Extending Copyright Law Is Like Banning Wikipedia

from the indeed dept

Richard Smith has an interesting post discussing James Boyle's excellent book, The Public Domain, which we've been discussing as well. In his post, though, Smith makes a really good point, comparing the extension of copyright to the banning of Wikipedia. Obviously, that sounds like hyperbole, but he's making a really good point that is often missed in these discussions.

You never see (or think about) what's lost when we create ever more stringent and draconian copyright laws.

Smith points to Boyle's thought experiments on how you would set up a network if given the choice, in 1990, between an open and a closed network. He notes, pretty accurately, that many people would likely freak out about the nature of the open network, recognizing all of the downsides, but rarely the potential upsides of such a network. Instead, they would focus on creating a "protected" network. Luckily, that's not what happened, but no thanks to careful planning. It was mostly an accident of history.

The second experiment would be about creating the best encyclopedia out there:
In a second thought experiment, imagine that it's five years ago and you are responsible for developing the most comprehensive and up-to-the-minute encyclopedia the world has ever seen. One strategy is to create a global company, employ the brightest people available, check every fact produced, and implement the most rigorous editorial controls. A second option is to "just create a website and let anybody put up anything". Again, we'd mostly have opted for the first strategy, and the world wouldn't have Wikipedia.
Once again, Wikipedia is more an accident of history. It was an experiment -- an offshoot of another project to see what would happen. It wasn't well planned out, but it worked.

The problem with copyright law, is that it tries to plan everything out. It focuses on preventing all sorts of potential "bad stuff," but never takes into account all the good stuff that would be allowed through such happy accidents. Strengthening copyright law may try (and likely fail) to prevent "bad stuff" from happening, but it also may cost us the next Wikipedia -- without anyone ever realizing it.

Filed Under: copyright, copyright extension, uk


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  • identicon
    Weird Harold, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:26am

    If I reached this far, I would actually hurt myself.

    Copyright law doesn't forbid or stop open innovation, the next wikipedia can happen the same way that microsoft windows doesn't preclude linux from happening, or from Apple to do OS.X or all those other things. Copyright doesn't stop someone from making a video of themselves getting hit in the nuts with a baseball bat, nor does it stop someone from making a website about guys getting hit in the nuts with baseball bats.

    To suggest that copyright on any level would stop a wikipedia style project is beyond a reach. I actually think of it as fear mongering.

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    • identicon
      Chronno S. Trigger, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:35am

      Re:

      You're only reading the words of this article. You aren't seeing the meaning of the article. He isn't saying that copyright is going to kill Wikipedia (actually, it may but that's another argument.) He's saying that the old ways of thinking (example: copyright) will stop us from thinking up the new and extremely valuable ideas (example: Wikipedia).

      If we kept with the old way of thinking, computers would not be around at all. Cars would still be pulled by large four legged animals. This is assuming that we would have gotten that far to begin with.

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      • identicon
        Weird Harold, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:42am

        Re: Re:

        ...and if grandma had wheels, she would have been a streetcar.

        Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas, it is only intended to stop individuals and companies from using someone elses OLD and extremely valuable ideas without getting their permission. It stops people from profiting from the work of others without paying for those rights.

        It wouldn't stop wikipedia. It wouldn't stop linux, it wouldn't stop... whatever that idea is you are thinking of now.

        It's fear mongering at it's worst.

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        • identicon
          KustyG, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "A patent lawsuit has recently been filed against Wikipedia. This claim relates to the system of online collaboration implemented. The claimant accuses Wikipedia of blatantly copying his idea of allowing users to modify a web-page."

          In case I've scared you, it's not real. But are you saying you haven't heard a million similar news articles relating to this?

          Weird H, I still can't figure out if you actually believe what you are saying or are having a laugh playin devil's advocate? Am I the only one?

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        • identicon
          Chronno S. Trigger, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Except it has stopped people from writing new songs, books, TV shows. It's stopped old creative works that have long since been abandoned from coming into the public domain so that someone can enjoy it and possibly be inspired to create a new work by it.

          In an argument that you probably will brush off, it can even stop people from creating new, independent, and completely unique creations just because they fear infringing.

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          • identicon
            LostSailor, 20 Mar 2009 @ 11:38am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Except it has stopped people from writing new songs, books, TV shows. It's stopped old creative works that have long since been abandoned from coming into the public domain so that someone can enjoy it and possibly be inspired to create a new work by it.

