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Re: [ba-ohs-talk] Re: Rethinking Licensing

Eric Armstrong wrote:
> These are all valid objections that need to be overcome. I am merely
> putting forth the proposition that if a system *did* do these things
> (overcoming the objections noted above in the process) then it would
> produce a highly viable software ecosystem with high levels of
> publishing and reuse, the ready availability of usable code, and the
> potential for making a living as well, or at least paying for the computer
> system that one had to have to connect to the web and develop the
> software.    (01)

Perhaps one issue here is you imagine yourself personally benefiting
from such a system.    (02)

Consider the system you propose the standpoint of Microsoft owning it
(say by licensing it from Stanford after you develop it for free in this
forum), and Microsoft putting in most of the code it serves up (heavily
promoted by advertising), with Microsoft's position all protected by
copyrights and patents on both the code and the business model. Would
you still want to use it?     (03)

If Microsoft owned the system, would you still be able to work in the
computer profession at all without vomiting? "Sorry, but our IT budget
mostly goes to pay Microsoft code micropayments, not much money for
customization anymore, we just run our business the way Microsoft thinks
we should as reflected by their codebase. Besides, if we didn't just do
it the Microsoft way, we'd be sued for patent infringement, so we have
no other realistic choice. And sorry, we know you have put code in
there, but it just wouldn't be safe or cost effective for us to do use
it as we'd have to hire a patent lawyer to review it first, and we know
we're safe with the Microsoft code."    (04)

If you do develop such a system and it works, how long before Microsoft
owns it?
Even if you make a pile of money, is this the world you want?    (05)

Do you really want to focus your personal energies on a system you could
easily be shut out of?    (06)

> Fundamentally, my observation is that "software is free" is only true
> with respect to reproduction costs. With respect to development,
> and maintenance, it takes time. And people have to eat.    (07)

Is the law free? Yes. 
Are lawyers well paid? Yes.    (08)

Is medical knowledge free? Yes.
Are doctors well paid? Yes.    (09)

Is most code free? No.
Are most programmers paid as much as doctors and lawyers? No.    (010)

There isn't enough in this little set of statements to reach a
definitive conclusion, but this situation does tend to show that
programmers might be better off financially if code was free. Note I
said "programmers" -- not necessarily most existing for-profit
corporations, some of whom might make more than doctors and lawyers per
employee (not evenly distributed though).    (011)

> On the other hand, I have few irons in the fire aimed at removing the
> need to eat and the need for housing as major obstacles to the kind
> of nirvana we would like to enjoy. They'll take anywhere from 40 to
> 100 years to pan out, though, so for the majority of us, making a
> living will still be a necessity for quite a while!    (012)

In the novel" the Diamond Age", set I think a few decades from now,
there are public nanotechnology matter replicators on the streets you
can go up to for food or to ask for something like a blanket or simple
tent. One issue is, you need to pay somehow for more complicated things
(presumably due to patents and copyrights and keeping the feed going?)
and who needs much manual labor? Also, where will you put your free tent
if you don't own land? And if you do own land, how will you pay the
taxes on it to keep it? Big theme in the book is breaking out of the
hierarchical control over these systems and the stratified class based
society reflected there. (By the way, turns out some highly paid people
in that society make antique goods from wood and stuff by hand -- just
like some do in ours now. Might be a good profession for a programmer to
have, just in case.)    (013)

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com    (014)