifications and use them privately in your own work or play, without even mentioning that they exist. If you do publish your changes, you should not be required to notify anyone in particular, or in any particular way.

Owners who share the Objects of a Free Source give Users the option to buy ownership toward the investment or maintenance in another Source of that type when growth is needed. This investment is automatic for any price paid above cost (what would regularly be called profit), as it is a rough measurement of that User’s vulnerability.

Most Sources have many potential Objects. For example, the Objects of a nut tree include:

Nuts for food and oil.
Wood for fuel and building.
Shield from the sun and wind.

Some Objectives are exclusive to others, so that some decisions about how the source is used will hinder or stop the other Objectives. If you eat a handful of nuts, you cannot also use those same nuts to make a bar of soap. Composting wood excludes it from being made into paper or heating your home.

Source Owners decide which Objectives to meet by controlling how the Source is used. When the Source has more than one owner those decisions should consider the divisibility of the Source and be weighted by the % of shares held by each party.

One important way to modify an Object is by merging in available parts and techniques. If an agreement says you cannot treat the Object in this way, such as if it requires you to be the private owner of anything you add, then the contract is too restrictive to qualify as free.

In order for these freedoms to be real, they must be irrevocable as long as you do nothing wrong; if a portion of the Source owners have the power to revoke access to your divisible portion, without your doing anything to give cause, the Source is not free.

However, certain kinds of rules about the manner of distributing free objects are acceptable, when they don’t conflict with the central freedoms. For example, Property Left (very simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the Object of a Free Source, you cannot add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.

You may have paid money to get copies of free objects, or you may have obtained copies at no charge. But regardless of how you got your copies, you always have the freedom to copy and change those objects, even to sell copies.

Free Source does not mean non-commercial. A free source must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. Commercial development of free objects is no longer unusual; such free commercial objects are very important.

Free Source means non-proprietary, because proprietary hinders progress by privatizing property for profit instead of public for prosperity. Freedom is increased when some owners choose to hold some property free.

Ownership of virtual material (such as software, genetics, design) beyond the preservation of privacy and freedom has doubtful merit. The more common use of ownership over virtual material is to enforce artificial scarcity to collect usury.

When talking about free hardware, it is best to avoid using terms like give away or for free, because those terms imply that the issue is about price, not freedom. Some common terms such as piracy embody opinions we hope you won’t endorse.

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