April 15, 2006  ·  Lessig

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Yochai Benkler’s book, The Weath of Networks, is out. This is — by far — the most important and powerful book written in the fields that matter most to me in the last ten years. If there is one book you read this year, it should be this. The book has a wiki; it can be downloaded as a pdf for free under a Creative Commons license; or it can be bought at places like Amazon.

Read it. Understand it. You are not serious about these issues — on either side of these debates — unless you have read this book.

  • http://www.xanga.com/edg176 tim fong

    Prof. Lessig,

    Thanks for the heads up. So awesome that they make this available in PDF with the CC License.

  • http://none.com Simon Pole

    Maybe someone on the wiki can translate this book into English.

    After wading through the introduction, I’d rather read a Lessig book on this subject without the jargon.

  • http://www.lexferenda.com Daithi

    Thanks – I didn’t know this was on the way. As for jargon, it reads very like Manuel Castells, who is heavy going at first, but still interesting. I recently took a course in media transformation as part of a social sciences programme (my actual degree is in law) and returned to read some of the network-society literature, and while it didn’t really change my reading of the arguments, it made it easier to digest large chunks of sociology-isms. That said, also having only read the introduction, he deals with the techno-determinism question (for example) fairly head on. I’m intrigued that a book in such a style was written by a law prof; it’s very consciously (to me) in the socio-legal idiom (and more likely to be catalogued with cultural studies than with communications law…). Incidentally, Prof. Lessig, we had a similar discussion in the library I work in about where The Future Of Ideas should be shelved! (Answer: 301.24 – social change, technology and society, etc).

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Me three – I skimmed a bit of it, and part of my reaction was musing again that law/policy folks use a lot of verbiage to state some concepts that are much simpler and clearer if one is allowed to use mathematical phrasing. But if that’s the idiom, and it communicates to the, err, producing peer-group, who am I to object to that subculture’s style?

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Here’s a small example, from page 246.

    “By midweek, after initially stoking the fires of support for Davis’s boycott, Marshall had stepped back, and Davis’s site became the clearing point for reports, tactical conversations, and mobilization. Davis not only was visible, but rather than being drowned out by the high-powered transmitter, TalkingPoints, his relationship with the high-visibility site was part of his success. This story alone cannot, of course, “refute” the power law distribution of network links, nor is it offered as a refutation. It does, however, provide a context for looking more closely at the emerging understanding of the topology of the Web, and how it relates to the fears of concentration of the Internet, and the problems of information overload, discourse fragmentation, and the degree to which money will come to dominate such an unstructured and wide-open environment. It suggests a more complex story than simply “the rich get richer” and “you might speak, but no one will hear you.” In this case, the topology of the network allowed rapid emergence of a position, its filtering and synthesis, and its rise to salience. Network topology helped facilitate all these components of the public sphere, rather than undermined them.”

    Shorter: “A high-attention individual can direct audience to a low-attention individual. So a little mouse on the bottom *can* be heard *if* a big elephant trumpets him”. (OK, I started getting sarcastic).

    Once more, whatever works, I guess.

  • Lessig

    Ok, just understand the genre. This is an academic book, published by Yale Press. It is written to advance a debate that reaches across law, economics, and a bit of social theory. One can wonder whether academic debates are anything more than, well, academic. As an academic, I’m not permitted that thought. But anyone can understand this with a bit of effort, and again, it is worth all the effort in the world. And also, it is worth the attention to Yale Press, which has allowe Yochai to make the book available as a pdf as well as pricing it as a trade book. This is good on three levels.

  • http://atulchitnis.com Atul Chitnis

    (sigh)

    I wish it wasn’t always just PDF, but some format that would allow the efficient conversion of the material into some other format – in my case into a Palm ODA-compatible format lie PalmDOC or Plucker…

    I could of. course, scrape the wiki HTML and then convert it to whatever format I want, but that kind of kills the enthu.

    IAC, am ordering the book from Amazon.

  • three blind mice

    the book will be worth the effort it will take to read it.

    professor lessig is, however, being generous when he says anyone can understand this. that’s not really true. in any single dimension this subject matter is challenging, but when considered across multiple dimensions (legal, economic, social, etc) this is VERY hard to grasp. for anyone in 2006 to say or pretend that they understand all of this is simply ridiculous.

    benkler is a powerhouse and it will be interesting to see how he manages in this book. borrowing his title from adam smith seems a bit much though.

  • http://www.crookedtimber.org Henry Farrell

    It’s one of the most important books I’ve read in the last several years – not only for people who are interested in the politics of IT, but people interested in left/liberal politics more generally. Benkler does an excellent job of laying out how these new technologies offer possibilities for the kinds of things that lefties have traditionally been interested in, without necessarily invoking the state. And as for technical language/verbiage – a certain level of academese is necessary if you want to make your weight felt in debates that are typically dominated by law-and-economics types. Benkler does a great job in articulating why important facets of productive life aren’t captured by current ways of thinking – and in order to do this, he really has to go back to first principles and institutional economics. Mebbee I’m completely degenerated from overexposure to social scientific texts, but it seemed to me that Benkler was admirably clear in laying out his claims when compared to most of the competition. None of which is to say that the book is perfect – but it is where future debates should be starting from.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Oh, I think the book can be understood by average readers if they want to make the effort. The question is, though, how many people who aren’t legal academics or similar would find it worthwhile to make that effort, to plough through 500+ pages of jargonistic prose (which isn’t a criticism of the book – per above, it is what it is).

    I can see how it will be a major force in the academic debate, and certainly deserves to be regarded as a blockbuster on those terms.

    But I found the part I looked at rehashing much that had already been, well, deeply experienced at the activist level. For example, page 247:

    “Developments in network topology theory and its relationship to the structure of the empirically mapped real Internet offer a map of the networked information environment that is indeed quite different from the naive model of “everyone a pamphleteer.” To the limited extent that these findings have been interpreted for political meaning, they have been seen as a disappointment–the real world, as it turns out, does not measure up to anything like that utopia. However, that is the wrong baseline. There never has been a complex, large modern democracy in which everyone could speak and be heard by everyone else. The correct baseline is the one-way structure of the commercial mass media. The normatively relevant descriptive questions are whether the networked public sphere provides broader intake, participatory filtering, and relatively incorruptible platforms for creating public salience.”

    Yeah, yeah. This is a standard blog-evangelism argument (I call it “Best. Lottery. Ever.”). When you say, look, there’s a tiny number of voices with big megaphones, and everyone else is “conversing” with the crickets, one answer is “But if the MSM-heard lottery is 1 in million, the blog-heard lottery is *two* in a million. THAT’S TWICE AS MUCH!!! It’s *better*. Little z-lister shouting to the wind, the baselines isn’t that you’re actually heard much, it’s if the lottery has better odds (even if it’s still 99.999% lose everything)”. (I’m getting sarcastic again).

    Then he goes on for pages making the same comparative argument that happens in many discussions of that sort – roughly, there’s not just the general A-list, there’s also specialist sites. Well, there’s not just the MSM either, there’s tons of niche publications and journals.

    I also found that “relatively incorruptible platforms” bit almost ludicrous, given how much noise there’s been recently regarding using blogs as a pretext to destroy campaign finance regulation (err, excuse me, I meant to say “the jack-booted FEC trying to regulate the free First Amendment political speech of citizen-journalists”).

    I realize I’m on dangerous ground here, and at a certain level, it’s brilliant book. But at a different level, there’s plenty of beautiful theories slain by ugly facts.

  • http://www.podtech.net John Furrier

    Coases Penguin was a great piece of work and now I’m sure the wealth of networks will be a smashing success and total game changer!

    Thanks for blogging about it

    John

  • http://ibiblio.org/pjones/blog Paul Jones

    James Boyle and I have an on-going joke (on-going 10 years now) about his similar in some ways Shamans, Software and Spleens. I assigned the brand new book to a class of Masters students and one constantly complained about the number of footnotes.
    When I had Jamie visit my class, I introduced him as having written a great book even if about 1/4 of it was footnotes.
    Now each time I mention Jamie’s book around him, he reminds me that we may not have made much progress on the creation of the knowledge society, but at least we now how even more footnotes!
    What does this have to do with Benkler’s book? I see only 15 pages of notes in a book of about 475 pages! My former student will likely be delighted. And although I like Seth’s rewrites, I find the book readable as an academic press book from which other more popular books will use as a great resource.

