Download Squad: Teacher confiscates Linux CDs, claims no software is free

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Rowdy Rob
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This controversial situation is bound to get the whole Linux community up in arms! Here's a link to the "Download Squad" article!

http://www.downloadsquad.com/2008/12/10/teacher-confiscates-linux-cds-cl...

And here's a link to the original "Helios Project" blog that the article refers to, complete with the teacher's original "threatening letter" to "Mr. Starks" of the Helios Project, with his response following! (Very interesting!)

http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2008/12/linux-stop-holding-our-kids-back.html

Rowdy Rob
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Controversy update: Helios Project talks on phone with teacher

I don't frequent Linux forums, but I had to find out what happened next in this situation! It turns out that the incident did indeed explode across the Linux community, and the "Helios Project" blogger (I didn't catch his name) did indeed talk to the teacher in question on the phone.

The result wasn't what you might expect; there apparently was more to the situation than the basic "Teacher confiscates Linux disks." In fact, reading the "Helios" update, you can't help but feel sympathy for the teacher in question. Although she was ignorant of the Linux OS, who (outside of ultra-geeks) isn't? Linux has a long way to go to reach the mainstream public. The "Helios Project" blog author toned down the hostility in the followup article, much to his credit.

Here's the link to the followup on the Helios blog, it's required reading if this topic interested you:

http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2008/12/character-assasinations-aint-us.html

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Matt Barton
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I think this system would be

I think this system would be a great b.s. detector. If a copyright owner insists that a product shouldn't be in the public domain because it is still commercially viable, well, then, sucker, pony up to publish it. If, however, there's no commercial value, then wouldn't it be better off in the public domain than inaccessible and, ultimately, forgotten altogether?

For all intents and purposes, the bulk of 20 year old software (and even 10 year old software) has been abandoned. It's languishing in limbo. I'm tired of the "gray areas" and so on; liberate this stuff that no copyright owner cares about so we can get on with retrogaming!

If a prof doesn't publish he or she may be denied tenure; we call it "publish or perish." I'd like to adapt this for copyright holders--"publish or perish," that is, the copyright perishes and it becomes free for all.

BTW, these are basically ideas from the wonderful book Free Culture. Pick it up if you get a chance; it's even available free online.

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GeneralDebacle (not verified)
Indeed

An excellent idea Matt, of which I totally agree.

The license should always be owned by whoever has the copyright, after 20 years they may either re-release the game or it automatically goes into the public domain. I am sick of ancient games that are atrociously difficult to find, and if you do find them, they are actually illegal to download due to the copyright owners sitting on the license, never doing anything with it. A very odd system indeed.

Matt Barton
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I agree with you, Adamantyr.

I agree with you, Adamantyr. I think people should respect the developer's wishes on these matters. I don't see it as much different than authors of books not wanting their works spread for free online. If they wanted that to happen, they could have released it into the public domain, under a CC license, etc. To me, it cheapens the CC-licensed stuff immensely if we lump it in with pirated stuff. It doesn't show respect to anyone involved.

For example, if you are using a FOSS version of a tool that isn't as good as the commercial version, you may be inspired to improve it yourself (and that is legal). That's the advantage; you can improve it and release it again for others to benefit from. On the other hand, if you don't know how or care to do that, you can buy the commercial product. I suppose you could also pay someone else to do it for you and keep it FOSS, but I haven't heard many stories of that happening; love to know more about that option, though.

One thing I do strongly feel, though, is that copyrights and patents ought to be limited in duration. I think 20 years is plenty long enough for either one of them. If a book is still selling 20 years later, that's great for the author, but 99.9% of books and articles don't last that long. They go out of print, and it gets increasingly hard to find them. This is ten times truer for software.

I think that a game or other piece of software should automatically enter the public domain if it hasn't been published in 20 years. If a publisher re-releases it (say, Sierra's collections), those pieces can stay commercial, but if it's something that hasn't been published in that period it should be free.

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adamantyr
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Free? Well....

I agree the teacher's actions were way out of line. Her approach was wrong, and her attitude is closed-minded and bigoted, to say the least. Not the kind of person I'd want teaching MY children.

But one point she makes was this: "No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful."

Okay, yes, Linux is free to distribute and install. That's fine, I'm cool with that, because the original argument behind it is that operating systems (not software, operating systems) should be free for developers and users. However, a blanket "ALL software should be free" I do not agree with at all.

I work in software development. I like software and computers. I want to make a living doing this work. I can't do that, though, if kids are being taught and shown that software shouldn't cost anything. It DOES cost something. It costs time, both to create and learn how to create it. The money you pay for software is the return that the creators get for it.

There are certainly other forms of free software out there, but there needs to be responsible teaching in classes on the nature of it and why it isn't okay to download licensed products from Torrents. I know even at their worst, Linux supporters don't support piracy of commercial products.

Mark Vergeer
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On the other hand

Can you imagine the scandal - children trading illegal software right under the nose of their teacher who was under the impression that they were just comparing Linux distributions.... ;-)

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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GeneralDebacle (not verified)
Unfortunately...

I am guessing she isn't educated in software? Otherwise she is incredibly arrogant and self righteous about her opinions. Either way, she has lost the respect of her students for such a stupid and ill thought out action.

Mark Vergeer
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Hmmm - obnoxious but....

Don't forget that this teacher is actually quite educated - her education is actually pretty high when you compare it to the general population or blue collor workers. Her knowledge in IT-skills might not even be lacking that much but she is obviously totally unaware of open source software. All her experiences regarding sharing of software is probably all these kiddies playing their nintendo-ds with R4 backup carts and swapping out .nds files
A teacher behaving like this over a student sharing open source software makes you wonder what most other people/the general population thinks about Linux. Perhaps they think it's a scam or they might even think it is a copyright infringement on Windows. All these parallel distributions out there sure are a bit unclear to the untrained IT-eye.
I am just hoping this is just a very ignorant and stupid school teacher in dire need of some continuous edication on the subject.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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Thanks for posting this,

Thanks for posting this, Rob. I shared it on kairsonews!

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