by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 27th 2011 3:24pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 13th 2011 10:07pm
from the tech-transfer dept
Even worse, this focus on locking up knowledge and research from universities has been disastrous on actual advancement and the spreading of knowledge, which many of these universities claim is a key goal. Professors are told not to share results or data or plans with professors at other universities, for fear of "losing out" on a patent. The whole academic culture of sharing and building on each others' knowledge is held back tremendously. It's a huge shame.
Thankfully, a few universities are realizing this and are starting to push back. Last year, we noted that the University of Glasgow was freeing up most of its "intellectual property," for anyone who could use it. And, now, hrusha alerts us to the news that the University of Copenhagen (known as KU) is offering free licenses to anyone who can present a "credible" plan for bringing a product to market within 3 years.
It's not a totally open and free system, but it's certainly better than most. The encouragement on commercialization will hopefully help get the practical implications of the research out into the marketplace quickly. I'm not so sure how they determine what is and what is not a "credible plan," so hopefully they err on the side of granting such licenses whenever possible. Hopefully more and more universities will begin to realize that locking up research and expecting to get paid for it is a dead end road that goes against the core principles of most institutes of higher learning.
by Nina Paley
Thu, Jul 7th 2011 8:33am
from the principles dept
Crossposted from ninapaley.com
Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program's users have the four essential freedoms:These are the Four Freedoms of Free Software. They are foundational principles, and they are exactly right. They have served and continue to serve the Free Software Movement very well. They place the user's freedom ahead of all other concerns. Free Software is a principled movement, but Free Culture is not – at least not so far. Why?
-- The Free Software Definition
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
1. The No Derivatives (-ND) RestrictionIf you tinker with software, you can improve it. You can also break it or make it worse, but the Freedom to Tinker is one of the foundational 4 Freedoms of Free Software. Your software may also be used for purposes you don't like, used by “bad people,” or even used against you; the Four Freedoms wisely counsel us to GET OVER IT.
Unfortunately, The Free Software Foundation does not extend “Freedom to Tinker” to Culture:
Cultural works released by the Free Software Foundation come with “No Derivatives” restrictions. They rationalize it here:
Works that express someone's opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions (notice how users are now called "recipients," and their Freedoms are now called "permissions" --NP): just the permission to copy and distribute the work verbatim. (link)The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found “practical” by others. To claim to understand the limits of “utility” of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others.
For example, here I have violated the Free Software Foundation's No-Derivatives license:
The Four Freedoms of Free Culture:Without permission, I've created a derivative work: the Four Freedoms of Free Culture. Although I violated FSF's No-Derivatives license, they violated Freedoms # 2 and 4, so we're even.
1. The freedom to run, view, hear, read, play, perform, or otherwise attend to the Work;
2. The freedom to study, analyze, and dissect copies of the Work, and adapt it to your needs;
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor;
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes.
1. The Non-Commercial (-NC) RestrictionThe Freedom to Distribute Free Software is essential to its success. It has given rise to many for-profit businesses that benefit the larger community.
Red Hat, Canonical – would the world be better if such companies were forbidden? Would Free Software benefit from a ban on those businesses?
Yet the Cultural ecosystem is stunted by the prevalence of Non-Commercial restrictions. These maintain commercial monopolies around works, and – especially for vocational artists like me – are functionally as restrictive as unmodified copyright. Yet they are widely mislabeled “Free Culture,” or even “Copyleft.”
This is a still from the mostly excellent and popular documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto. This film is many peoples' introduction to the term “Free Culture” and “Copyleft.” But as you can see, the Non-Commercial restriction is lumped in with actual Free license terms.
See that dollar sign with the slash in it? That means Non-Commercial restrictions, which are most definitely NOT Copyleft. (I've posted about Creative Commons' branding confusion before, but it's only gotten worse since then.)
I have spoken to many artists who insist there's “no real difference” between Non-Commercial licenses and Free alternatives. Yet these differences are well known and unacceptable in Free Software, for good reason.
Calling Non-Commercial restrictions “Free Culture” neuters what could be an effective movement, if it only had principles.
So what do I want?