  • three blind mice

    It seems passe today to speak of “the Internet revolution.” In some academic circles, it is positively naıve. But it should not be. The change brought about by the networked information environment is deep. It is structural. It goes to the very foundations ofhow liberal markets and liberal democracies have coevolved for almost two centuries. (p. 13)

    good. benkler knows the water is deep.

    This widely held explanation of the economics of information production has led to an understanding that markets based on patents or copyrights involve a trade-off between static and dynamic efficiency. That is, looking at the state of the world on any given day, it is inefficient that people and firms sell the information they possess. (p 37)

    AAARRRGGGGHHHH!

    there is the production of content and there is the distribution of content. copyright hinders the latter so that the former may function in accordance with the basic rules of capital markets. that is, looking at the state of the world on any given day, from the point of view of the producer of content, it is always efficient that people and firms sell the information they possess.

    From the perspective of a society’s overall welfare, the most efficient thing would be for those who possess information to give it away for free or rather, for the cost of communicating it and no more.

    no, no, and maybe, say the mice. from the perspective of the distributor/consumer, yeah, this might be true, but from the perspective of a society’s overall welfare (a society that we assume includes authors and astists and encourages the production of content) this is marxist kum-bah-yah.

    On any given day, enforcing copyright law leads to inefficient underutilization of copyrighted information.

    on any given day, enforcing copyright law leads to
    inefficient distribution – not underutilization – of copyrighted information. protecting the market value of the information through copyright is efficient utiisation – on any given day, integrated over time, or on rye with mustard.

    However, looking at the problem of information production over time, the standard defense of exclusive rights like copyright expects firms and people not to produce if they know that their products will be available for anyone to take for free.

    yeah, but benkler’s not been looking at the problem of information production. he’s been looking at the problem of distribution and confusing it with production. this is where, in our view, the commons-ist stumble and fall every time: viewing the original, creative expressions of others as “language” in a larger dialogue and then placing a greater value on this larger dialogue than the individual expressions.

    this isn’t freedom for artists and authors: it is the tyranny of mob rule.

    In order to harness the efforts of individuals and firms that want to make money, we are willing to trade off some static inefficiency to achieve dynamic efficiency.

    the total efficiency always dynamic. the basic tradeoff is between encouraging those who produce and those who distribute. in one dimension, these axes are largely orgthogonal. in other dimensions – like say the creation of mash-ups – they project on each other. the problem is hugely complicated. oversimplifying it to static and dynamic misses the point and wraps it in rhetorical language of motion.

    That is, we are willing to have some inefficient lack of access to information every day, in exchange for getting more people involved in information production over time.

    this is 100 percent correct and a surprising conclusion given the marshall mcluhan reasoning at the beginning. of course, it is hugely unfair to professor benkler for us to pluck out a paragraph and deconstruct is thusly. but it is fun!

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Also, Henry, regarding “… laying out how these new technologies offer possibilities for the kinds of things that lefties have traditionally been interested in, without necessarily invoking the state.” I have a saying – Punditry Is Not Democracy.
    More deeply:

    Popularity Data-Mining Businesses Are Not A Model For Civil Society

    Some of the lessons learned from these businesses are, in my view, exactly the wrong lessons needed for a pluralistic democracy, where you cannot simply ban the minority of the population which isn’t profitable. Unfortunately, and maybe self-provingly, that is not a popular position.

  • http://libreria.sourceforge.net/library/The_Wealth_of_Networks/contents.html LuYu

    I have created an HTML version of the book. It can be found at:

    http://libreria.sourceforge.net/library/The_Wealth_of_Networks/contents.html

    This is only a preliminary version as working with post-PDF text is always painful. I hope to have something more passable in the next few days. The current version has images that display nicely on my phone and are linked to larger versions for easy reading on a monitor. I have also HTMLized the tables in chapter 2 and chapter 11.

    The remaining problems are mostly misplaced headers or paragraphs that break in strange ways because of PDF’s horrid practice of reimplimenting pages in the digital world and, of course, those awful hyphens (useless things, really).

    If you have any comments about the book or my website, use the contact page there.

  • ACS

    there is the production of content and there is the distribution of content. copyright hinders the latter so that the former may function in accordance with the basic rules of capital markets. that is, looking at the state of the world on any given day, from the point of view of the producer of content, it is always efficient that people and firms sell the information they possess.

    Mice you are completely right in that regard.

    I have a more prosaic criticism of the freedom of information over commercial sale of information viewpoint.

    It is obvious that without protection of information there is little income for the work skill and labour used to prepare or compile that information. Thus the effect of free information is two fold.

    Firstly the quality of work decreases because economic resources cannot be diverted towards the preparation of that information (IE rather than survey data or experimental data a person will use ‘reason’ to justify a work [and as an internet citizen you probably know what sort of crazy ideas result]).

    At the same time the stream of free information competes with the stream of commercial information which will inevitably result in decreased patronage of the commercial stream because of the economic benefits to consumers of accessing free (and possibly unverified, unstable or misleading information).

    On this basis there is less income derived from the sale of information to fund the next sets of data, works etc and the system which propelled (western) civilisation starts to erode. ["Its the thin end of the wedge!!!" as Sir Humphrey would say].

    Secondly a large group of people that will engage in a field are those that will do so solely for their own pleasure or out of altruistic intent (and we all know how many of those there are!!). This certainly won’t increase the value of information available in comparison to a commercial and disciplined stream of informaiton.

    The economic system of information production and distribution is based on the best person for the job taking up that job because they can maximize thier personal benefit. It does not work when people are taking up a job (possibly without the proper capabilities) because they enjoy it.

    The concept behind freedom of access to knowledge is that society will gain from the best ideas flowing to the surface. It is certain that the darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ model works in biology but with respect to knowledge creation and exchange it is ‘survival of the most popular’. They are not the same.

  • http://libreria.sourceforge.net/library/The_Wealth_of_Networks/contents.html LuYu

    Okay, I have updated the book significantly. As of now, all of the tables are as correctly formatted as they can be in HTML.

    All of the images are inculded with large and small versions, except the cover.

    Most of the formatting is correct including section headers, subsection headers, and italicised categorical words at the beginnings of paragraphs (when reading the book you will come to understand what that means).

    The table of contents is still broken in that the macrosections (ie: Part One, etc.) are at the bottom of the list, and not in sequential order. Neither do the “Next Chapter” and “Previous Chapter” links work for the macrosection pages. This is a difficult problem to solve, and I currently have better things to do. I may or may not get to it next week.

    Many paragraphs still break in odd places, and I have not moved the tables out of the middles of paragraphs. Fixing the former would be a monumental task of checking every paragraph. The latter also may or may not be done next week.

    Having said all that, the book is once again here:

    http://libreria.sourceforge.net/library/The_Wealth_of_Networks/contents.html

    I have also created a compilable version, but it does not include the latest version of the text file. I will update that later, but for now, here it is:

    http://libreria.sourceforge.net/wealthofnetworks.html

    Once again, if there are any comments or questions, please use the contact page.

  • Adrian Lopez

    Wish the PDF didn’t have those printer markings.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    By the way, one additional failing of most academic analysis I’ve seen, is that it tends to ignore the fact that these system are NOT pure. Often behind the scenes someone has their thumb on the scales. Latest accusation:

    “Digg Corrupted: Editor’s Playground, not User-Driven Website”
    http://forevergeek.com/news/digg_corrupted_editors_playground_not_userdriven_website.php

    “Digg as an idea is fantastic. As a system of disseminating news without having to wait for editors it is amazing. But it seems to be suffering from a power complex. The two articles we originally mentioned were obviously promoted to the front page in an artificial manager.. Our website getting banned was obviously in retaliation to our story. Their entire philosophy now feels shallow and false – the editors decidedly put those two articles to the front page, just like they decidedly removed us from their system. Users may have originally driven the website, but it looks like that ideal is nothing more than a nice idea in the past.”

  • three blind mice

    The concept behind freedom of access to knowledge is that society will gain from the best ideas flowing to the surface. It is certain that the darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ model works in biology but with respect to knowledge creation and exchange it is ‘survival of the most popular’. They are not the same.

