The Reality Facing Those Who Rely On The Copyright Crutch

from the it's-not-pretty dept

Whenever I write things like the post yesterday about the fact that too many people are relying on copyright as a crutch that allows them to avoid putting any effort into more innovative business models, people accuse me of being some sort of "idealist" who is not in touch with the real world. That always strikes me as a funny thing to say, because my discussions on copyright have nothing to do with idealism -- but are simply based on the reality of what's happening in copyright. If you want further evidence of that, just take a look at David Pogue's latest column where he discovers that college kids don't view this as a moral issue at all. They just don't see why anyone would think it's "wrong" to copy content. No education campaign, no legal campaign, no change in laws is going to change that. That is the reality anyone who relies on copyright is going to face in the near future, if they aren't facing it already. So, given that reality, why not look into business models that embrace it, rather than pretending we live in an idealistic world where everyone respects the artificial barriers of copyright? Is it really so idealistic to try to build business models based on reality?


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    Harold Jarche, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 5:34pm

    from slate to printing press to web

    "Is it really so idealistic to try to build business models based on reality?

    Nope - this has happened many times over the past centuries; get used to it folks.

     

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    Cynic, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 6:15pm

    I agree with you Mike. The world it is a changing, but not fast enough.

    In my opinion copyright should be the next "deregulation". We have had telecom dereg (anyone want to go back? miss your leased phone do you?). We have had Banking deregulation (anyone want to go back? branches open 10 to 3?) We have had airline deregulation (OK, so that's a mixed call, but I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle).

    I think we need copyright and patent reform. Just like there is still some support by the government for telecoms, banks and airlines, I have no problem with some *limited* IP protection, but what we have now is as stupid as the above industries were when I was young (long time ago).

    I just want to see the log jam broken up so that the pent up demand for content can flow. Heck, don't they see that as long as every middle man and IP lawyer insists on getting a piece of the pie that the price to the customer will always be too high to generate any real volume? That business model is doomed, the only question is how long will it hang on.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 9:01am

      Re:

      In what circumstances in which patent and copyright would benefit the public?

      Don't just make up hypothetical scenario, please at least cite an anecdotal story.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 7:30pm

    So relying on the GPL counted as a crutch too?

    It seem to me that GPL add values and destroying the reliance on royalty and artificial scarcity to make a living.

     

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      Shaun, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:44pm

      Re:

      I've actually thought about this quite a bit and the GPL and software in general provide an interesting issue. From the point of view by some who see the world divided in to developers and consumers there is no issue with there being no copyright as the GPL already says you can distribute it for free (or sell it) and this does fit quite nicely with the bsd license which all but places the code in the public domain in the first place. The problem lies in the specific difficulties inherent in software. There are equivalent licenses to the gpl for say written content and these would be fine as essentially they place something in the the public domain while enforcing that anything incorporating or based off it is also placed in the public domain. Without copyright this is redundant for written works as it is all in the public domain anyway. The GPL is a little less like placing something in the public domain as you force the redistribution of the source code - like forcing books to come with a text file of the contents except with a book converting the published (binary) version back to the plain text that can be edited (source code) is fairly trivial where as with a computer program it can be next to impossible.

      I haven't really worked out a solution to this and I'd really like Mike and others to look over this specific case which is for me the last stumbling block between making copyright completely redundant. I do have some ideas however which I would love to have discussed/ expanded on. One is that without worries about copyright liability to hold them back that decompilation software would advance to the point that the enforced redistribution of source code would become as unnecessary as redistributing the "source code" of a book. Another less good option is to still have copyright for a limited time period - say 5 years perhaps - but make it so that to get copyright of a program you have to submit a compilable copy of the source code to the copyright office or something to be released when the copyright expires.

      As I've said these ideas aren't completely formulated so I'd really like people (especially Mike) to constructively discuss them. And no just saying "we must not change copyright or the world is doomed" etc is not constructive.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:56pm

        Re: Re:

        You're misusing the word public domain.

        With public domain, you can do anything you like with it(correct me if I am wrong).

        However BSD and GPL requires specific conditions to be met. For BSD, you must credit the author. For GPL, you must credit the authors in addition to offering source code to anybody who request it.


        And for Free software.........

        GPL and BSD seem to be a good application of copyright law to create values, probably moreso for the GPL. We know that free software economic policies work.


        But the question is to what extents copyright's role in making the free software economic "miracle" tick as I like to call it. (I believe that there are strong evidences that free software is better in term of encouraging innovation, lowering prices, and much more)

        The next question is if copyright play some role, what is the best licenses that encourage economic prosperity?

        I don't think that you could simply just discuss it, you need to do economic research to find out the truth.

        P.S. Sorry for my terrible grammar.
        P.S.S I am also aware of decompilation of binaries and other points that I did not address.

         

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          Shaun, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 11:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Thanks for the reply!

          With public domain, you can do anything you like with it(correct me if I am wrong).

          I'm aware that I wasn't using "public domain" exactly correctly but what I was trying to say is that that bsd and free software (and open source slightly less) is similar to placing something in the public domain. BSD ony adds credit to the mix - which I don't think would be a bad thing to have in in place of copyright anyway, you just basically need a bibliography on works if the original author wishes. I'm trying to say that gpl is like saying that you'll put your software in the public domain and give the ability to edit it as long as everyone who redistributes it does the same with any changes to it. Also I have a feeling that it has been said that the gpl is incompatible with bsd licenses because of the requirement to credit the developers or something of the sort but that's pretty much beside the point.

          But the question is to what extents copyright's role in making the free software economic "miracle" tick as I like to call it.

          What I was trying to say was that I tend to agree with you there, it's just that I think that this seems to be the only area where copyright is necessary and it would be good if we could see a way to have it work if copyright didn't exist. Like do we need some related laws etc? Without this I'd say scrap all "Intellectual Property" with the exception of trademarks being taken back to their true use as a consumer protection device. Maybe there would be the necessity of some kind of law to allow free software licenses to work without copyright as you have rightly pointed out they are really valuable to have and rely on copyright - though part of my point was that one area that they rely on copyright is to sort of circumvent copyright.