            Copyright law hasn't stopped people from writing new books, songs, or anything else. They're constantly being produced. Copyright law may have stopped someone from copying someone else's content and "re-creating" it as their own, but it's not a major issue. Nothing is stopping anyone from being inspired by a song, book, or TV show and using that inspiration--and even the ideas in the copyrighted material--from creating their own new works.

            I completely agree with you that so-called "orphaned works" that have fallen out of commercial availability and for which the copyright status or the copyright owner cannot be determined or found is an important issue. Congress definitely needs to enact a change to copyright law that allows these works to move into the public domain sooner than copyright would now allow, and there have been proposals for just that.

            It would be nice to see the Techdirt community actively working for such a law, even as an incremental step in the long march to burning down copyright entirely, if that's their aim.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas"

          Except that copyright is constantly used as a stick to beat down innovation. Just look at licensing schemes. Arbitrarily expensive streaming licenses threatened to kill services like Pandora (a "NEW and extremely valuable idea").

          Also look to examples around the world of taxes put on blank CDs to subsidize the recording industry regardless of the intent of the purchase.

          Or, perhaps, the new push to ban P2P services ("NEW and extremely valuable ideas") altogether based on the false assumption that their only use is to infringe on copyrights is a good enough example?

          These examples go on forever, and all under the flag of copyright. So, yes, it constantly interferes with "NEW and extremely valuable ideas."

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        • icon
          MadJo (profile), 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There are numerous occasions where old content is still very much locked up behind Copyright, which can't be preserved because of it, and therefore disappear from our culture.
          By making the copyright laws more stringent and longer lasting, the less culture is preserved.

          For decades before copyright law was (re)written, artists used ideas from eachother to come up with better ideas. Standing on top of shoulders of giants so to speak.

          Today, that has become a legal minefield. Is this still copyrighted? Is this even parody or infringement?

          Copyright laws should not be used as a wellfare for artists, but as an incentive to create new stuff.

          If I were to redesign the law, it would have provisions against reselling of copyright. It belongs to the creator and no-one else. Period.
          And copyright holders only have a monopoly on their works for a short amount of time. I believe a British university had calculated that 15 years was optimal time. After that, it defaults to the public domain.

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 20 Mar 2009 @ 10:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          As usual, you seem to be completely ignoring the points raised in favour of your own interpretation. To quote the article:

          "Smith points to Boyle's thought experiments on how you would set up a network if given the choice, in 1990, between an open and a closed network. He notes, pretty accurately, that many people would likely freak out about the nature of the open network, recognizing all of the downsides, but rarely the potential upsides of such a network. Instead, they would focus on creating a "protected" network."

          This is the major point and is entirely correct. Do you have ANY idea how dependent the Internet is on open systems? Both its growth and usefulness are entirely due to the facts that, among other things, TCP/IP, DNS, HTTP, FTP, SMTP, HTML, et al are free and open. The facts that anyone can set up a server and anyone can place content onto the network via that server are the entire reasons why the Internet has grown. I can hook up an Apache server and hey presto a new web server, no licensing or payments required. That's the foundation of the internet we know.

          Imagine if Tim Berners-Lee decided to demand a payment every time someone tried to use HTML. Imagine if the US military demanded IP payments every time someone used a system that originated with ARPAnet, or if pre-determined gatekeepers were the only ones allowed to connect a web server. The internet as it exists today would not exist at all, whatever remnants were left would be the domain of universities and the rich, if anyone at all had it.

          You owe your very existence on this forum to the fact that these systems were made free and open.

          "It wouldn't stop wikipedia. It wouldn't stop linux, it wouldn't stop... whatever that idea is you are thinking of now."

          Yes, of course it would, at least in their current forms. If the network wasn't open (meaning it would be much more expensive), there would be far fewer people on the network. This would mean far fewer developers for Linux, meaning it wouldn't exist in its current form. ALL open source software is dependent on cheap, easy communication between developers. This would not exist on a closed network, meaning fewer developers, meaning a less mature operating system (also meaning that FreeBSD, upon which OSX is based, would not exist in its current form either).

          As for Wikipedia, again if there were fewer people using the network, it would be far smaller and less useful, as well as far less popular (and thus more difficult to run with donations). It's also possible that the wiki software that runs it would not have been developed, or at least it wouldn't have been published under the open source licences popularised by Linux.

          Now, of course it may not be a *complete* disaster and it's possible that less spam, virii and malware would have been developed under a closed system. But, the vast majority of the success of the web has been due to the fact that anyone can upload any webpage they want without regard to licensing, royalties and censorship (within reason). Instead of an international network that anyone can access, you'd have a far smaller system that only a select few used.