    ACS it seems you may be confusing “freedom of access” to knowledge with how that knowledge is used. we can be inspired by a book or music or knowledge and use the inspiration – the idea – to create something new and original, but we reject the notion that a right of trespass on existing copyrighted material is perquisite to the creation of new works.

    darwin did not speak of “survival of the fittest”; he spoke of reproductive fitness. it is those works most desired to be reproduced – those with reproductive fitness – that most deserve and need the protection of copyright even if this imposes undesired contraints on downstream technical innovation. to the contrary, it well serves society it its machines satisfy as much as possible the mechanisms that have successfully produced wealth since the industrial revolution. “the network” is simply and nothing more than a machine built by man to serve man’s needs. there is nothing profound or mystical about it.

    we are of the opinion that creating networks that operate counter to the very basic rules of capital markets devolve the mechanisms that produce weath as effectively as soviet central planning.

  • http://b, Paul M

    This “average” person is going to pick up this book and actually read it. Partly for the misguided fact that Lessig said it was an important book and as an american zombie that gives me reason enough. However, Lessig also said it it is an academic book on an academic debate and as loud as this book shouts here it is destined to be consumed in the vortex of intelligent discussions such as this in or out of cyberspace. The life of this book is as short as any popular academic, destined to float to the basement library and be sold for a dollar in a garage sale five years later.

  • Adrian Lopez

    It’s ridiculous to speak of copyright in physical terms such as when the word “trespassing” is used to describe copyright infringement. I am amused by the number of Libertarians who assume that it’s sensible to apply the natural rules of physical property to the artificial concept of “intellectual property”.

    Libertarians see copyright as a “natural right” similar to a person’s right to personal space and posessions, but the analogy is flawed. When somebody enters your home without permission you have the right to shoot them — if necessary — to defend your life. On the other hand, when a person on the other side of the planet copies your intellectual “property” without your permission you do not have the right to take action outside of that afforded by the law of the land. Whether the law is written by elected officials or by powerful coalitions of property owners, the “right” to protect your intellectual “property” is an artificial one quite different from trespassing on a person’s physical property.

    The exclusive right to make copies is not an inalienable right, it is a statutory right granted by the government in order to benefit the public. Ultimately the product of the human mind belongs not to the author but to future generations of thinkers, writers and creators.

    PS – I wish Lessig would buy some glue traps for his blog.

  • three blind mice

    Whether the law is written by elected officials or by powerful coalitions of property owners, the “right” to protect your intellectual “property” is an artificial one quite different from trespassing on a person’s physical property.

    perhaps you can explain for us, Adrian Lopez, why it is apparently correct and proper to permit anyone to own land – a limited, natural resource of finite dimension yet wrong to permit someone to own the product of her intellect – a limitless, man-made space of infinite dimension?

    it would seem trespass of land is far more vital to man’s “freedom” yet because land ownership is ancient custom society accepts fences.

    if you exercise your imagination a bit, you might see that the concepts of physical property are even more suitable for intangible property than for real property.

    oh, and btw, glue traps won’t catch the blind mice. the three seeing eye dogs are quite good at avoiding such hazards. a juicy intellectual argument on the other hand….

  • http://b Paul M

    We used to own “slaves”, children are forced to work even today, and should we be able to own land? I believe the successful intellectual Thoreau’s are going to know exactly when to claim their right, and of course will freely share as they already do. The classy ones, and the ones that ultimately rise to the top are the ones who freely share, but who also enjoy a right to keep what they want as their own. Is that so hard? Ninety-five percent of the good stuff intellectuals come up with they share anyways, 3 percent they are generous with if asked, what is wrong with letting them keep what they want? Who wants an intellectual wal-mart on their creative space?

  • Adrian Lopez

    Please note I said nothing about land as private property. I spoke in terms of personal space, and that is something that every human being requires in order to survive. While we could justly enter into an argument as to how much space is too much space for a person to claim as his “own”, the argument I presented above is not an argument in favor of land ownership. My argument is instead an argument to the effect that copyright, unlike land, does not deprive the author of anything except that which is granted to him under a particular set of rules concerning the reproduction of other people’s creative works.

    While you suggest that “the concepts of physical property are even more suitable for intangible property than for real property”, the opposite is actually true. Personal space is required for survival, intellectual property is not. The reason that land ownership cannot be compared to intellectual “property” is precisely because land is a limited resource that exists independently of manmade law. Unlike land, intellectual property exists as a set of man-made rules and constitutes an artificially limited resource.

  • Adrian Lopez

    Correction: “My argument is instead an argument to the effect that the lack of copyright, unlike land, does not deprive the author of anything except that which is granted to him under a particular set of rules concerning the reproduction of other people’s creative works.”

  • ACS

    Mice

    ACS it seems you may be confusing “freedom of access” to knowledge with how that knowledge is used. we can be inspired by a book or music or knowledge and use the inspiration – the idea – to create something new and original, but we reject the notion that a right of trespass on existing copyrighted material is perquisite to the creation of new works.

    Thats not what I was saying at all. I was talking about the quality of commercially developed information vs freely available information.

    Paul

    The classy ones, and the ones that ultimately rise to the top are the ones who freely share, but who also enjoy a right to keep what they want as their own. Is that so hard? Ninety-five percent of the good stuff intellectuals come up with they share anyways, 3 percent they are generous with if asked, what is wrong with letting them keep what they want? Who wants an intellectual wal-mart on their creative space?

    The concept of an “intellectual Wal-Mart” is exactly what a free access structured information economy would produce. As I pointed out before it would be the popular and not the accurate that would float to the top.

    Adrian

    Correction: “My argument is instead an argument to the effect that the lack of copyright, unlike land, does not deprive the author of anything except that which is granted to him under a particular set of rules concerning the reproduction of other people’s creative works.”

    Well, that and any chance of living of thier intellectual efforts.

    It seems to me that people miss the essential point of copyright which is to provide a benefit to those that produce works which are wholly suited to reproduction. It started out in patent law becuase a physical invention could be copied rather easily with a little bit of technical know how. The invention of the printing press meant that words were subject to the same aspect of simple and effective reproduction, hence copyright. In the days of Chaucer and Bede there was no need to give rights to authors because it would take a year just to make a copy of a book. On the other hand the reason these issues have become important today is because the simplicity with which material of all kinds can be copied through the use of a computer.

    Just as the law had to be altered in accordance with the creation of the printing press it must also be altered because of these new technologies. While people like Lessig argue for a relaxation of these laws I would argue that the ease of reproduction should force the law in the other direction.

    Whereas the value of land, as correctly pointed out, is based on its finite nature there is a failing to recognise with respect to intellectual property that there is a finite amount of works available in society. A person who writes a beautiful sonnet is rewarded not because they have expended thier mental faculties but rather because they are in possession of the only work that has its unique characteristics. Although this argument may seem apocraphal given the massive amount of works available in society today we should not forget that it is only finite.

    I guess the final point from here is quyite simple. Although land can be defended with a gun, there is no similar right for intellectual property. Therein lies the problem, a person deprvied of land can identify it and return to it. A person that suffers from copyright infringement cannot return to it or gather in what is lost, for it is lost forever to him without the aid of the law. On this basis I cannot agree with Adrian that an author has lost nothing when copyright is removed – he has lost his control of something unique to himself.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    ACS says:

    Therein lies the problem, a person deprvied of land can identify it and return to it. A person that suffers from copyright infringement cannot return to it or gather in what is lost, for it is lost forever to him without the aid of the law.

    “the problem”, “suffers from copyright infringement”, “lost forever to him”

    I hope one day that we see the above statements embody an archaic (yet unfortunately contemporary) view of intellectual endeavor. I’m always a little disturbed when the economists speak of the economic movement of non-rivalrous goods as a “problem.” I somewhat understand the history behind it (what Benkler refers to as the “industrial information economy”) but our technology is now solving the problem, not exacerbating it. We must choose to look at the situation in a different light if we wish to escape the inevitable war that ALL RIGHTS RESERVED by nature has with the “networked information economy.”

    I’m still only a quarter way through the book. I’m tiring of reading from my screen though. Can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy.

  • three blind mice

    I hope one day that we see the above statements embody an archaic (yet unfortunately contemporary) view of intellectual endeavor. I’m always a little disturbed when the economists speak of the economic movement of non-rivalrous goods as a “problem.” I somewhat understand the history behind it (what Benkler refers to as the “industrial information economy”) but our technology is now solving the problem, not exacerbating it. We must choose to look at the situation in a different light if we wish to escape the inevitable war that ALL RIGHTS RESERVED by nature has with the “networked information economy.”