          I don't think that you could simply just discuss it, you need to do economic research to find out the truth.

          In general I agree with you there I just think discussing it could help point out areas of research that have already been done or existing evidence that would relate and perhaps where more research is needed and some ideas for that research.

          P.S.S I am also aware of decompilation of binaries and other points that I did not address.

          Here I was just throwing out the possibility that without the threat of liability for copyright infringement there might be the possibility that decompilation software could advance to the point where copyright isn't necessary to enforce free software licenses - if they don't release the source you just decompile the binary and get it anyway. I'd really like some software developers who know a bit about this area to comment if there are any around here.

           

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            chris (profile), Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 11:28pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            the GPL is necessary because of copyright, oddly enough, it's only enforceable because of copyright.

            if you could just take whatever digital thing that you want and do anything that you wanted to with it, the GPL would not be enforceable. the penalty of not sharing the source of your modifications is a copyright suit. of course if you could do anything that wanted to with a piece of software, the GPL wouldn't be necessary.

            the difference between the BSD license and the GPL are this:

            the BSD license is free code to use in software, the GPL is code for use in free software.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 7:59pm

    I would have to agree essentially with those students but I will spell it out more clearly. If there is something (digital - the "owner" doesn't loose access to it if I make a copy) I would like to have but would go without if I had to pay for it or pay as much as they want for it then I see no moral issue with copying it. I'm vaguely thinking of getting a copy of vista ultimate at the moment but there is no way I would pay 5 or 6 hundred or whatever, in fact the hassle of installing it and dealing with the drm measures, serial keys etc make it worth approximately $0.00 to me - not worth even getting for free. Without all the drm crap and restrictions on where and on how many computers I could install it on then I might pay say $10 for it - that would be the value of it to me expecially considering that I can get Linux for free. It would still not be worth like 60x that to me so I would certainly see no moral issue in getting it for free.

    They don't get their ~$600 any way you shape it even if I had to pay or go without so they aren't loosing out - therefore no moral issue.

    By comparison I spent over $1000 to get halo 3 (though the waters are muddied a bit by the extra physical goods in the ultimate edition which I didn't have to pay for to get the game) because I had no reason to get an X-Box 360 or the extra controllers before that and I haven't gotten another game for it since (payed for or "pirated") so essentially having the game and the ability to play it with my friends put it's value to me at over $1000 - I would even have payed more if necessary so it's value to me was actually even higher to me. In this case (and assuming I had the equipment to play it) I would see "pirating" as having somewhat of a moral issue.

    To sum up only if the cost is less than or equal to the value it has to me (value defined as the price point at which I would go without rather than spend another $1) would a moral issue possibly issue exist - and the more so the more an item's value outweighs it's cost. If however the cost is more than it's value (I would only buy it if I had to pay even as little as $1 less than it's cost otherwise I'd go without rather than paying) then there is basically no moral issue in getting it for free - and the greater the discrepancy between it's cost and it's value the less of an issue. The only reason there is any grading included is because the value is somewhat uncertain and I might be mistaken and I actually would pay that extra $1 if I had to. So when it gets to the point that a digital item's cost is say 10x it's value then there is no moral issue to me as the uncertainty is completely eliminated and there is definitely no way they'd get the money they are asking for in any case.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:24pm

    In the 60's and 70's, a generation rebelled from the "establishment" using drugs and other things, it was quite a popular movement.

    That generation in turn raised the biggest group of brats ever. That generation was pretty much a waste.

    I see nothing different here. Funny thing is, sooner or later you, like them, will realize that your "goals" really are not the way to advance things along and that you were wrong all along.

    Soon most music will be sponsored by "the man" because that is how great musicians will make their money. Hope you enjoy your music by Exxon, because that is where you are driving to.

     

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      KD, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 12:15am

      So wrong ...

      You are so wrong it isn't funny. When did the modern record publishing industry start? Sometime shortly after the beginning of the 20th century. Do you actually believe that the only good music produced before that time was done by musicians somehow controlled by the Exxon's of that time?

      That isn't how it was. I see no reason to believe that in the absence of copyright, Exxon (and/or other large corporations) would end up controlling musicians.

       

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      ehrichweiss, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 5:38pm

      Re:

      Great rhetoric there but unfortunately it doesn't work here. The market has already started moving *away* from being sponsored by "the man" because of us "brats". Us brats are also the cause for most of the creative force today including your music and software. Deal with it.

      Of course you're likely nothing more than a MAFIAA shill so there's truly no need to bother explaining something with logic.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 5:45pm

        Re: Re:

        It is more like "the man" is refusing to adapt to the changing market.

        The "brats" rule and "the man" refuse to follow the kings so a lot of them will face an "execution" in the near future by way of suicidal approach to business unless of course they change.

         

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    neil, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:39pm

    you see people who consume content dont see why it shouldnt be free and they never will. Producers see why there needs to be a price attached. the reality is that these kid are going to leave their seltered lifestyles and enter the real world where mobs of yunger people are going to say to them "hey i want you to give me every thing you have for free." and then their land loard is going to say "where is the rent."
    and yes its a great idea to say give the content for free so that you can sell toys tshirts concert tickets ext...

    bot the reality of all that stuff is that it has the fool proof DRM you cant copy it and give it to your friend its ont item per one produced and the tickets they have self destruct code built in once the show is over there gone

    so now lets say you have a band and they produce really great music but they are new they dont have the resources to produce the phisical things and they are not well known enough to hope some of their audience will give them some cash. now you have closed the game out for anyone who wants to get in the industry

     

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      Shaun, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:54pm

      Re:

      yikes this is getting comments quickly, as soon as I post something I fine there is more already posted while I was writing it to discuss.