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        • identicon
          Mordred Kaides, 20 Mar 2009 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          should I remember you to the mix tape sites that where blocked because of copyright? even tho it didn;t use copyrighted material, but merly because it could be used for it.

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    • identicon
      :Lobo Santo, 20 Mar 2009 @ 8:13am

      Re:

      Stupidity is like nuclear power; it can be used for good or evil, and you don't want to get any on you.

      How can anybody with a pulse be so insufferably short-sighted?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      Hear hear.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:36am

      Re:

      Do these people really think copyright kills creativity and should end? I guess none of them is a creator. Sorry to see your sensible input getting slagged off.

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      • identicon
        Chronno S. Trigger, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:56am

        Re: Re:

        I am so sick of these black and wight, "us against them(#1 here)" arguments. Ether we believe that copyright needs to be strengthened or we are freeloading, uncreative losers looking for a handout. In your eyes, it's physically impossible for someone to want to freely give away their creative works without the interference of copyright law.

        In reality you have people like me who have decided to release creative works under a surname just so we can get our works out there without fear of someone coming at us with a law team over some obscure reference that doesn't make any kind of difference to ether works.

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  • identicon
    Claes, 20 Mar 2009 @ 6:38am

    @Weird Harold,
    I think you interpret the analogy too literally. What Mike is trying to say is not that Wikipedia is stopped by copyright law, but rather that other things may be and just like it was very difficult to forsee the development of Wikipedia it's difficult to forsee what good things a relaxed copyright legislation may bring as people's creativity and access to culture is unleashed.

    Maybe modern politicians need to read Frédéric Bastiat - What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.

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  • identicon
    CmdrOberon, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:11am

    Typo in article....

    > which we've been disucssing as well.

    I think you mean 'discussing'?

    (You can delete this comment when the typo is fixed)

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  • identicon
    anon, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:13am

    Re:

    @KustyG Agreed on W. Harold.

    and if grandma had wheels she'd probably just be in a wheelchair with limited use of her legs. One should respect Occam's razor.

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  • identicon
    Claes, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:23am

    Weird Harold: "Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas"

    Copyright doesn't deal with ideas at all, only expression and when people express themselves they use what they have around them. Just to avoid unnecessary polarization of opinions: it would suffice with a shortening of the copyright term to reap some of these benefits (do you agree?). Copyright is there not primarily about compensating creators, but to provide incentives which can work for the common good (if in any doubt, just read the american constitution).

    The copyright terms are a deal between creators and the society as a whole - in return for the state handing out a monopoly the people is meant to be compensated by getting access to more culture. Now, nobody in his right mind would pay more for something than he thinks it's worth, but that is just what the special interest groups have convinced our politicians to do. If we suddenly cut the copyright term into half as many years I'm absolutely convinced that we would see no decrease in the number of works created.

    I hope more people will discover that we shouldn't pay an overprice and unnecessarily transfer wealth from the public to some big record and movie companies, just like we ought to be very careful about handing out tax money to support companies in this financial crisis.

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    • icon
      eclecticdave (profile), 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      > If we suddenly cut the copyright term into half as many years I'm absolutely convinced that we would see no decrease in the number of works created

      Reminds me of an idea I had a while ago ...

      What if a creator had a way of making a legally binding commitment to put a work into the public domain after a specified time?

      That way creators could negotiate with their fans, based on what value they place on the work becoming available and the market ends up deciding the length of copyright terms.

      Maybe it would just be a stepping stone to copyright-free business models, but it seems to me it can't hurt to throw more options into the pot.

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  • identicon
    Björn, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:28am

    indeed!

    The summation really crystallizes the problem for me. The underlying conflict is an even more deeply-rooted "business model" problem than I usually think. It's the difference between top-down and bottom-up.

    All the IP advocates think that the old command-and-control model is the only way things can get done, where folks like me see that the reality is a distributed, peer-based model works better for most every activity, from making music to programming to international commerce. That's the crux of the conflict, and it is unlikely to ever be resolved.

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  • identicon
    Paul Wehage, 20 Mar 2009 @ 7:59am

    Wikipedia is not about expressing new ideas

    If you knew anything about the way Wikipedia works, you'd see that the core policies of "no original research" and "verifiability, not truth" make any original thinking outside of the objectives of that project. The idea is that editors are supposed to read the ideas in published sources, and then rework them into new prose which can then be licensed under a free license (ideas cannot be copyright).