    Peter Rock you seem to be – once again – misunderstanding basic economic concepts. we do not think that word non-rivalrous means what you seem to think it means.

    the content of a book is an inexhaustible resource. that it to say, the text can be copied countless times without diminishing the resource.

    a non-rivalrous resource is an asset that can be shared among many without diminishing the value of the asset to any one person.

    an inexhaustible resource is a NOT a non-rivalrous resource.

    there are many people who want to read one of the stories about harry potter. the story itself is inexhaustible and can be told or read countless times without diminishing the information resource. technology is no doubt removing hurdles to this information sharing and among those who share the story, the asset appears non-rivalrous.

    but the cold hard truth is that if the story of harry potter is freely available the value of this asset to the author is GREATLY diminished. information which confers competitive market advantage is inherently rivalrous.

    jk rowling demands a lot of money to write a book. one might argue that she is well worth the investment. anyone who can write a 700 page that ten year olds want to read cover to cover deserves all the wealth with which society can reward an author. if her copyright is dimished, and the information she creates can be freely shared, she looses economic power, and along with it the incentive to write another edition. “society” and culture loose far more than they gain.

    this is why society tolerates what Jefferson derided as the “embarassment” of a monopoly.

    this is such a basic truth that the copyright has been part of the culture of england for 300 years. copyright predated the industrial revolution and survived through it and continues to flourish as part of the culture of modern nations today.

    no doubt that society benefits to some degree when information is freely shared – but society also benefits when information is created!

    it is correct and proper to attempt to understand the “weath of networks” but it is wrong to stuggle against the “weath of nations” simply because it is ideologically pernicious to the former.

    we are in an information economy where information and knowledge is the basis of competitive advantage. society’s challenge is keeping this information proprietary: not seeing it turned into freely shared commodity.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice,

    Describe to me what you believe would happen if all published information was available without any restriction regarding noncommericial distribution.

    What would happen?

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    Sorry Three, but the function of Copyright is not, and was not intended to be, to keep information proprietary. It is spelled out completely right there in the doctrine: to promote progress of science and the useful arts. You do not promote progress by stifling the flow of information; restricting access to information may provide a competetive edge, but that edge is not the sharpest side of the sword: it is the blunt instrument used to oppress so that others may gain advantage.

    Methinks you are again confusing access to knowledge with access to information. Copyright does not prevent me from telling others about plot lines, or even giving away the very last line of the tome, provided it is used in the context of a greater critical work of my own invention. Copyright only prevents me from claiming that particular embodiment of JK’s knowledge and effort as my own, and from riding her skirt tails where she does not favor my hanging on.

    Any extension to copyright that restricts the ability of others merely to access information is inherently against the stated goals of copyright – to promote and to lend incentive to creation and progress.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice say:

    we are in an information economy where information and knowledge is the basis of competitive advantage

    I can understand competition on, say, the basketball court. I can understand competition on the chess board. But why approach one’s livelihood and economics as an endeavor to create “competitive advantage[s]“? With whom is it that you wish to compete against? The fact that one would wish to perpetuate a system that by nature produces winners and losers is, to be blunt, neurotic.

  • three blind mice

    Sorry Three, but the function of Copyright is not, and was not intended to be, to keep information proprietary.

    quite right poptones. what we meant is that copyright is – and has always been – intended to keep competitive advantage proprietary. copyright doesn’t create competitive advantage, it makes it sustainable by turning the reproduction of information into a proprietary asset.

    jk rowling’s copyright doesn’t keep people from reading harry potter – it hinders then from reading it without paying compensation for the privilege. it preserves jk rowling’s competitive advantage in the market for books and gives her economic power.

    But why approach one’s livelihood and economics as an endeavor to create “competitive advantage[s]”? With whom is it that you wish to compete against?

    c’mon Peter Rock. coke competes with pepsi. samsung competes with nokia. etc. in the information ecomomy, competitive advantage is more and more the result of so-called intellectual capital – the easiest asset to replicate there is. without intellectual property protection, when anyone can use everyone else’s ideas and expressions, there is little incentive to create new ones and the race becomes to find the cheapest way to make it.

    it might be interesting to remember Peter Rock that the soviet collectivisation of farms initially resulted in increases in production. where are they today? sharing – whether it is information or toys – works best for toddlers. grown-ups have a much harder time getting along.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    jk rowling’s copyright doesn’t keep people from reading harry potter – it hinders then from reading it without paying compensation for the privilege. it preserves jk rowling’s competitive advantage in the market for books and gives her economic power.

    Actually, it doesn’t even do that, and again it wasn’t intended to do that – the limiting access was simply a side effect of the greater intent – to protect JK Rowling’s work from being reproduced, ad infinitum, by other publishers with whom she had no compensatory agreement. Had the intent been to limit access to JK Rowling only to those who pay, there would be no specific exceptions granted to lending libraries and other, more personal uses.

    The entire disagreement here, I think, simply comes down to a matter of classes, and the breakdown of elitism among one specific class – the publishing class. Some argue we should all be entitled to the many benefits of membership in this new class without accepting the responsibilities it brings. With that wall crumbled some of those responsibilities are no longer meaningful, but that doesn’t mean none of them are.

  • http://b Paul M

    I have a comment. Someone reading this please “donate” 250.00 to me, which I will use for 2 orders of chinese, 2 rounds of beer at the pub, and a small bottle of vodka (medicinal uses). I will then post my fairly intelligent and slightly witty comment so every living soul who wants to can read and enjoy. That way my needs are taken care of and everyone can read my comment.

  • Adrian Lopez

    It seems to me that people miss the essential point of copyright which is to provide a benefit to those that produce works which are wholly suited to reproduction.

    This is false. The US constitution states that “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” it authorizes congress to secure “for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. The author is not the ultimate beneficiary, it is the public.

    It started out in patent law becuase a physical invention could be copied rather easily with a little bit of technical know how.

    To the best of my knowledge it didn’t start that way at all. There’s a book called “Copyright in Historical Perpective” that deals with the origins of copyright law. I haven’t read the whole book but I don’t recall patents ever having anything to do with copyright.

  • Adrian Lopez

    but the cold hard truth is that if the story of harry potter is freely available the value of this asset to the author is GREATLY diminished. information which confers competitive market advantage is inherently rivalrous.

    Any diminished value is due to the fact that it was made valuable through copyright law. Without the intervention of government or a similar entity there would be no monetary value attached to creative works in and of themselves and therefore nothing would be denied to the author by copying that work. The exclusive right to make copies is a privilege, not a right.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    Adrian Lopez says:

    Any diminished value is due to the fact that it was made valuable through copyright law. Without the intervention of government or a similar entity there would be no monetary value attached to creative works in and of themselves and therefore nothing would be denied to the author by copying that work. The exclusive right to make copies is a privilege, not a right.

    Yes, this is my understanding. I think it is entirely appropriate to consider ideas – whether cultural or scientific – as nonrivalrous. That is, by nature they are nonrivalrous. The Mice wish to view them as rivalrous but that is only because someone came up with and applied “copyright” law. By nature, ideas themselves are not diminished through use. I think it is time to seriously consider this with the reality of digital networks. We can either look at this through new eyes, or wage war through tools like the DMCA. I also think there is room for copyright law but ALL RIGHTS RESERVED simply doesn’t fit. Round hole, meet square peg.

  • three blind mice

    I think it is entirely appropriate to consider ideas – whether cultural or scientific – as nonrivalrous. That is, by nature they are nonrivalrous.

    well, Peter Rock, you really don’t want to let go of this fiction.

    when jefferson shares the flame of his candle with others, it is true that the brightness of his candle is not diminished, but if his candle enables him to dominate the market for the production of light, sharing his flame creates competitors and undermines the value of his candle.

    if you want new industrial and commercial ideas – new flames – then you must create the free market incentives that encourage them. the economic incentive of kum-bah-yah does not work for most people.

    certainly, there are instances where “social production” methods are efficient and promote the advancement of society, but you can probably count the number on one hand. for the larger needs of society, commercial production remains the sine qua non of wealth creation. undermining the conditions under which commercial production thrives in order to promote “social production” would be to repeat the self-inflicted wound of china’s great leap forward.

  • Adrian Lopez

    When you speak of “the economic incentive of kum-bah-yah” you must be arguing against somebody other than Peter Rock, because what he actually said is that “there is room for copyright law but ALL RIGHTS RESERVED simply doesn’t fit. Round hole, meet square peg.” It seems to me he’s asking for a form of copyright law that is better balanced than the latest incarnations that favor publishers above all others.