I want a PRINCIPLED Free Culture Movement.I want Free Software people to take Culture seriously. I want a Free Culture movement guided by principles of Freedom, just as the Free Software movement is guided by principles of Freedom. I want a name I can use that means something – the phrase “Free Culture” is increasingly meaningless, as it is often applied to unFree practices, and is also the name of a famous book that is itself encumbered with Non-Commercial restrictions.
I want a Free Culture ecosystem that allows artists to make money. I want anyone to be able to accept money for their work of remixing and building on Culture – just as a trucker can accept money for driving on a road. I want money to be among the many incentives to participate in building culture. Without the freedoms to Tinker and Redistribute without restriction, there is little incentive to build on and improve cultural works. There is little reward to help your neighbor, when you are guaranteed to lose money doing so. “Free Culture” with non-Commercial restrictions will remain a hobby for those with a surplus of time and labor, and those who only accept money from monopolists.
I want commerce without monopolies. I want people to understand the difference.
I want a Free Culture ecosystem that includes equivalents of businesses like Red Hat and Canonical. I want cultural businesses that give back to their communities, that work with their customers instead of against them. Only if we refuse to place Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives restrictions on our works will a robust Free Culture ecosystem be able to emerge.
I want the Free Software community – those who currently best understand the Four Freedoms – to champion the rest of Culture, not just Software. I want Freedom for All.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 30th 2011 9:27am
from the free-is-not-a-business-model dept
The key problem, it seems, is that people who dislike the concept of free have this weird issue where they stop thinking once the big zero enters the equation. In the past, I've pointed out that it seems like some brains have a divide by zero error problem, where, once they see free as a part of the business model, they stop paying attention to the rest of the business model and just focus on the free part. But here's the thing, no one is claiming that "free" is the business model. People who discuss the value of free have always been talking about how you use it as a part of the business model. So arguing that "free" is not a business model is a strawman. No one is claiming that free, by itself, is a business model because that makes no sense. But Muscat takes things even further, by claiming that it's so bad that it's "harmful":
My contention is that “Free” as described and used in many contemporary web-based businesses is a non-business model that is not only broken, but actively harmful to entrepreneurship. Free rarely works, and all the times that it doesn’t, it undermines entrepreneurial creativity, destroys market value, delivers an inferior user experience and pumps hot air into financial bubbles.Don't hold back.
Free does not push you to create something evocative that users and customers are willing to commit to in the long term.Because no one has committed to Google long-term. And before that no one committed to radio. Or broadcast TV. Huh? Having a product that is "free to the consumer" does not mean people won't commit to it at all. In fact, if you put together a smart business model, it could be the exact opposite. All of the examples here involve cases where companies use free to bring in people and then sell that attention to advertisers. In those cases, they very much have the incentive to create something that makes people commit, or they don't have the attention to sell. It's only if you stop at the zero and don't follow through that you could possibly claim that business models that use free don't get customers to commit.
Free absconds on the entrepreneur-customer commitment: by asking for nothing you also promise nothing. Both parties can walk away because there is no relationship. On the other hand by asking for money (or some other form of commitment), however large or small an amount, you create a self-imposed drive to produce creative and valuable products because not doing so would mean letting somebody down.
As the title suggests, the book argues that software pricing shouldn’t be decided randomly. There are three big reasons for not doing this: first, you might be missing out on revenue; second, your product price says something about the quality and intended audience of your product; third, your price also sets an expectation of how much effort has gone into production and how much value a customer should expect.Not sure what that has to do with anything. I don't think anyone is suggesting that people randomly choose free as a price either. In fact, we've been quite careful to explain that the whole point of understanding the economics of free is so that you can understand when it's appropriate to use free and when it's not. That many startups don't understand when it's appropriate to use free is not a condemnation of free as a price. It's a condemnation of people not understanding the larger economics and how to put together a good business model.
Choosing Free as your product price runs the risk of attracting entirely the wrong audience for your product or service.Sure. But that's only an issue if you fail to plan out the rest of your business model. The implicit assumption that Muscat makes here, which is incorrect, is that the whole point of free is to attract an audience which might buy.
Although you may get tens of thousands of users, it is probable that those users are unlikely to ever consider paying you because by definition you have attracted people who are looking for free stuff. Reversing this decision later can be extremely painful: you will piss off your existing user base, potentially generating very negative publicity and you might need to start from scratch in terms of looking for the right audience.Right, but that's not a criticism of "free," that's a criticism of a bad business model built around the idea that free is just a trick to get people to upgrade. If that's your business model, then he's right that it could be a bad business model (though some companies, such as Evernote, have found that it works for them). But that's not a problem with "free." That's a problem with the rest of the business model.
