Free Software is Principled


Free Software is Principled

I recall, several years back now, being in some sort of forum somewhere arguing over the implementation of anti-circumvention legislation in Australia.  I recall Rusty Russell talking about ghostscript’s [?] handling of pdf documents at the time and how it respected restrictions settings in the pdf documents.  That is, despite being able to ignore them, ghostscript’s authors decided to respect them.   In practice that would mean that most ghostscript users would also respect those settings.

By way of contrast, today, looking for information about pdf to text conversion tools I came across closed source software whose primary purpose is apparently to remove restrictions from pdf files.  In my experience free software is typically more principled than its closed source counterparts – perhaps stupidly so.

2 Responses to “Free Software is Principled”


  1. 1 Brad Hards 11 March 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Possibly Okular (and its underlying poppler libs, or xpdf), not ghostscript?

    Okular allows you to turn it off this DRM support at either compile time or runtime. The plan here is to cover cases where the desktop environment is locked down (using the “Kiosk” framework), and the person doing the lockdown disables reconfiguring it.

    As a real-world case of where this is useful (ignoring the “Principle” issue for a moment):

    Think about an aircraft maintenance technician who is provided a tablet with the current maintenance procedures. The only updates are to the copies on the tablet, and we always want them to use the latest version of those procedures, not a copy they printed off back in the office and shoved in the toolbox. However we do want them to be able to complete and print another form document they’ve filled in that records what work they’ve done. So we set the “don’t print” bit in files that are supposed to be the authoritative procedures, and don’t set it on the form.

  2. 2 brendanscott 12 March 2010 at 5:59 pm

    It would have been, like, 2004 – before Okular.


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