    Copyright as an incentive is fine; copyright as an inalienable right is not.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    Interesting… even the UN would take exception to that statement: one of the affirmed “inalienanble rights” is to ownership of an individual’s creative output.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    It will be interesting to see how this goes over with Disney… anyone heard about lawsuits yet?

    http://www.hiphopmusic.com/best_of_youtube/2006/04/snl_tv_funhouse_disney_vault_p.html

  • Adrian Lopez

    Interesting… even the UN would take exception to that statement: one of the affirmed “inalienanble rights” is to ownership of an individual’s creative output.

    I’m not familiar with the UN’s take on human rights, but the fact is that the UN is a political organization and is therefore as open to manipulation as any other political body. Frankly, the UN’s WIPO has done more damage than good as far as individual rights are concerned.

    Behind the UN’s facade as an organization that cares about human rights there is something entirely different. I don’t know exactly what that is, but the word hypocrites does spring to mind.

  • ACS

    Poptones

    Sorry Three, but the function of Copyright is not, and was not intended to be, to keep information proprietary. It is spelled out completely right there in the doctrine: to promote progress of science and the useful arts. You do not promote progress by stifling the flow of information; restricting access to information may provide a competetive edge, but that edge is not the sharpest side of the sword: it is the blunt instrument used to oppress so that others may gain advantage.

    In the commercial world the ability to extract compensation is essential in order to fund further research. I am sure the Regents of the University of California and any other scientific institution around the world would agree. You are only looking at the post-production stage in your comments. In order to create high quality research you need funds and intellectual property rights are the method accepted in our society for close to 500 years for obtaining those funds (whether by security interest in furture research or otherwise). The knowledge economy is split between the “Kum-bay-ya” set and the commercial set. The broad and generalised changes often proposed here favour the former and damage the latter. Governments, however, accept that the latter are more important to technological development. It is also realised that the former can achieve thier goal through use of the CC licencing system or some other similar system.

    Adrian

    To the best of my knowledge it didn’t start that way at all. There’s a book called “Copyright in Historical Perpective” that deals with the origins of copyright law. I haven’t read the whole book but I don’t recall patents ever having anything to do with copyright.

    Mate, the economic theory behind copyright is a result of the patent law embodied in the Statute of Venice (1474) which was imported into England in the Statute of Monopolies. Like all European concepts imported into England it was altered for the advantage of the upper classes. Originally the Statute gave the Crown the power to make monopolies in all manner of things. [this was later taken away in a case called Darcy v Allen in which the English Courts found that a monopoly (in that case a monopoly over the right to print playing cards granted to the Queens second cousin) was invalid if it did not embody an extension of human knowledge]. However under this statute a monopoly was granted to the Stationers Guild for the printing of materials (The guild was quasi-owned by the Duke of Bristol). This monopoly was removed by the decree of 1637/1673? and copyright introduced in its place because of the ready availability of printing presses.

    As you can see the concept of a monopoly developed in relation to patent law is the “Godfather” of all other forms of intellectual property. If, however, you have an alternative history please advise. I note however that in the early ninties there was a lot of toing and froing in regards to the origins of copyright but I assure you that commonwealth copyright was adopted by the majority of countries around the world.

    Peter

    I think it is entirely appropriate to consider ideas – whether cultural or scientific – as nonrivalrous. That is, by nature they are nonrivalrous.

    As far as I know I can rattle off formulas like E=mcc and not infringe a single soul. I can discuss all manner of scientific theory and even quote a scientist and not infringe copyright. The ideas are not protected by copyright law at all, it is thier expression – I am sure we all know the copyright ideas-expressions dichotomy very well by now. Copyright law does not prevent progress at all, rather it prevents people from obtaining copies of works without permission of the author.

    It is clear that digital works are developed under the normal day to day economic conditions. If I want to write a program it takes time, resources and labour – why should I share that program without economic compensation? If I wasnt compensated I would only share with those that share with me? How does the public benefit then?

    finally – poptones

    Interesting… even the UN would take exception to that statement: one of the affirmed “inalienanble rights” is to ownership of an individual’s creative output.

    You are completely right in this regard.

  • Adrian Lopez

    ACS,

    Isn’t that a different sense of the word “patent” than what Peter Rock was using? I am only vaguely familiar with the history of copyright but feel the need to point out there is more than one definition for the word patent. The two that are relevant to this discussion are:

    - An official document granting a right or privilege.
    - A document granting an inventor sole rights to an invention.

    I think you are referring to the former whereas Peter Rock was referring to the latter.

  • ACS

    Adrian

    ACS,

    Isn’t that a different sense of the word “patent” than what Peter Rock was using? I am only vaguely familiar with the history of copyright but feel the need to point out there is more than one definition for the word patent. The two that are relevant to this discussion are:

    - An official document granting a right or privilege.
    - A document granting an inventor sole rights to an invention.

    I think you are referring to the former whereas Peter Rock was referring to the latter.

    No, the concept of a monopoly as a form of personal property that is the backbone of IP law was developed under the patent legislation of the fifteenth century in europe. Whether it is the former or the latter to which you refer my previous statements are correct in that regards.

  • Adrian Lopez

    ACS,

    Okay. I see your point about European patent law and at this point acknowledge that copyright law did in fact develop within that legal context. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s quite as simple as Peter Rock’s claim that copyright emerged out of the patent system “becuase a physical invention could be copied rather easily with a little bit of technical know how”.

    Given the existence of “letters of patent” prior to the Statute of Monopolies and to the Stationers’ Company monopoly on the printing of books (out of which copyright emerged only indirectly as a result of Stationers’ Company policy), it seems to me that early copyright evolved for entirely different reasons than the granting of patents to inventors.

    Does that sound more correct to you or am I still way off? :)

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice say:

    if you want new industrial and commercial ideas – new flames – then you must create the free market incentives that encourage them.

    Unsubstantiated belief.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    ACS says:

    If I want to write a program it takes time, resources and labour – why should I share that program without economic compensation?

    Who says you should? There are some extreme licenses out there which cause this problem but they are rather rare. The original license for the Linux kernel I do believe was like this. It forbid making money from the program which was insane. I would suggest the GNU GPL as a license to use in order to pursue economic compensation although many in the open source world might suggest a license that allows others to turn your work into a proprietary package.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    Adrian Lopez says:

    Peter Rock’s claim that copyright emerged out of the patent system

    Sorry you have me confused with someone else. I don’t believe I said that.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice say:

    if you want new industrial and commercial ideas – new flames – then you must create the free market incentives that encourage them.

    PS

    And given the context I know what you believe is a free market. In a sense I agree with what is said which is one reason why Free Software works so well. It creates a free market. So to does OpenDocument. But from what you’ve said in the past, I’d imagine you perceive both of these to be enemies of “incentive.” The “incentives” you imagine (embodied by ARR copyright) simply lead to monopolization and meritless competition.

    By the way Mice, what do you think of the Massachusetts proposal to move to OpenDocument?

  • three blind mice

    In a sense I agree with what is said which is one reason why Free Software works so well. It creates a free market.

    with some exceptions, the Apache HTTP server for example, the only market the F/OSS community creates is free copies of already existing commercial products. F/OSS exists largely on the back of the commercial market – it is easy to develop programs like Firefox, Opera, Open Office, etc. when there is an existing baseline of widely used commercial software to copy. it is not a model that encourages risk taking.

    massachusetts dumping MSFT for linux and open document? it’s not innovative. it is simply replacing program A with program B. program B does more or less what program A does with the advantage that B is free. there’s no obvious advance in technology and one thing is certain, “competing” qwith free doesn’t do much to encourage programmers to create A+.

    Peter Rock you seem to not accept the fact that most programmers “do it for the money.” we have worked with engineers and computer scientists for many years and nearly all of them have had bills to pay and familes to feed. it is understanable that idealistic MIT students living on their student loans and ramen can’t really relate to this.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice say:

    massachusetts dumping MSFT for linux and open document?

    Linux has nothing to do with the decision. As well, massachusetts did not dump anything. They have agreed to use a publicly accessible standard. MSFT is more than free to use the standard and compete on merit for the government’s business.

    it is simply replacing program A with program B.

    It has nothing directly to do with programs. OpenDocument is not a program.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    “if you want new industrial and commercial ideas – new flames – then you must create the free market incentives that encourage them.”

    Unsubstantiated belief.

