Undue License

on November 30, 2011 in Science Fiction

“I’d like to issue you a preliminary welcome aboard,” the interviewer said. “Of course, we do have to wait for your genetic screening to come back. Most of the time if someone makes it this far in the interview process, there are no nasty surprises lurking there. The questionnaires catch a lot. But… people slip up. Eat a patent tomato, dump a packet of sweetener in your tea at a restaurant without reading the EULA on the package…”

“Do they even have to put a licensing agreement on the packet anymore?” the applicant asked. “The last time I looked at one, it just said that a copy was available online. I put it back, obviously. I was mostly looking at it out of curiosity.”

“Yes, it’s getting quite scary out there. I’m just glad the Supreme Court stopped them from making their viruses opt-out instead of opt-in,” the interviewer said. “That was an increasingly rare victory for us. One hundred million Americans are now completely incapable of eating anything that hasn’t been genetically modified for the designer bacteria in their stomachs, and a hundred million more have eaten things that enter them into legally binding agreements that preclude the sort of work we do here. It takes an amazing amount of discipline… to say nothing of privilege and opportunity… to go your whole life and eat nothing but the few remaining natural heirloom foods or open-source alternatives in this country. Do you mind if I ask why you made that choice?”

“Well, it’s mostly my parents,” the applicant said. “Though of three children, I’m the only one who stuck with it past middle school, so maybe I shouldn’t give them all the credit. But if they hadn’t made the choices they did for me when I was a child, I’d be out there paying a licensing fee for my lunch, too. I guess that’s part of it. I don’t like the idea that a corporation can own our food. If we don’t own what we put into our bodies, do we own our bodies at all?”

“Exactly,” the interviewer said. “You know, free software proponents used to say they were talking about free as in ‘free speech’ rather than ‘free beer’.”

“That’s an interesting comparison,” the applicant said. “Since you can’t find beer that doesn’t have a binding license on it these days.”

“Yes, well, when’s the last time you saw any free software?” the interviewer said. “Of course, people also used to say ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’ Time has regrettably proven them right.”

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2 Responses to “Undue License”

  1. Schulze says:

    The last time I felt that sick, I just read 1984. Congratulations, you did it…

  2. Brenda says:

    So that’s what I was trying to forget… (I HATED 1984.)

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