      My real point is that mike seems to have to answer this question/statement all the time:
      you see people who consume content dont see why it shouldnt be free and they never will. Producers see why there needs to be a price attached

      Mike does produce things (this blog) and he has said time and time again that everyone is welcome to copy it if they want. He would like to get credit if possible but that's all and he won't even enforce that as he's said it all ends up benefiting him anyway and just makes those who appropriate it without credit (or their own creative input) look stupid.

       

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      ehrichweiss, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      "now you have closed the game out for anyone who wants to get in the industry"

      If that's as far as you or any band take that journey then I'd say "good riddance". Seriously, you think a band would go through great pains to actually be good and then they'll simply give up because they can't make a CD or the like? If only M e t a l l i c a could have given up so easily. Well let me introduce you to the 19th century because here in the 21st century we don't have to have something physical to make money. Donations or "set-your-own-Radiohead-pricing" help cover the "cost" of making mp3's available, things like Adsense adverts help pay the rent. Tshirts are easy to get printed and places like cafepress.com will print other schwag like mugs, etc. with zero startup costs. And while it doesn't appear to be physical, a gig certainly generates revenue and quite a bit of it if you're willing to *gasp* work for it.

      You see, unlike yourself, I never gave up so easily that I could only think of 3 possibilities to make my dreams happen. I wanted to make my own way and I have in every arena I've chosen. So forgive me if I say that people such as yourself are born followers and that you should leave the pioneering to those of us who are willing to take charge of our lives.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:57pm

    Anonymous Coward:

    If the goal is to rebel against the "man". I don't think techdirt really hate the "man".

    Rather, it seem that they're advising the "man"(MPAA/RIAA) and everyone else on how to survive and even thrive. Although they seem to alway fail to convince the "man".

    They're not neccessary railing against the establishment. Rather they're trying to help the establishment not destroy themselves with stupid business decisions.

     

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    Overcast, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:04pm

    I wonder...

    If you could make a machine that could make a 100% working copy of a material substance - like gasoline.. What the oil companies would do to fight you.

    Even if it could be 'tuned' to be 100% clean (like digital music - it's 'clean' - doesn't waste oil to produce - plastic, afterall is made from crude oil).. the government, oil companies, and others would rail against it immediately.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:09pm

      Re:

      Overcast:
      That's a bit narrow minded.

      Your scenario would be the beginning of the end of material scarcity as we know it and leaving idea and human resources as probably the only scarce resources in the world.

      It would make everyone rich. Even the oil companies and the government, etc wouldn't resist it at all. Farmers don't need to farm anymore because they can just clone their food, etc.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 9:17pm

        Re: Re:

        Ok I finally have to answer this silly post

        It would all be good except this one little thing you are all forgetting Money is power. Power gets you sex and nature makes sex inexorable.

         

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      chris (profile), Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 11:22pm

      Re:

      it's easy, the market for those goods collapses. just look at what happens to the economy in an MMO when someone discovers a duping bug.

      if all content is suddenly free, everyone stops selling content. they won't stop making it, they'll just stop selling it.

      look at web comics like penny arcade. their strips are free and they sell ads, prints, books, merchandise, do commissioned comics for video game companies, run an annual convention, and do charity work.

      they donate over a million each year to childrens' hospitals. i'd say they are a success and don't rely a whole lot on copyright law.

       

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    Overcast, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:06pm

    You know on that thought too - any 'artist' who whines about digital music - would have to be an "Eco Hater" right? lol

    I mean - digital music eliminates the need for trees to be cut for the paper in the inserts, it eliminates the need for plastics to make the CD and case, and eliminates the oil used to ship the product, along with the energy the machines that produce these CD's use...

    Now, now.. I thought all these 'artists' were Eco-Friendly!!

    What say you Bono??

     

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    neil, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:12pm

    there is a difference between a blog a hobby and making a living off producing things.

    we are producing content right now maybe not good content but content however this is not how i will feed or selter myself

    if we produce our products for free we will lack a sustainable model

    just because it is easy to copy digital content dosnt make it right
    just because there is no way to stop the copying of digital content dosnt make it right to copy it

    if this trend continues you will eventualy see everything made server based you will boot up your computer and it will connect to a remote server for your desktop you will not own software because if we give it to one person they will copy it and give it to the world so we will never give you access to it only the abbility to use it if you want to copy it then reverse enginer it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:30pm

      Re:

      Techdirt is making money. Your point?


      So you're saying that copying digital content is bad because it will not support authors.

      Ever heard of "lot of traffic" and "selling advertisements" and irrational people "donating"?

      What people trying to say that artificially restricting people to copy is pointless and a futile exercise. What they're saying is to take advantage of the fact that people are copying.

      Offer things that are scarce, such as advertisement space on sites that receive heavy traffic. Even though your content is free, your website real estate are not.

       

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      Shaun, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 9:38pm

      Re:

      First off could you use the reply button, it makes discussion much easier to track especially if you use the threaded view (in the preferences)

      there is a difference between a blog a hobby and making a living off producing things.

      No Mike doesn't do this as a hobby he does it as a business - it's how he is "making a living" as he has said many times before both by the add sales directly off the page views and by promoting the section of techdirt that provides customised analysis for paying customers.

      just because it is easy to copy digital content dosnt make it right

      The point of the article to some extent is that college students think that it is right not weather it "really is right" and that this is unlikely to change so businesses etc will have to adapt whether or not it is "right" that they have to.

      if this trend continues you will eventualy see everything made server based you will boot up your computer and it will connect to a remote server for your desktop you will not own software...

      Huh? What does this flow from? Go try Free BSD or Linux they won't cost you a cent for the majority of them - I personally recommend Ubuntu Linux which I'm using right now - I prefer it over windows weather I have to pay for windows or not. Also Linux distributions are advancing by leaps and bounds - if they keep on this path they will end up leaving Windows so far in the dust you won't even recognize MS. And also you don't "own" software you buy nowadays anyway, you only have a license to use it under certain conditions.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:04pm

        Re: Re:

        For the server stuff:

        I think he is predicting that in the future we will use pretty much only web based applications and we will all use thin clients.