    Really? Then where is all the Free media content now? we are many yeas into this whole “free license” phenomena and yet there is a notable lack of content from the artists in comparison to the multitude of tools from the geek camp. I’m not saying there’s no content out there, or that it all sucks, but the vast majority of programming available is “free” only like beer – most of it is published under a noncommercial agreement, and a good bit of it is published under a license that does not even allow for “remix and reburn.” If linux had been published under such terms we’d all be living in a world with no apache, no php or perl or gnome or kde – we’d still be stuck in the 1980′s world where the “alternative” meant only choosing between one giant, greedy corporation or another giant, greedy corporation.

    Did you not watch the presentation the prof posted here a couple weeks back? The one where he basically pleaded with the creative community to start producing free works in a manner that lives up to the lip service this “community” has been giving to “creative freedom” since its inception?

    Hmmmm.. maybe most artists still don’t really believe all that as much as they claim? Everyone wants to get paid for their work – and no one is more possessive of their creation than the one who created it.

  • three blind mice

    OpenDocument is not a program.

    sorry Peter Rock, we confused it with OpenOffice. perhaps you would be so kind as to explain a little about OpenDocument for us – now that we are so off-topic anyway.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    Mice, methinks your view of the “open” community is substantially clouded by… to put it blunty, ignorance. One gets the strong impression that you are not at all active in this community of “commons-ists” at a developmental level or even a cultural level, so that narrow view is somewhat forgivable, but your arguments would be better served if you put forth some effort toward understanding both the history and current trends in this segment of the industry.

    Free software is not simply about replacing corporate software with non-corporate software. Mandriva, Red Hat, Suse – even the very hippie-fied Ubuntu all exist in the corporate realm. It is how these corporations came ot be, and the ideals they embrace, that separates them from the “legacy” publishers.

    Gnome, for example, was not built on anything except someone’s ideas about how a linux desktop should look and act. It’s neither a clone of windows nor of Apple’s desktop, though it is necessarily similar simply because it’s a desktop – just as most all cars have four wheels. This is not due to lack of innovation, but simple efficiency of design.

    In the windows world, there is a program called VirtualDub, a simple video editing application that was created and remains free, and is free completely outside the corporate realm. Avery created the program, defended it from predators who tried to hack his code into proprietary products, and provided an incredible level of support for a single person. On more than one occasion I was interacting with him one on one as he would try out a new (requested) bit of functionality, send it along for me to try out and provide feedback – then along would come, in just a few minutes, yet another revision. This may all sound very “hobbyist” in nature and nothing unexpected among friends – except VirtualDub was, at that time (and still probably is today) one of the most widely used pieces of free software out there for the windows platform. Just about everyone I know has used it, and it simplicity and power make it that way. If it had been “innovative” in the user interface it would have been alien to most people and difficult to use – how does this help anyone? Innovation for the sake of innovation is pointless.

    And that software, free in virtually every sense except to proprietary conscription, is very likely every bit as responsible for the rapid increase in “rip” trading as decss itself – for once decss made dvds “rippable” the community needed a means to recompress them into something that could be exchanged in practical fashion over the narrower channels of the time. VirtualDub, and the multitude of tools that sprang from its codebase, virtually drove that underground publishing channel, perhaps as much as the internet itself. That one piece of code has had a phenomenal impact on the world we live in today, and it most definitely not the creation of some corporatized machine.

    There is a phenomenal amount of software out there that was innovated and created completely “for free.” That some of it gets widely adopted and spawns new companies, paying programmers to do what they do, is not a rebuttal of the ideals espoused in this community – the GNU project was inteded, from the start, to provide a free toolbox of tools anyone could use and adapt as they see fit. Not everyone is going to be a programmer, or want to devote time to programming – so how do they “adapt” these tools? They hire programmers to do it for them. This is no accident, and no conflict with the ideals – it’s now it was meant to be from the start.

    Open Document is a standard for creating documents, not a program. Microsoft initially said they will not support ODF in their desktop suite, but customers (like Mass.) declaring “we are going to standardize on ODF” means MS at that point must decide to support it, or risk losing customers. This is entirely a free market manner of doing things, no different than MS including tools in windows for many years that allow their operating system to interoperate with Novell networks and file systems, or Apple networks and file systems.

    So far as innovation – this is a system for buisnesses to exchange documents; there is far less need for “innovation” here than for a stable, robust and accessible standard for interoperating. When a great portion of a development teams effort must go simply to deciphering proprietary standards and hacking and rewriting code to support a “standard” that is as stable and transparent as quicksand they have far fewer resources left to devote to the task of innovating.

  • three blind mice

    One gets the strong impression that you are not at all active in this community of “commons-ists” at a developmental level or even a cultural level, so that narrow view is somewhat forgivable, but your arguments would be better served if you put forth some effort toward understanding both the history and current trends in this segment of the industry.

    we learn more, poptones, when you use your crayons to color within the lines.

    Gnome, for example, was not built on anything except someone’s ideas about how a linux desktop should look and act. It’s neither a clone of windows nor of Apple’s desktop, though it is necessarily similar simply because it’s a desktop – just as most all cars have four wheels. This is not due to lack of innovation, but simple efficiency of design.

    and on what processor(s)/machine(s) does Gnome run? don’t overlook the fact poptones that without the pull of the non-free software industry – the result of the proprietary non-sharing toilings of many – none of the basic elements on which free software lives would exist.

    free software exists because – according to the history we don’t know – richard stallman became upset with the fact he could not obtain a new printer driver – nor could he write a new one for it without violating copyright laws. it stuck him as fundamentally wrong that he could not re-program his machine to operate with his printer. fair enough, but if the printer didn’t exist, if whatever O/S he was using did not exist, if the driver software he didn’t write didn’t exist, all of this free software business would be moot. it is instructive, we think, to observe that stallman wasn’t motivated by innovation, he just wanted to modify a driver someone else wrote.

    F/OSS barebacks on the commercial development and then gets upset when they cannot COPY the innovations resulting from commercial development.

    we concede and have recognized that there are circumstances and instances where F/OSS (and yes we are mixing Free and Open Source when they are not the same thing in detail) produces useful and efficient results. the creation of the Apache HTTP server has been massively successful F/OSS and commercial endeavour. F/OSS methods have resulted in a number of innovative programs that could not be produced in any other way.

    but poptones GNOME is used by how many people?

    ignorance is one thing. blindness to cold hard fact is another.
    F/OSS can only ever meekly complement greedy, commercial innovation. they are both important, but far from in equal measure. to weaken the protections essential for the latter, in order to feed and water the former is not prudent public policy.

    but we don’t use GNOME so what do we know?

  • anonymous

    Did you not watch the presentation the prof posted here a couple weeks back? The one where he basically pleaded with the creative community to start producing free works in a manner that lives up to the lip service this “community” has been giving to “creative freedom” since its inception?

    Could someone point me to this?

    Thanks.

  • Adrian Lopez

    Sorry you have me confused with someone else. I don’t believe I said that.

    It’s likely that I misunderstood you, but the statement I was referring to is: “It seems to me that people miss the essential point of copyright which is to provide a benefit to those that produce works which are wholly suited to reproduction. It started out in patent law becuase a physical invention could be copied rather easily with a little bit of technical know how. The invention of the printing press meant that words were subject to the same aspect of simple and effective reproduction, hence copyright.”

  • Adrian Lopez

    and on what processor(s)/machine(s) does Gnome run? don’t overlook the fact poptones that without the pull of the non-free software industry – the result of the proprietary non-sharing toilings of many – none of the basic elements on which free software lives would exist

    I’m not at all convinced by this argument. Even if it weren’t possible to make money from computer software there would still be a lot of money to be made from selling computer hardware. The software would naturally follow from the fact that you need it to use your computer. Software would evolve from simple creations by geeks out of necessity into more advanced software that could be used by the general public.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    and on what processor(s)/machine(s) does Gnome run?

    because it is open source, it runs on pretty much anything capable of shift and add.

    don’t overlook the fact poptones that without the pull of the non-free software industry – the result of the proprietary non-sharing toilings of many – none of the basic elements on which free software lives would exist.

    The “pull” of the non free software industry? So now you are claiming the existence of gnome is still all due to microsoft and apple?

    Sorry, that don’t fly. The “non free” world provided added incentive for rfee software to exist, but before there was non free there was free, even if we have to go all the way back to looms, automatons and music boxes to find it.

    Except we don’t – the “non free” unix was essentially “free” before AT&T started tightening the noose, and it was this pressure that drove the folks in Berkley to spin off the berkley standard derivative that has led to the completely free core which apple conscripted to produce its non free desktop.