    Wikipedia DOES respect copyright, as this discussion points out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Gastropods/Subpage_for_organizing_CopyVio_Cl eanup

    One of the main problems Wikipedia currently faces is that contributors don't understand that they are required to follow all existing copyright legislation and that if they don't, they put the project in jeopardy.

    So, this entire discussion is beside the point.

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  • identicon
    R. Miles, 20 Mar 2009 @ 8:07am

    Weird Harold, you put your foot in your mouth. Again.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090316/1934504142.shtml

    Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas, it is only intended to stop individuals and companies from using someone elses OLD and extremely valuable ideas without getting their permission.

    The link, and your statement, contradict each other. While the photo in question was used as a starting point, the resultant art did not copy the photo. In looking at the two, one can easily assess a comparative result, but not an identical one, which copyright defends.

    So, Weird Harold, once again you have been proven wrong with the statement you made.

    Why do you even bother posting?

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    • identicon
      Weird Harold, 20 Mar 2009 @ 8:45am

      Re: Weird Harold, you put your foot in your mouth. Again.

      Yawn. Once again, you don't have a clue about the idea of NEW versus the idea of REFINED. The work isn't NEW, it is a REFINEMENT of an existing work.

      When you start to understand the difference, we can talk about it all again.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2009 @ 10:01am

      Re: Weird Harold, you put your foot in your mouth. Again.

      Wow, a techdirt blog. It is fact. Bow down and worship mike the tool, because everything he writes is fact.

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  • identicon
    Claes, 20 Mar 2009 @ 8:38am

    @Paul Wehage,
    I mean no disrespect, but I feel your entire comment is besides the point. This is how I read the original post:

    * Wikipedia is a tremendously useful resource which evolved unexpectedly without us being able to predict it or plan for it. It's based on user-generated content and economical copyright protection isn't a necessary incentive for its development.

    * Just like Wikipedia provides us with lots of useful information, we could benefit greatly from access to early works. If Wikipedia were taken away it would surely be missed, so why don't we discuss more about all those early works which are unnecessarily out of reach due to copyright law?

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    • identicon
      Weird Harold, 20 Mar 2009 @ 8:49am

      Re:

      You almost got it, I thought you might actually get the third part and realize this is all meaningless.

      * if something is protected by copyright, it is likely not an early idea or early work and therefore wouldn't be missed in the same way.

      Copyright doesn't stop anything, it just makes it expensive to keep going over the same ground.

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      • identicon
        Chronno S. Trigger, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:35am

        Re: Re:

        "Copyright doesn't stop anything, it just makes it expensive to keep going over the same ground."

        That's like saying a pot hole filled road doesn't stop traffic it just makes it harder to drive. It may not stop my Jeep but it sure as hell stops my roommates Cougar (and his Grand Am before that).

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    • identicon
      Paul Wehage, 20 Mar 2009 @ 5:26pm

      Re: Wikipedia/copyrights

      @Claes. No, you're missing the point. Whether Wikipedia is useful or not is beside the point: Wikipedia is required to abide by all existing copyright legislation. Just ask Mike Godwin and you'll see that this is the case.

      Wikipedia is about generation of free content. It is not about infringement of anyone's copyright. That's the whole point.

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  • identicon
    Claes, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:25am

    Weird Harold wrote: "if something is protected by copyright, it is likely not an early idea or early work and therefore wouldn't be missed in the same way."

    If the copyright term extending to this date wasn't a vital part of the creators decision to create and publish his/her work, then there is no reason whatsoever for the work to be copyrighted any longer. Every protection beyond this would not be for the public good since it wouldn't stimulate people to do something they wouldn't have done anyway. In this regard I think few works should need to be protected for much more than 10-20 years. By early work, I meant something which is more than ~20 years old.

    Copyright doesn't stop anything, it just makes it expensive to keep going over the same ground.

    So if Shakespeare's work were still protected it wouldn't stop anything, it would just mean that all school plays would need to pay hefty fees to Shakespeare's relatives? (and what if they wouldn't agree to amateurs playing these works?)

    In theory it may not be stopping anything (assuming the rightholders can be found and that their usage terms are reasonable - a really big assumption), but in practice this is of course a major obstacle for those who want to use the works.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:43am

    LAWL

    "Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas, it is only intended to stop individuals and companies from using someone elses OLD and extremely valuable ideas without getting their permission. It stops people from profiting from the work of others without paying for those rights.

    It wouldn't stop wikipedia. It wouldn't stop linux, it wouldn't stop... whatever that idea is you are thinking of now.

