John Deere and General Motors have both claimed this year to own a copyright on the software installed on the vehicles we buy from them and that as such, while we own the vehicle we are restricted in our rights toward it.
I was told as a kid that there is one true test of ownership for your property: are you legally allowed to harm, modify or destroy your property without external consequences? If so, you own that property. If not, then it’s not really your property.
For example, paper and coin money isn’t really your property since you are not legally allowed to destroy it in most countries. Your pets aren’t really your property since (hopefully) you are not allowed to harm them (but you can have them euthanized if they suffer to much).
Let’s apply that test on the data contained in the database system hosted at Talossa.ca. Who truly owns it?
That’s a real and pressing question now that it has become clear that I will not be able to be named a civil servant to be in charge of maintaining it while at the same time, being Secretary of State.
You see, I have repeatedly mentioned my desire to have my database nationalized on the express cost of having me nominated as the official in charge of its maintenance, until I am fired for incompetence or resign.
Everything seems calm for now since I am both SoS and Database Administrator, but not all is quiet on the western front…
First and foremost, I am not immortal. I might one day just disappear from the face of the Earth and find out once and for all which religion is right. If the database isn’t nationalized by then, it will most likely disappear.
But before talking about nationalizing the database, let’s see if the database is my property or the Chancery’s property.
To everyone including me, it is clear that the data contained in the database is partly the property of the Chancery. While the Secretary of State is restricted in what he can modify and destroy by law, if a bill is to be removed from our records, the Secretary of State is the only person allowed to modify the Clark records so I would feel rather confident that most of the data in the database belongs to the Chancery.
Are the data and the database synonymous? Not at all. The Secretary of State, unless he is also the DB admin, cannot delete a report from the database and cannot modify the structure of the existing reports. Some of the content (such as user passwords) do not even belong in the hand of the Chancery and rest firmly in the hands of the database administrator.
The SoS can possibly change the content of the reports, but not the way the reports are compiled or how the data is stored and therefore, the Secretary of State doesn’t in any capacity (and shouldn’t, in my humble opinion as the database serves as a technical balance and check on the powers of the SoS) own the database, even if he owns part of the data.
So, does the Database administrator own the database?
Let’s evaluate that using three tests:
Am I allowed to harm the database? I could, if I really wanted to, add diminishing features like delays, banner ads and mandatory surveys. I am pretty sure outrage would quickly spark up but in the end, there isn’t much the Kingdom could do directly. Granted, it would severely harm my own reputation, but burning your car in your driveway would brand you as a lunatic in the eyes of your neighbours, too.
Am I allowed to modify the database? Absolutely and I do so regularly and even post my updates in a thread on Wittenberg. I do not need to ask permission from anyone and do not have to report to anyone, even back when Iusti was Secretary of State. It’s my own sandbox.
And so, let me finish with the most pressing and disturbing fact. The database is still around because, year after year between 2004 and 2013, I made the conscious decision to keep it around. At any twists and turns during those 9 years, there was plenty of occasions during which the database could have been lost in the same way my last Wittenberg (from the Republic of Talossa) was lost when it’s server crashed and in the panic, didn’t save it from the (since then lost) server backups.
As uncomfortable as is may be, we have full records from years of actual database operation which exist today only because I didn’t exercise my right as its owner to destroy it.
Isn’t it time that this change? Isn’t time that the database become recognized as a landmark in Talossan history and become our common property?
I’ll be waiting for the call that’s over fourteen years late.