         

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          Shaun, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 11:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think he is predicting that in the future we will use pretty much only web based applications and we will all use thin clients

          Yeah that sounds right, there are some predicting this anyway. I think he's saying this is the only way to "protect" the software from being "pirated" or reverse engineered? My point is that if this is the case then selling software will just die out if people won't pay for something if they can just copy it - if they can't copy it then the still won't want to pay for it especially if they have alternatives. And as basically Mike has said the ones that don't rely on selling the non-scarce good that is the software will be the only ones to survive - like most the linux distro's etc.

           

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      ehrichweiss, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 5:58pm

      Re:

      "if this trend continues you will eventualy see everything made server based you will boot up your computer and it will connect to a remote server for your desktop you will not own software because if we give it to one person they will copy it and give it to the world so we will never give you access to it only the abbility to use it if you want to copy it then reverse enginer it."

      I have this sneaking suspicion that you're about to say that Linux is a communist plot to destroy the capitalism that is Microsoft. Sorry to inform you that most of those Linux distributors make enough money through advertising, support contracts, and donations to give out not only the programs but the source code to them so that one CAN reverse engineer it.

      How now brown cow?

       

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    astcell, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 5:42am

    You are right, copyright violation is no big deal today. Folks take images with PROOF and STOLEN written across it and use it on their blogs. There was a time when a divorce, unmarried pregnancy, STD, bankruptcy or criminal conviction was a bad thing. It will be interesting to see where this will lead.

     

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    Harold Jarche, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 8:06am

    getting educated about copyright

    I'd suggest viewing Larry Lessig's TED presentation on "How creativity is being strangled by the law":

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/187

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 8:57am

      Re: getting educated about copyright

      I suggest YOU to read the book Against Intellectual Monopoly"

      Copyright law has been strangling creativity ever since it was instituted, not just today. The advent of technologies that allow copying to be an extremely cheap affair just make the evil of intellectual monopoly more apparent.

      Though copyright licenses like the GPL are debatable as they shun the evil of monopoly and seem to add values. Still, copyright don't seem to have much evidences on their side.

       

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        Harold Jarche, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Re: getting educated about copyright

        Thanks, AC, I'll have to add it to my reading list. I see that Boldrin & Levine cite Lessig's book, "Free Culture".

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 4:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: getting educated about copyright

          No problem.

          I have to warn you that this book's position is different from Lessig's position. Where Lessig support copyright law, the book pretty much reject it. It also is against patent too.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 12:01pm

    hmmmm, Scott Sigler, Corey Doctorow anyone?

     

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    Common Sense, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 7:31pm

    Your basic problem is...

    Mike,

    To answer your question, yes, you are being too idealistic. What you want cannot ever happen because there are too many people benefitting from these copyright laws, and not enough people to side with those engaged in illegal activity (i.e. the ones who want the rules changed).

    I think you folks are placing too much importance on the wants of the criminally inclined rather than the laws they are operating under. Why would the people want to change the rules when they are benefitting from them, especially financially? The only people not benefitting from these laws are people engaged in criminal activity...

    For those of you trying to make this a civil rights issue, I would like to refresh your memories. Civil rights had to do with people who were treated differently under the law because of their gender or race. Software ownership has no such restriction.

    No one has a right to software, or written works, or art. Now, if someone, out of the goodness of their hearts, wants to hand out welfare to the less able, well, that is what Linux is for. But if you want industry standard versions, I imagine they will always cost money. Even premium Linux distros cost money at the store.

    Ironically, it seems that having a free version of software that can do basic tasks of a premium version only serves to keep the status quo. The argument can always be that the premium stuff does things the basic cannot, thus requiring extra effort, and therefore, folks should pay [extra] for it. And since it is still illegal to steal this stuff, the only choice is to pay or thieve.

    Maybe you should help the college kids you reference by educating them on the law, and hopefully save a few of them from the same fate as the felon from Russia who was giving away software he didn't own via torrent technology...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 8:52pm

      Re: Your basic problem is...

      Must I remind you that software ownership in your sense is an oxymoron?

      Software ownership in this era and age is not the equivalence of physical property. It have do with the right to control others' copies.

      "Stealing" is a wrong word to use there. Because to steal in your sense is to copy. Real stealing is to deprive of one's property. Copying is not, rather it is a copy of another's property.

      For industry standard or premium version, even redhat can be downloaded for free. You don't need to pay anything for a standard version of a software. Instead, you pay for support for "industry standard version" of software. This is exactly what Mike propose, business model that are not relying on copyright laws.

      Linux and the free software world isn't some welfare system, but rather it is an enterprising industry. There are lot of money to be made in the system. These guys in the industry have business model that doesn't generally rely on copyright law.

      Free software and linux aren't "free version of software", THEY ARE THE PREMIUM SOFTWARE.

      Next time, don't use misleading terms. Also, you would do better to understand the general business model of business model because I assure that offering tech support isn't reliance on copyright law.




      On the illegally inclined..


      This is not largely about the illegally inclined factor that you assume. This is more about competition kicking your butt and the powerful rules of consumers. The competition will force those who rely on copyright law as a crutch.

      Consumers, will over time choose something that is not DRM laden because of their experience with DRM technologies. Those who use copying will benefit because the consumers will be drawn to the word of mouth

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 8:56pm

        Re: Re: Your basic problem is...

        Correction to my comments:

        "Also, you would do better to understand the general business model of business model because I assure that offered tech support isn't reliance on copyright law."

        to....

        Also, you would do better to understand the general business model of FREE SOFTWARE(for empahis on the change) because I assure YOU that offering tech suport isn't reliance on copyright law.

         

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      Mike (profile), Dec 24th, 2007 @ 1:39am

      Re: Your basic problem is...