    It's fear mongering at it's worst."

    Copyright is ABUSED so much. The abuse of power causes people to not try new an exciting new stuff and also lets large companies muscle out a smaller company/person.

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  • identicon
    Jesse, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:47am

    "Copyright never, ever, ever stops anyone from thinking up NEW and extremely valuable ideas, it is only intended to stop individuals and companies from using someone elses OLD and extremely valuable ideas without getting their permission. It stops people from profiting from the work of others without paying for those rights."

    Hey I think I've read those ideas somewhere else. Those ideas have definitely been expressed before. You, my friend, are stealing. I think you should just stop talking because I doubt you have any ideas that have never been thought before by anyone in the history of this planet.

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  • identicon
    Jesse, 20 Mar 2009 @ 9:58am

    "Do these people really think copyright kills creativity and should end? I guess none of them is a creator. Sorry to see your sensible input getting slagged off."

    You are apparently not realizing that techdirt "gives away" all its content. They very much practice what they preach. They are not at all concerned if someone "steals" their ideas.

    I am a creator. I have been a musician all my life. Even if I follow all the rules, I still risk an infringement lawsuit. I hope someday you are accused of infringement when you didn't intentionally try to break any laws. We'll see if you love copyright so much when you are on the receiving end of it's many flaws.

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  • identicon
    Weird Harold, 20 Mar 2009 @ 11:25am

    Totally aside, but this came to me over lunch. This blog post is a great example of how repeating something often enough can make it true.

    The original article is a opinion piece. Mike quotes it here, and some people are mistaking some of the ideas for fact rather than opinion. Now if someone quotes Mike's post somewhere else, does it become fact?

    Slippery slope.

    "ALL open source software is dependent on cheap, easy communication between developers"

    Not so - long before communication was easy (like back when we all used paper print terminals connected as slowly as 45.45 baud) there was still communication. It was called the phone, personal meetings, etc. Stuff got done. Open Source software is dependant on people who write code because they like to, not because they want to. Open Source is also one of the worst ways to develop anything, because in the end nobody is really responsible. It works, but sometimes open source is more like the infinite number of monkeys typing as opposed to any real direction or thought.

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    • icon
      chris (profile), 20 Mar 2009 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      Not so - long before communication was easy (like back when we all used paper print terminals connected as slowly as 45.45 baud) there was still communication. It was called the phone, personal meetings, etc. Stuff got done

      and all of the programming done before the 80's was open source. that's how stuff got done: people stole each other's code. companies distributed software as source because it had to be compiled using your machine's environment.

      it was the unix wars and packaged software that set the gnu foundation in motion.

      Open Source software is dependant on people who write code because they like to, not because they want to.

      WTF does that mean?

      Open Source is also one of the worst ways to develop anything, because in the end nobody is really responsible.

      right, openBSD has had 2 remote access flaws in the default install in 10 years. windows has had 2 in the last 6 months. who fixes their bugs faster? how has fewer bugs in the first place?

      things get done and get fixed in open source because anyone who can see what's wrong can have a say and contribute a fix.

      read about dan kaminsky's work on the DNS bug and see how proprietary software companies like MS and cisco respond to peer review.

      It works, but sometimes open source is more like the infinite number of monkeys typing as opposed to any real direction or thought.

      right, and sometimes proprietary software companies are more like monkeys throwing feces at each other as opposed to trying to help their customers.

      if open source software is such poor quality, why is so much of the world wide web hosted on apache? why is bind the number one DNS server? why did TCP/IP win out over all proprietary networking protocols in the early days of the internet?

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      • identicon
        Weird Harold, 22 Mar 2009 @ 7:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Short and long answers:

        Apache has been patched so many times and there are so many offshoots, that it is almost impossible to keep up. Further, I can tell you that there are to this day still flaws in the apache code that won't get fixed.

        Did you know that BIND at one point was one of the largest open doors on a network?

        The end results of open source are often very good. But in the time it has taken unix/linux to make it to being a semi-commercial product, Microsoft went from dos to windows to... you know how it goes. Without Apple coming on board, much of the unix code would still be a shambles.

        If you think the comments on this board get nasty at times, you might want to try a unix developers forum. There is pocket protectors and nerd glasses flying all over the place ;)

        if open source software is such poor quality, why is so much of the world wide web hosted on apache?

        It's only saving grace is that for a long time there was no competition, except for IIS and whatever disaster Sun tried to push. Now you have lighttp nginx, and tons of options (I use multiple options). Each has it's pluses and minuses. Apache is good mostly because it isn't getting much serious work done to it now, so it is relatively stable and easy to implement. But some of those other choices are coming up, and there is great potential that soon enough apache isn't the best option.