    If free softeware owes anything to proprietary software, proprietary software owes as much in return. Microsoft’s lax enforcement of their rights helped drive a business industry into the home, but it was equally that often proprietary but free as in beer software that actually built the home market – before there was a plethora of shareware and freeware it was nothing but Lotus and Word Perfect, and most potential home users balked at the notion of spending the price of a new car on a sophisticated typewriter to balance their checkbook.

    Without intel and AMD there would still be the very free SPARC and RISC as well as several other free cores, most of which I cannot recall at the moment save for ARM. These cores have ended up in all sorts of “non free” computing platforms even from at least one of those legacy manufacturers, intel – and, I believe, provides the engine for Microsoft’s latest home gaming system. It was merely a coinidence of fate and timing that Windows was married to the non-free x86 instead of the “free” cores.

    RISC and SPARC both started as college projects, funded by research dollars sure, but fundamentally as nothing but academic exercises in machine design.

    But none of this has a thing to do with funding, which I was addressing in the comments you replied to – that “F/OSS exists largely on the back of the commercial market.” What you don’t seem to grasp is that it is not either/or, nor was it ever intended to be. Free software is a toolbox that gives programmers added value and allows “us” to compete with the proprietary market. There are plenty of non proprietary businesses serving the market, Mandriva and Redhar and Ubuntu being those already mentioned… but there are many more. Apache is free in a non proprietary context, as is Firefox. They are both F/OSS and commercial. Novell is ever narrowing the gap between Netware and Linux, and Novell is one of the oldest of those proprietary players.

    It’s a collaborative competition, and I think one fact you fail to realize is that in the computing world as it exists now (as opposed to a decade ago), those previously poprietary corporations owe a hell of a lot more to the “free” world than the free world owes to them. Even Microsoft has a linux group focusing on greater interoperability between their sealed off system and the “free” desktop world – because they see the writing on the wall: that virtualization of these systems means it will no longer be an either/or decision for anyone. Microsoft is already trying to seed the field with doubt via their numerous “rootkit” demonstrations applied to virtualized machines – the shift is already happening, and they know it. The proof is in their own words.

    This all means when Adobe gets fed up with the Quicktime legacy and the constantly shifting Windows groundwork, there will be little to stop them from just shipping Premiere and Afterffects on a CD that includes its own operating system. This is no pie in the sky, decades off dreaming – this is technology that exists now in sophisticated software form and is already commited to new silicon from both AMD and intel. When that silicon hits the desktop market (and especially the server market) Microsoft is going to have to compete on an entirely new level, because they will no longer have a captive audience. They will have no choice but – like intel and novell and countless others of that generation – to become even freer.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    Anonymous, just scroll down the page to “WHo owns culture” and click on the video link of your choice. It’s a fantastic presentation, but as I said in the comments to that post, I fear his plea may have been too subtle – too tempered by polite correctness (note I avoided the PC adjective) – to truly direct this point at those who most need to hear it.

    They need to tell us: how is jazz made? Was there a lawyer sitting next to the jazz artist as he sampled from the works of those that he built on? How was hiphop inspired? Was it inspired with a catalog of work that one called up permission to seek, to use, to remake, to express a new form of creativity?
    .
    How is art made?
    .
    Tell us
    .
    Tell us who uise the tools of law to regulate you.
    .
    Because unless you start showing us – you authors; you, creators; unless you start showing us how you create, and how you have always created – unless you show us how this technology can create, then this potential which is being realized by kids using technology today, will be taken away.
    .
    Because the only way to silence this extraordinarily destructive rhetoric of war is for artists to sing to us in a way that distracts us from the craziness that enthralls this nation, right now.

    I seek out Free works as much as I am able – and I am quite able, and put forth a good bit of effort at it, so in this I represent the most favorable of audiences to this market – and yet I have found very little free work that embodies all the ideals most of the “commons-ists” espouse in this forum. I shop often at magnatune, I enjoy the streams of content flowing from many free publishers, but rarely find works which are truly made free in the manner that even hiphop artists would require: to remix and republish. Many very good programs exist, and a great deal of music, but the vast majority of it is under a license that says I am free to republish and share the works only in unaltered form – I am free to be their advertising and publishing agent, but I am not free to build on their creative works any more than I could with Madonna or Coldplay.

    About the only place one commonly finds works published in this truly free manner is techno – and that has been the case for eons, even before there was a cc license. Where are the new artists providing their work freely to the creative community to remix? Many authors have embraced this, but I have found very little music, and virtually no video of notable quality published under such license.

    Hmmmm…

  • ACS

    Sorry you have me confused with someone else. I don’t believe I said that.

    It’s likely that I misunderstood you, but the statement I was referring to is: “It seems to me that people miss the essential point of copyright which is to provide a benefit to those that produce works which are wholly suited to reproduction. It started out in patent law becuase a physical invention could be copied rather easily with a little bit of technical know how. The invention of the printing press meant that words were subject to the same aspect of simple and effective reproduction, hence copyright.”

    Adrian, you are confusing Peter with me.

    I also note your previous pm re the development of copyright from patent law. although I agree that today patents and copyright are different monopolies I must note (ad nauseum it would seem) that on the decree of 1637 the monopolies would have been indistinguishable except for the media to which they related. In reality all the junk about artists rights and respect for creators of works did not evolve until long after the monopoly was in place. The monopoly was put in place because it provided solid economic boundaries for competition of products that could be easily reproduced. The initial point was that when the media can be more readily reproduced the law will take a stronger line – originally the printing press was inefficient and would take a long time to copy a work wheras an invention (using 15th century technology) could be readily copied. Hence patent grew up first. It wasnt until the stationers guilds monopoly was broken by cheap and efficient printing presses that copyright came into full swing. The point is rather simple. The relevance of the point is that digital networks represent another breakthrough in the speed and spread of information and for the same reason as the decree in 1637 that breakthrough must be considered and addressed by the law. While our venerable host and others on this thread consider the law should be relaxed I would argue that the economic implications of relaxing the laws are a matter of historical precedent and there is no doubt they will and would have a negative result for the community labouring away to create works in the first place. For these reasons and others that are available through this thread I make the point that the law must be strengthened to withstand the assaults of infringement and not weakened. *puff puff*

  • three blind mice

    The “pull” of the non free software industry? So now you are claiming the existence of gnome is still all due to microsoft and apple?

    we know it’s not kewl for linux users to give any credit to apple or microsoft. but it’s not just microsoft and apple, poptones, but all the commercial investment: ibm, apple, intel, microsoft, and many other “collaborative competitors” are largely responsible for the ubiquity of industrial and personal computing. collabortive competition, poptones, has always been necessary to achieve the network effects offered by the computing industry. the 8ms flat screen LCDs, the blazing fast dual-core micros, flash memory, etc. they just materialized from nothing? without the investments made by commercial collaborative competitors, the F/OSS community would still be re-writing the pong code on the heathkit with the amber CRT.

    the state of the art today is the result of commercial risk taking: the making of massive investments in marketing, sales, support, production, development, and the big “R” Reserarch – all of those failed ideas that never saw the light of day or failed to gained commercial traction.

    the simple fact that you can tout the advantages of gnome is in part because the collaborators who made it had among other things the experience of microsoft and apple to know what not to do.

    now all this is well and good. gnome developers and users all power to you. but don’t confuse the benefits of networked development – the sharing of ideas – with commercial network effects.

    from “wealth of nations” to the now oft-maligned schumpeter it is understood that competitive advantage is what creates success in a free market. we submit that the proprietary advantages arising from technical innovation and protected by IPRs are the essence of commercial success in the 21st century knowledge economy: not kum-bah-yah, not sharing, not collectivisation, not nationalisation, not commons-isation, but plain, old-fashioned, white-bread, free-market competition.

    in such an environment, if technical innovations resulting from commercial investment are deemed as belonging to a “commons” and freely-shared among everyone, commercial investors loose their competitive advantages. the unavoidable result: commercial investment – the primary engine of economic growth and progress – is made less attractive.

    F/OSS is great. for some things. we never said it wasn’t. it just isn’t, in most cases, a replacement for the benefits of proprietary competitive advantage and free-market competition.

    we’ll say it again: weakening the intellectual property protection of the commercial investment to feed and water sharing is not prudent public policy.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice say:

    free software exists because – according to the history we don’t know – richard stallman became upset with the fact he could not obtain a new printer driver

    Free Software as an organized movement exists primarily because of RMS. However, free software actually existed long before that. Software was freely passed around by computer scientists to other computer scientists long before anyone came up with the absurd idea of placing source code under All Rights Reserved copyright.