      What you want cannot ever happen because there are too many people benefitting from these copyright laws, and not enough people to side with those engaged in illegal activity

      Once again, you seem to have totally and completely missed my point. I will take the blame, again, for failing to make the point clear enough: the point I am making is actually the opposite of what you're saying. Those who learn to understand the economics at play will eventually benefit MORE than those who use copyright as a crutch. That's because copyright is about putting limits on a market, rather than expanding it.

      So, you (and I've pointed this out to you in the past, so it's a bit odd for you to claim this) are wrong when you suggest that I'm arguing on the side of "pirates." I am not. I am pointing out that those who understand the economics are going to swipe the business model out from under those who "benefit" from copyright as you note.

      The point of my argument isn't to legitimize unauthorized access, but to warn those who rely on copyright that what they benefit from is going to go away naturally -- as others figure out ways to embrace basic economics.

      Why would the people want to change the rules when they are benefitting from them,

      Because by not changing those laws, it gives them a crutch to avoid new innovative business models that will help them make more money.

      The only people not benefitting from these laws are people engaged in criminal activity...

      That's the most bizarre statement you've made to date. I do not engage in criminal behavior, yet I do not benefit from intellectual monopoly. I am constantly harmed by it. It limits my options. It limits how my company can innovate. It limits what I can do. I am immeasurably harmed by those laws -- and I still chose to live by them because I don't want to break any laws, no matter how dumb.

      By the way, whether you believe it or not, you, too, are greatly harmed by copyright.

       

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        Harold Jarche, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 5:46am

        Re: Re: Your basic problem is...

        Many people forget that copyright was a "temporary monopoly" granted by the government to promote economic activity, based on the technology and economics of ~250 years ago. Prior to the printing press (a new technology) there was no copyright.

        Yochai Benkler, Prof of law at Yale, covers many of the issues related to the changes that digital networks are making to politics, economics and culture. The book, The Wealth of Networks, is available for purchase or free download:
        http://www.benkler.org/wealth_of_networks/index.php/Download_PDFs_of_the_book

         

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    Paul`, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 1:09am

    The way I see it

    The way I look at it is what Henry Rollins said. If the band is up to their 4th album, world tours and selling out stadiums they arn't going to notice if you steal their music. But say you go to a club and after the gig the band is selling CD's and shirts from the back of their van, that money could mean they can eat something other then a cup'o'noodles that night.

    Those are the guys you pay for. If a band is big enough to be touring and selling merc they get squat from the record sales anyway.

     

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    Pope Ratzo, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 4:34am

    Copyright is murder

    I'm someone who makes a living from my ideas. I have lost income because of people copying my work without permission.

    However, rather than thinking the answer is stronger enforcement of copyright laws, I agree with the original poster of this story. Copyright needs to go.

    I've completely re-thought the way I get paid and the way I distribute my work. I've learned to use creative solutions to the problem, such as Creative Commons and simply making my work public domain. Innovators will not stop innovating just because there is no copyright.

    If we are going to keep copyright (and I hope we don't, as a society), at least it should be limited to a much shorter period of time and it should never be transferable from the original author to anyone else. This goes for patents too.

    The notion that the grandchildren of an inventor or songwriter or novelist are still making money off of their granddad's work is ridiculous. So is the idea that an inventor can sell his patent to a huge corporation. At best, it should be licensed for a very limited time. Maximum a year in the case of a patent.

     

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    SeattleGuy, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 8:05am

    Not just college students

    I had an experience recently where the bunch of JackHoles over at americannonsense.com were scraping my site with a script and posting all of the content as their own. After 10 or 15 e-mails in which I tried to explain the concept of copyright, fair use and properly signing a work with the real authors name they finally backed off and removed my site from their script's configuration.

    During the e-mail exchange they continued to spout some nonsense about using the content on their site to gage their readers interest and then potentially purchasing the target site. Like that was some kind of license to do what they wanted with my content.

    As a very amateur blogger my point isn't about selling my site (although that would rock!), it's about being appreciated and recognized for the content I create, it's an ego thing.

     

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    John O'Sullivan, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 7:39am

    Changing Attitudes

    Being old enough to remember, David Pogue's epiphany reminds me very strongly of the same split in attitudes about drugs in the 1960s and early 1970s. Had you taken the same poll with similar audiences about marijuana, you would have gotten a similarly dramatic difference of opinion.

     

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    Bubba, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 9:20am

    Specious Argument

    So, since a majority of people think breaking the law is OK, then the law should be repealed?

    I don't like the record companies, but to expect them to go quietly into the night is, yes, ideal. How will they fight back? Through increasingly onerous and draconian laws that heavily punish the people who engage in this activity.

    So as long as you're being a realist, make sure not to complain about the **AA's legal efforts to "employ" representatives such as Berman to pass new laws co-opting the DOJ as their own personal copyright army. Because, after all, we're living in the real world where legal playing fields that follow theoretical laws of economics don't exist.

     

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    dezurtrat, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    Anonymous Coward, let me make sure I understand you. Now before we get going, let's make it clear that I'm always open to new ideas and change and always entertain the thought I am wrong or confused. OK, now that we are past that, what you are saying is that if you decide something costs too much for you, it's OK to steal it?

    I'm thinking if I go to the car dealer and decide the car costs too much, I shouldn't come back after dark and just take it but I may be wrong. Now, I realize "copying" still allows the originator to keep their product as opposed to a car or something where it's gone. But, what I don't understand is how an artist or software developer makes money when people are copying their products for free and not paying for them. Maybe their is an alternative "business model" as people say that allows this but I haven't seen one yet.

    If I write a program that benefits people and I do it for a living trying to sell it, I don't want people copying it for fee. I mean, how else am I gunna eat? I would be upset if my boss tried to pay for say, 25 hrs a week, when I work 40.