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        • icon
          chris (profile), 23 Mar 2009 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Further, I can tell you that there are to this day still flaws in the apache code that won't get fixed.

          the same can be said for windows. at least with apache you have access to the source code and a chance at getting a fix. with a lot of closed source software it's a foregone conclusion.

          It's only saving grace is that for a long time there was no competition, except for IIS and whatever disaster Sun tried to push. Now you have lighttp nginx, and tons of options (I use multiple options).

          lighttp and nginx are both open source, dumbass.

          i didn't say that open source software was bug free, i said that open source software gets the bugs identified and fixed whereas closed source software makes logging and fixing bugs a real challenge. if you find a really good bug in something, chances are you will get sued for discussing it. that's really going to help fix things.

          all software has bugs, but some software makes spotting and fixing them much much faster, namely open source.

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  • identicon
    LostSailor, 20 Mar 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Inapt Thought Experiments

    While I respect Boyle and generally agree that the Bono Act extending copyright was a mistake as are further extensions of copyright, as well as the very clear problem of orphaned works that definitely needs to be dealt with, I don't agree with the idea that such extensions of copyright (or copyright itself, for that matter) are due to "cultural agoraphobia" or with the thought experiments Mike cites and which Boyle apparently used in a speech to support the cultural agoraphobia idea.

    The Web would have likely developed anyway, since a lot of the backbone was created by government agencies not subject to copyright. I suppose HTTP and related protocols might have been copyrighted or patented, the fact that they were open systems in spite of the existence of copyright shows that copyright does not stifle creativity.

    As for Wikipedia, for that thought experiment you'd have to go back much farther than 5 years. The traditional market for general encyclopedias pretty much disappeared at least 10 to 15 years before Wikipedia came along and 5 years ago, no one in their right mind would have contemplated creating a closed-system general encyclopedia, copyright or no copyright. That said, it's interesting to note that many traditional encyclopedias are still in business alongside Wikipedia, and many are quite freely available on the Web.

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

  • identicon
    Claes, 20 Mar 2009 @ 12:31pm

    @Weird Harold
    It's not facts about Wikipedia. It's an illustration/analogy/thoughtprovoker. You're partly right about communication between developers, but you're ignoring the matter of reaching a critical mass and putting the bar for entry so low that people won't be stopped by thresholds.

    "Open Source is also one of the worst ways to develop anything, because in the end nobody is really responsible."
    All projects can be well or badly managed. That goes equally for Open Source and Closed Source projects. I think one could also argue that thanks to the open process there are in some regards more responsability involved in the open source case - for every small contribution the developers put their own pride and public reputation on the line. Furthermore, I hope you realize that all open source projects establish a formal or informal hiearchy among contributors and code committers.

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

  • identicon
    Claes, 21 Mar 2009 @ 1:02am

    @Paul Wehage said: "No, you're missing the point. Whether Wikipedia is useful or not is beside the point: Wikipedia is required to abide by all existing copyright legislation. Just ask Mike Godwin and you'll see that this is the case."

    Wikipedia doesn't need copyright legislation in order to work. Therefore, whether or not it abides by it or not is irrelevant (or well, without such an extensive copyright term we might have had better coverage of early works with images and so on). Neither is its usefulness unimportant since it shows us that in the right environment truely useful works can arise in an unexpected way without the need for copyright protection.

    I'm personally not convinced that abolishing copyright law would be wise (although I'm still strongly against the coporativistic tendancies of today, serious violations of privacy in the hunt for private persons suspected of infringement, filtering/overregulating the internet, etc.). But I cannot see how anyone in their right mind could support a copyright term longer than 20-30 years. Practically nobody would abstain from creating what they do just because the copyright term ends 20-30 years later - it's simply not part of the implicit or explicit plan on return of investment. Hence, any copyright protection lasting longer than that doesn't provide any extra incentive to create but instead just makes works harder to access. Surely this cannot be described as promoting "the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as copyright law is supposed to.

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

  • identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, 21 Mar 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Copyright law

    IMO (and this is as an IP ("patent") attorney, while there are multiple warts on present copyright law that can be "fixed" only by campaign finance reform, and public financing of the system, the biggest problem is time limits.
    For example (one of many) it now appears Disney has bought enough politicians that Mickey Mouse, et al, is under permanent copyright, and any improvements will never happen.

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


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