    Basically, the entire world of prorpietary software is riding on the back of the work of scientists who never claimed ownership on their work. The GPL and other free software licenses are simply pragmatic measures intended to combat the insanity of copyrighted software which destroyed the free software community. Such licenses did not come about to ride on the work of the proprietary world. They are a hearkening to the days when cooperation reigned.

    As far as I can tell, the entire proprietary software world owes its existence to the work that computer scientists did simply for the love of it. Those who shared freely were the innovators. It’s ironically sad that many in the proprietary world now see free software as an organized movement as the enemy.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    Adrian Lopez says:

    It’s likely that I misunderstood you, but the statement I was referring to is: “It seems to me that people miss the essential point of copyright which is to provide a benefit to those that produce works

    You have definitely confused me with – I think – ACS. Besides, I know full well that the “point” of copyright is to benefit the public, not those that provide works. The point is noble but misguided. It paints human beings on the behaviorist canvas. It assumes that rewards and punishments are necessary to accomplish a human goal. It’s actually a rather sick and twisted view of human nature though the goal of benefitting the public is noble and just.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind Mice:

    the benefits of proprietary [software] competitive advantage

    Please teach me. I suggest you write an article expounding your points. The proprietary software world needs it. They are well behind in terms of published articles/books that defend the practice of hoarding software.

    Compare result 1 – with result 2.

    There are also dozens of fine books out there defending free software and speaking on its behalf. Can you name a book that defends published proprietary software?

    The only “advantage” I see anyone arguing for is “close contact with real-world customers”. I have been trying to figure out what that means for over 2 years now and how it relates to software. I don’t need “close-contact”. I just need communication for I am dealing with an intangible, virtual product. I don’t care if the person helping me is half-way around the globe using VoIP to talk me through a process or sitting right next to me.

  • three blind mice

    your research methods are interesting, Peter Rock.

    a google search of “F/OSS innovations” returns 6 hits.

    a google search of “microsoft innovations” returns over 38,000 hits.

    not scientific. but still.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    without the investments made by commercial collaborative competitors, the F/OSS community….

    You still don’t get it, do you?

    They’re the same.

    Intel uses “free” cores in their chips; Microsoft uses “free” technology in their gaming platform – hell, had it not been for BSD Microsoft wouldn’t even have had a network stack in Windows 98, or it would have been Windows 99 or Windows 2000 because they would have had to innovate that bit on their own instead of just lifting the free code and algorithms from BSD. Novell, long every bit as proprietary as Microsoft, is now one of the largest commercial providers of free software around, even funding development of gnome and mono, the free implimentation of Microsoft’s .NET technology (which is, itself, basically just Microsoft’s attempt at creating a “non free” competitor to java).

    The F/OSS “community” is “the commercial community.” Redhat and Mandriva and Ubuntu and Novell are only the most obvious; there is also Tivo, which builds a “proprietary” home user product around commodity parts and a free operating system. Thee is also Linksys, Zoom, and untold others selling consumer oriented network products by the truckload – all built around free software.

    By the way: F/OSS is a clunky expression not commonly used. Since we’re whipping them out and comparing sizes here, I’ll point out that “open source innovation” results in 159.000 results. What does it prove? Nothing. But since we seem to be playing that game…

    Here is a very interesting result from that search:

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/7644

  • three blind mice

    You still don’t get it, do you? They’re the same.

    no kidding. collaborative development is nothing new. sharing of ideas is nothing new. industrial cooperation long pre-dates anything called Open Source.

    in certain limited circumstances it makes sense to give away intellectual property. (profit motivated) companies like IBM, Nokia, and SUN have famously made various commitments to different Open Source projects. they ain’t doing it out of altruism. for IBM et al, Open Source is the Best. Outsourcing. Ever. all those fingers typing away for free alongside the regular laborforce. all that free – or non-existent – intellectual property that they don’t have to pay to license. no software licensing costs.

    but the OS model doesn’t work for everything. you would not have created a cellular radio network with OS techniques – although you did have a lot of industrial collaboration.

    Open Source’s – the wealth of network’s – opposition to intellectual property is based on a one-size-fits all model for development where everyone is “free” to use the inventions and innovations of anyone else. OS wants to “kill the goose” and promises to deliver a larger golden egg.

  • http://poptones.f2o.org poptones

    in certain limited circumstances it makes sense to give away intellectual property. (profit motivated) companies like IBM, Nokia, and SUN have famously made various commitments to different Open Source projects. they ain’t doing it out of altruism. for IBM et al, Open Source is the Best. Outsourcing. Ever. all those fingers typing away for free alongside the regular laborforce. all that free – or non-existent – intellectual property that they don’t have to pay to license. no software licensing costs.

    No software licensing costs, and free outsourcing – of course, that’s the value. It was meant to be the value. But that same value is brought to every programmer for hire. The value isn’t locked away in some golden vault of “intellectual property” and contracts and lawyers and torts.

    But in that same context, we have (for example) IBM paying their own developers to port linux to the s390, then dumping that code into the “free” realm. Sure, IBM could pick up more sales of the 390, but those don’t exactly sell at the corner compumart, and there are damn few indie developers who could even use the code. And what value is brought by even making it free? The 390 is a virtualized machine already, all they needed to “port” linux was to create a proprietary sandbox where linux could live – and yet, they didn’t stop at that. Why?

    I’ve never argued one size fits all. You and I agree here much more than we disagree, and I trust you know this. My disagreement with you here is not in defending a one size fits all application of ethic, but I object to the proverbial line in the sand which you seem to have drawn between “business” and “opennness,” ignoring at every turn the fact that open source is business. More impoirtantly, it is (or was) business as usual in the IT industry until only very recently.

    “All those fingers typiing away outside the regular labor force” is a completely oblivious view – oblivious to the fact a great many of those fingers are a vast part of that “regular labor force.” Companies do “pay” for that “free or non existent” property – they pay for it every time they contribute their own code to an open source project; they pay for it every time they hire a programmer to work on one of those free projects. You seem to be of the view it’s the commons or the corporation, when in fact the commons is attracting ever more corporations to its borders.

  • ACS

    Peter

    Besides, I know full well that the “point” of copyright is to benefit the public, not those that provide works. The point is noble but misguided. It paints human beings on the behaviorist canvas. It assumes that rewards and punishments are necessary to accomplish a human goal.

    Although I do agree there is some public policy in copyright I think the economic platform of protection of easily reproducible works is ultimately two steps: 1 – protect the authors rights to control thier works in the public. 2 – the author is more willing to share his works if he has protection. We only have to view the copy protection measures of Da Vinci or Michelangelo or thier predecessors to understand the importance of intellectual property rights on the individual.

    Mice

    Open Source’s – the wealth of network’s – opposition to intellectual property is based on a one-size-fits all model for development where everyone is “free” to use the inventions and innovations of anyone else. OS wants to “kill the goose” and promises to deliver a larger golden egg.

    This is absolutely correct. Although there may be a flourish of new products there is no guarantee those products will have any real quality. Furthermore, in the case of large Open Source projects like an O/S there is no guarantee of a planned outcome. Deficiencies may grow like a cancer without any real oversight to prevent systemic problems. The success of Red Hat and others is partly attributable to a professional workforce acting behind the scenes to manipulate the code created by the Open Source labour force. If it werent for the transfer fee the system would probably have fallen over by now. Yet now the open source community wants to remove any semblence of reward. Spoilt is one word that comes to mind.

    Poptones

    The value isn’t locked away in some golden vault of “intellectual property” and contracts and lawyers and torts.

    Torts?? huh. Ok I know I come into your world and discuss the digital stuff so I can forgive this one.

    And

    they pay for it every time they contribute their own code to an open source project; they pay for it every time they hire a programmer to work on one of those free projects. You seem to be of the view it’s the commons or the corporation, when in fact the commons is attracting ever more corporations to its borders.

    I think you have nipped the Open Source issue in the bud here. That is the economic advantage of open source for the community. I agree that it is a legally valid scheme and will retain a place in the greater computing industry in the future. Still my fear is for the programmers and companies that give away thier time and code in addition to paying the transfer fee. The viral licence can be insipid in that regard.

    It also seems self defeating in one sense – Why should a company develop another persons product instead of creating thier own? Why should they pay IBM for a product and then be slaves to IBM in terms of thier intellectual output.

    Its all very good and well to argue that we should all jump into one pond but thats where the big fish get the biggest advantage.

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