    I used to work with a young kid out of college who I swear was the king of downloading anything illegal. But, he wouldn't work a second past his 40 hours. His excuse: I'm not giving them nothing for free". Huh??

    I just don't get it. So explain it to me. I could be wrong and really want the open discussion here.

    Thanks!

     

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      kjpweb, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 12:31pm

      Re: Copyright

      You nailed it.
      The moment you are making your living with it - copyright becomes an essential protection.
      Stating that content is being copied anyway - regardless of the laws, so it will eventually be ok is like saying, that if you rob a store, and many people do the same it's ok and eventually it's going to be accepted.
      Of course that example game could be played endlessly - but fact is - Mike's point of view is just plain lazy.
      He can however "convert" me to his way of thinking, the moment I can go in the supermarket and fill my cart for free, go to the car dealer, pick out a car and drive home without having paid a dime.
      Until then copyright protection is anything but a crutch, but law - and presenting such an opinion as an IT Pro really makes me wonder...

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 2:38pm

        Re: Re: Copyright

        Copying and stealing are not equivalent "crimes"

        Let take for example of what stealing and copying yield.

        Stealing is depriving of someone's property. Copying is a mere copying of someone's property.

        This lead to the basic conclusion of....

        Copying create more wealth for everyone as it become plentiful and widespread. Everybody benefit. Stealing is forceful taking of someone's wealth, thus in the end, wealth are not created. Stealing on the other hand create a zero sum situation in which one gain and the other lose.

        We can say....

        Copying is generally a good thing. Stealing is generally a bad thing.


        What you seem to fret over is the authors and artists' inability to make a living.

        This need not be the case. As everyone else here, we propose business models that doesn't rely on copyright and based on simple economic principle. For example, you could sell merchandising to music fans, or ask your fans for donation, or selling tech support contract for softwares.

        It is based on providing services that are scarce while using digital goods to expand your market and thus create more scarcity in your service.

        You may frets over artists and authors who failed to adapt to the condition of the time, but I wonder if you will fret over horse breeders who failed to adapt to the condition of the time as the automobiles become widespread.

        We only have the right to try to make a living as Mike and others repeatably said.

        P.S Sorry for my appaling grammar

        Otherwise everyone, including the lazy bum will be entitled to some form of revenues.

         

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        Mike (profile), Dec 24th, 2007 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re: Copyright

        The moment you are making your living with it - copyright becomes an essential protection.

        Sure, just like any other monopoly. Yet, anyone who understands economics understands that monopolies are dangerous for everyone else... so the idea of "essential protection" is a bad one.

        Stating that content is being copied anyway - regardless of the laws, so it will eventually be ok is like saying, that if you rob a store, and many people do the same it's ok and eventually it's going to be accepted.

        No. It's not. How many times must I repeat this? When you steal a physical, tangible good, it's now missing. When you *copy* something else, the original is not missing. There's a world of difference there in terms of what it means economically.

        Remember, the entire point of property rights is to help determine resource allocation in the presence of scarcity. Without scarcity, resource allocation isn't an issue... and thus property isn't an issue. If there is scarcity (as in tangible products) then property rights matter.

        He can however "convert" me to his way of thinking, the moment I can go in the supermarket and fill my cart for free, go to the car dealer, pick out a car and drive home without having paid a dime.

        See above.

        Until then copyright protection is anything but a crutch, but law - and presenting such an opinion as an IT Pro really makes me wonder...

        Not understanding the difference between scarce goods and infinite goods makes *me* wonder.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 1:16pm

      Re: Business Model

      You would do as several other companies are currently doing, you would give the software away and sell support contracts.

       

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        kjpweb, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 1:44pm

        Re: Re: Business Model

        Yeah! Cool - and the consumer ends up paying through the nose and paying more than a piece of software would go for...look at the "Service" Contracts of Phone companies, to see where models like that might lead to...

         

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          Mike (profile), Dec 24th, 2007 @ 3:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Business Model

          Yeah! Cool - and the consumer ends up paying through the nose and paying more than a piece of software would go for...look at the "Service" Contracts of Phone companies, to see where models like that might lead to...

          That's actually quite different. The point here is that it actually lets you do differential (more efficient!) pricing. Those who don't need service just get the software for free and do their own service on it. Those who need service pay for it at varying rates depending on how much service they need. It's actually a much fairer solution.

          The service contracts you talk about from phone companies is something entirely different, based on lock-in subscription rates that you are forced into. Quite different.

           

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      Mike (profile), Dec 24th, 2007 @ 3:43pm

      Re:

      But, what I don't understand is how an artist or software developer makes money when people are copying their products for free and not paying for them. Maybe their is an alternative "business model" as people say that allows this but I haven't seen one yet.

      There are many different business models. But the key is recognizing that for every "infinite good" that can be copied or shared for free, it will make some other *scarce* good more valuable. For example, if I'm a singer, giving away my songs makes my concerts more popular. If I'm a painter, giving away my artwork online makes my original prints more valuable and it makes commissioning me to do a new painting more valuable. If I'm a software company, it makes service more valuable or it makes someone's time more valuable. Those are just a few examples.

      So the trick is always to separate out the infinite components and scarce components and figure out which scarce components can be made more valuable by which infinite components. Then sell the scarce components and use the infinite ones to make the scarce ones more expensive.

      If I write a program that benefits people and I do it for a living trying to sell it, I don't want people copying it for fee. I mean, how else am I gunna eat?

      You find something else to sell. Look at IBM. They've embraced this fully, by recognizing that they're a service organization, yet they've invested a ton in Linux, most of which is "given away" but it's driving a hell of a lot more business to IBM.

      I used to work with a young kid out of college who I swear was the king of downloading anything illegal. But, he wouldn't work a second past his 40 hours. His excuse: I'm not giving them nothing for free". Huh??

      Someone's time is a scarce component. Content is not.

       

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        dezurtrat, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 1:30am

        Re: Re:

        Someone's time is a scarce component. Content is not.

