D. J. Bernstein

Internet reader's rights

Some people think that every Internet user is a copyright violator. Downloading a document means making a copy of it, they say; and copying generally isn't legal without the author's permission. They argue about whether making material available through FTP or HTTP or USENET grants some sort of ``implied license'' to download the material---or whether an author can demand payment for the reader's copies.

Other people advocate a much simpler theory. When an author tells his FTP server to send a document to anyone who asks, he is the one making copies. In legal jargon, the author's command to the computer is the ``proximate cause'' of the copying. The reader is merely requesting a copy, not making it.

I don't know which of these theories will succeed in court. I also don't think you should have to care. So I promise I won't sue you for copyright violation for downloading documents from my server.

Does it bother you that this should even be an issue? Check out Richard Stallman's essay on The Right to Read.