(K) All Rites Reversed

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All Rites Reversed

"Don't worry about anyone stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."

-- Howard Aiken

I, Peter Hartley, wrote these, my home pages, and the software accessible from them. Under the laws of England and every other country I know of, this gives me the right to put my name to them, and withholds that right from everyone else unless I choose to bestow it. If someone else made a copy of InterGif, removed my name from all over it, replaced it with theirs, and distributed the program further as an example of how cool they were, they'd be doing a wrong thing -- and I think most people would agree with the law on that one.

When restrictions make no sense

But the laws of England and many other countries give me an additional, unrelated right. They would allow me to give you -- or even sell you -- a copy of the program, and yet prohibit you from giving further copies away to your friends! This "copy right" can, and does, lead to the absurd situation in which a simple copy command -- a command built into every sensible operating system -- can become a criminal act. Some even speak of this act as a "theft" from the program's authors, even though it has removed from them no physical property (the act can take place hundreds of miles from their homes, and without them even noticing) and no intellectual property either (the new copy still contains the original authors' names).
I believe it would be morally untenable to exercise this "copy right", in just the same way as I choose for moral reasons not to exercise another right English law gives me: that of killing foxes for fun.
These pages, and these pieces of software, do not have the "©" or "(C)" symbol or any other invocation of copy right attached to them. They contain instead the or (K) symbol and the words "All Rites Reversed", indicating that no unrealistic restrictions are placed on your use and your friends' use of them. Copy what you like; use it for what you like. Just give me due credit. (As I understand it, you're in fact legally obliged to give me due credit. But that shouldn't be why you're doing it!)

When restrictions do make sense

No information in these pages is of a personally damaging (to me) or nationally damaging (to England) nature. These two cases (and the latter only dubiously) are the only ones I can think of where a restriction on copying would make sense -- but of course, I would only reveal personally damaging information to individuals I personally trusted anyway, whether in an electronic or oral form. If I didn't personally trust them, I'd make them sign a contract saying they wouldn't pass on the information, and I think they'd appreciate the reason for that.
If, on the other hand, I was making someone I didn't know sign such a contract regarding a certain piece of information for the sole reason that I could then make more money by signing similar contracts with other people I didn't know, then I'd hope that person would be a little disgusted. Perhaps not too disgusted to refuse to sign, exclaiming that the information wasn't worth that (some information, sadly, just isn't available in other ways) -- but, I hope, left with a nagging nasty taste anyway.

"But how can you be sure of me?"

Now, I have your signature on no contract; for some readers of these words, I haven't even ever met you. I'm having to trust you anyway not to thieve my intellectual property from me by passing off these words or programs as your own. It would be logistically extremely difficult to ensure, whether by legal or technical means, that intellectual property rights were not infringed.
But on the whole, I do trust you. You might turn out to be a rogue, but at least I've acquitted myself: by trusting you, I've not made myself a rogue. Trusting people is not necessarily the Correct Answer (some people, such as John Lennon, have had worse crimes than theft committed against them because of it) but it is at least the Right Answer.
Having read this document, you get no prizes for working out that I've read the GNU Manifesto. But I believe that exercising copyright means war, and in any war (to "copy" shamelessly the conclusion to the film War Games) the only winning move is not to play.