        WOW, content doesn't take time to develop?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 5:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Of course, it take time to develop.


          But a consumer doesn't really care if it take 100 hours or 1 hours to make the content. They just want the content and i t have to be damn good too.

          Other than that, I failed to see what points you're making about intellectual monopoly.

           

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            dezurtrat, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 9:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Here is my point:

            The latest video game comes out - you want it for free

            The newest operating system comes out - you want it for free

            You favorite musician makes a new CD - You want it for free

            Some new hot software program comes out - You want it for free

            All this and you want to tell the developers to give it to you and go figure out another way to make money off of it

            Let me explain business to you. The consumer doesn't get to dictate how the business market, sells and controls their product. If their model is not competitive, they will fail. Just because you don't like how they do business doesn't mean you get to steal it.

            Maybe, let's say, a musician wants to get money for the songs AND the concerts AND the merchandise. It's their choice not yours. You didn't create it.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 10:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If people want to sell softwares or whatever. Fine.

              In the past, you're able to sell free software such as RedHat for quite bit of money(even further into the past, you could sell for more). Now it become more difficult because of faster internet connection.

              As with musics, I supposed you can still sell them radiohead style.

              I don't mind that you try to sell digital goods on the internet, but don't expect people to respect the artificial limit of copyright laws unless you're a free software vendor.(I almost never find illegal copies of free software going around)

              But don't expect me to buy these digital goods. You'll have to do better than that.

               

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                dezurtrat, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 11:01am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                By the way, I do enjoy the arguing back and forth. I truly believe this brings out ideas that will facilitate solutions to problems that can give everybody an answer they want or at least some amount of consensus. Maybe we'll all solve the problems of the world this way! Happy Holidays!

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 12:33pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Judging by your lack of criticism against my comment, does that mean I win?

                  Anyway, I don't gain much from this discussion that is equivalent to new answers and new problems. However what I did gained is by the sharpening of my reasoning and further articulation for my abolitionist position in the Intellectual Monopoly debate.(I hope)

                  What you and others raised in this thread are nothing new and are easily refuted.

                  What I would like in the future, though, is someone who can really challenge techdirt and bring the intellectual monopoly debate up to a whole new level.

                  Also, economic literatures against intellectual monopoly stand such as "Against Intellectual Monopoly" stand virtually unchallenged. I would like someone smart enough(such as another economic professor) to challenge the book.

                  If nothing else, it will encourage awareness and higher level discussion about intellectual monopoly than what we usually see at techdirt thread where dissenters are practically all shot down.

                   

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              Mike (profile), Dec 26th, 2007 @ 12:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              All this and you want to tell the developers to give it to you and go figure out another way to make money off of it

              No. You seem to be misinterpreting what I am saying. I am not saying that developers should give it to me for free. I'm saying that if they don't, they're going to face a competitive market where OTHERS are giving it out for free and making MORE money by embracing more developed business models.

              So what I'm saying is that it makes sense to understand the economics at play so that you can choose those business models yourself *first* and be that competitive force that drives others to adopt those business models.

              Let me explain business to you. The consumer doesn't get to dictate how the business market, sells and controls their product. If their model is not competitive, they will fail.

              No, let me explain business to you. The MARKET sets the price. And, yes, the consumer DOES dictate how businesses work, because if the companies cannot satisfy the consumer then the business will fail (as you note). All I am saying is that if you understand the economics, businesses will eventually have to start giving away the infinite goods and charging for the scarce goods -- and doing so will greatly expand their market. History has shown this over and over again.

              Just because you don't like how they do business doesn't mean you get to steal it.

              And I never said that they could either. You seem to be missing the point, here. We're not saying it's okay to infringe (and, seriously, you really ought to learn the difference between theft and infringement). All I'm saying is that if you don't choose to give away infinite goods, your business model is going to be a lot weaker for it, opening up the opportunity for someone else.

              Why you want to hold back that tide? I have no clue...

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:11pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                All I'm saying is that if you don't choose to give away infinite goods, your business model is going to be a lot weaker for it, opening up the opportunity for someone else.

                That's fine, but that's up to THEM not up to YOU.

                If (to take the current popular case) Lane Hartwell chooses to post her photos with a copyright notice, then if you're doing a mash up you need to find some other pictures to use.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 9:44am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  All I'm saying is that if you don't choose to give away infinite goods, your business model is going to be a lot weaker for it, opening up the opportunity for someone else.

                  That's fine, but that's up to THEM not up to YOU.

                  If (to take the current popular case) Lane Hartwell chooses to post her photos with a copyright notice, then if you're doing a mash up you need to find some other pictures to use.
                  People are free to criticize her business model whether YOU or HER (if not one and the same) like it or not.

                   

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          Mike (profile), Dec 26th, 2007 @ 12:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          WOW, content doesn't take time to develop?

          Never said that at all. However *once* it's created, there is no marginal cost to make a copy. Your basic economics lesson will teach you that in a competitive market price will always get driven to marginal cost. In the case of content, that marginal cost is zero -- so it's natural for price to get driven to zero.

          However, you are right that things take time to create -- and that's why if you are successful at creating content, you'll be able to charge others to help you create the *next* bit of content. Note that content NOT created has a much larger marginal cost.

          Understand the difference between content prior to creation and once created when it comes to marginal costs and you'll be 80% of the way to understanding where this all goes...

           

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            dezurtrat, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 10:38pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Seriously, I thought content was the important part. Why am I wrong on this? I just don't understand and I'm not being sarcastic here.

            Let me try and explain. What if it takes someone six months to write a song. If I just download it for free, how is that a good business model for him(her)?

             

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              Mike (profile), Dec 27th, 2007 @ 11:03pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Seriously, I thought content was the important part.

              Define "important." Recognize that "importance" has nothing to do with price. Air is important, yet you don't pay for it.

              Why am I wrong on this?

              You're not wrong in that music is important. I'm not denying that it's important. I'm just saying it doesn't make sense to charge for it. The fact that it's important only makes it better as a complementary good to sell other goods and services.

              Let me try and explain. What if it takes someone six months to write a song. If I just download it for free, how is that a good business model for him(her)?

              Again, you only seem to want to believe in half of the model, but you leave out the important part. As I wrote in another post, "free" is only half of the business model. It's the promotional part, you still charge for something else.

              Read this to understand: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070503/012939.shtml

              The fact that it takes you six months is not important here. What's important is understanding what you charge for and what you don't. I've never said "give it away for free and that's that." I have always said give the infinite components away for free and understand what scarce resources that will make more valuable -- and then sell those scarce resources.

              So, yes, even if it takes you six months to write a song, giving it away for free makes sense. If it's a good song there will be demand to see you play it live in concert, and you'll be able to sell many tickets (scarce resources) to do so. You may also be able to sell other things, such as getting someone to pay you to write another song.

               

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    Matt, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Pirating (my views)

    Ok at the risk of sounding like the dumb one here: I am going to use Microsoft as an example because I deal in both Linux and Windows and even play with Mac a little. I work for a school district where we are unfortunately married to Microsoft. We pay $120,000 a year for our Microsoft licensing. Being funded by public money it would not be a great idea to use illegal copies of software, at least in an official setting. Frankly the cost of getting caught would bankrupt us and almost certain result in the loss of my job.
    In working with Windows and Linux I have discovered that there are things that frankly Microsoft is better and also things that Linux is better at. For example: Running IIS as your webserver is ridiculous. A Linux server running apache blows it out of the water. However, The Gimp (a free image editing software package) is nothing compared to Adobe Photoshop (ooops – sorry I realize Adobe runs that, NOT Microsoft).
    Then it is not uncommon for a student to come to me and ask if he/she can run Microsoft Office in his or her home computer. Our licensing allows for that, but the mechanics of it make it nearly impossible to follow. The student would have to bring his/her machine from home and have either myself or someone in our department install the software. Frankly, Microsoft is our only vendor that even allows that.
    So… on the other side I download illegal copies of everything the district has to allow my students do their homework while at home. I don’t advertise it to the entire district but as students ask I produce copies which they can install at home with the warning that it is illegal and that they didn’t get it from me. I do this so that it isn’t our legal copies that get out there. But from what I have seen they are other organizations legal stuff.
    The funny thing is: especially when it comes to Microsoft I find myself happy to pirate their stuff simply because I have seen what it costs in the stores. I know for a fact that after spending the kind of money mentioned at the top of this, which by the way, is extremely discounted – it comes out to around $40 a machine to cover Microsoft Office, Encarta, Windows XP/Vista Business, Visual Studio, Microsoft is making a fortune and the few copies that are floating around don’t even phase them.
    You should also know that when students need a song to go into their Powerpoint presentations I can usually help them out there too – which for the most part they have purchased the CD already.
    After reading all of this it seems to me that the argument is really more about whether or not it should be illegal to copy material and media. As one writer in this post said, this is reminiscent of another argument about whether or not marijuana should be legal.
    As for everyone running a thin client, well I hope by that time Linux has matured enough to actually make a good desktop machine where you don’t have to be an expert to run it. Now the irony is I am writing this in Open Office on an Ubuntu machine just to catch my spelling errors where I will then paste it into the form on this page.
    Redhat is indeed embracing a new business model although I hope it doesn’t end with Redhat. All be it if you look for CentOS you find out rather quickly that it is the same thing.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    Is it really so idealistic to try to build business models based on reality?
    What's not real? The "reality" is that you have to compete if you can get the government to give you special protections.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 4:29pm

      Re:

      Oops. That should have read:
      The "reality" is that you don't have to compete if you can get the government to give you special protections.

      Leaving out one little word sure makes a big difference.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        dezurtrat, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 10:27pm

        Re: Re:

        Ah, so maybe we do agree that less government intervention is best for the market?

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 28th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ah, so maybe we do agree that less government intervention is best for the market?
          Absolutely. But you can also make a lot of money without working so hard if you can get the government to give you protection. It may not be good for the market or society or the country as a whole, but that's "reality".

           

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 9:33am

    Prior Review?

    What's up with commentss having to be reviewed by TD staff before they're posted now? Since TD is pre-screening comments, I wonder if safe-harbor protections still apply.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), Dec 27th, 2007 @ 9:56am

      Re: Prior Review?

      What's up with commentss having to be reviewed by TD staff before they're posted now? Since TD is pre-screening comments, I wonder if safe-harbor protections still apply.

      We don't review comments before they're posted. I'm not sure what gave you that idea.

      We do have a spam filter that will, on occasion catch a legitimate comment, but we tend to free it within a few hours. However, we do not review it for content, other than to see that it's not spam.

      Given the number of comments on the site it would be nearly impossible to review them all. However, even if we did, it most likely would not remove safe harbor protections. It's not entirely settled law, but there is a ruling in one district stating that simply passing on someone else's words (this was done on an email list where the moderator forwarded an email) does not remove safe harbor protections. However, right now, that really only applies in the circuit where that decision was made.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 4:24pm

        Re: Re: Prior Review?

        We don't review comments before they're posted. I'm not sure what gave you that idea.
        Gee, maybe it was the message that said that the comment would have to be reviewed by the Tecdirt staff before it would appear.

        However, even if we did, it most likely would not remove safe harbor protections.
        Step 1: Setup website and solicit anonymous submissions.

        Step 2: "Anonymously" submit to yourself what you want to be able to publish without legal responsibility. (or have someone do it for you)

        Step 3: Delete the other submissions.

        Step 4: Claim immunity.

        Now, I'm in no way implying that TD would do anything like that, but there are some other sites out there that would and I'm doubting that the courts are going to go for it. I suspect that once a site starts controlling the content like that, the courts are going to want to also hold the site responsible for that content.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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