At some point or another you will realise that you do need to create a revenue stream. If you end up in the situation I just described above, i.e. encumbered with an audience of people unwilling to pay for what you’re providing, you will be faced with a dilemma: start over and risk the bad press or try to squeeze some pennies out of a reluctant user base.Again we see the divide by zero issue, in which he implicitly assumes that free is implemented in place of a complete business model. That's not the fault of "free." That's the fault of a bad business model.
The latter is a slippery slidey slope that leads towards intrusive in-app advertising, pop-ups, link-baiting, shady affiliate marketing, email spam and a total lack of focus on user experience.Indeed. Those would be bad decisions built on a bad business model. I'm not sure what that has to do with "free" however.
The idea that things can be free is behind a lot of financial bubbles. In the late nineties we thought that we could get distribution and infrastructure for free and we got the dot com bubble. A couple of years ago we thought we could get loans and bank credit for free and we got the property bubble. In both cases we left something very important out of the equation: delivery costs in the former and ability to repay mortgages in the latter.That's an interesting and totally incorrect bit of historical revisionism. First, the dot-com bubble was a result of investors (and many dot-coms, themselves) having no real understanding of web-based business models. Early dot-com successes (some real, some imaginary) created a rush of investors eager to throw money at any company offering something on the web -- without ever looking at whether they even had a business model. And I've never seen a loan or credit -- or internet infrastructure, for that matter -- that was "free." Were there some companies that went to extremes during both bubbles? Yes. But there was no direct connection to "free."
If you’re putting together a business plan or a slide deck that claims there will be an initial period of “short-term loss” while you establish a user base which you will then monetise, just remember that that is exactly what most of the pre-2000 dot com business plans were like.And, um, it was also the basic business plan of all sorts of successful businesses going back through history. It was clearly the plan of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, for example. So what? If you have a smart business model behind it, it can work. If you don't, it will fail. Claiming that it is inherently flawed is wrong. Also, it's the very basis of pretty much the entire venture capital industry. The whole reason why startups need venture capital is to fund that initial period in which there are short-term losses. It's called investing in growth. Intel had to build fabs. Apple had to build computers. Those involved "short-term losses" to build the product. That's how these things generally work.
Almost never. Somebody always pays. If healthcare is free, your taxes pay for it. If the flight is free, the extras aren’t. If the search is free, the advertiser is paying.Um. That's the whole point of using free as a part of a business model. Of course someone pays. That's what we're describing here. It seems totally ridiculous to go on for paragraph after paragraph discussing how free is awful because no one pays... and then, at the very end, to throw in a "but someone pays!" Why didn't he consider those points earlier in the article?
The only time when Free can really work for you is if you set your sights on having a specific outcome: acquisition.Yeah, just like Google. And Facebook. And Twitter. Good grief.
Look, if you understand the economics behind digital goods, you can quickly learn that there are places where free makes sense. It makes sense when, if you don't go free, your competitors will and you'll lose all of your business. But no one has ever suggested that free, by itself, is a business model and if your debunking of "free" is based on that, it just means you've stopped your analysis too soon. Free is an important part of many, many, many business models these days and that's been true for many years as well. Free isn't bad. It can be used badly, but to condemn it, based on that alone, suggests someone hasn't thought things through.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 29th 2011 7:14am
from the freedomtards,-perhaps dept
Stringer, at a recent Sony shareholder meeting, had to deal with critics concerning the PSN downtime, and his response was not to take any of the blame, or to admit that Sony might have been at fault, but rather to say that hackers pick on the company because it likes to "protect" its intellectual property:
"We believe that we first became the subject of attack because we tried to protect our IP (intellectual property), our content, in this case videogames," Stringer told shareholders at Tuesday's meeting in response to a question about the background to the incident.Of course, that's an interesting version of revisionist history. There are all sorts of theories as to why Sony got hacked, with Occam and his trusty Razor suggesting the simplest answer: because Sony had crazy weak security that would allow malicious hackers to make off with useful information with which they could profit. But even if we grant Stringer's unsupported assertion was true, what set many people off (though, not necessarily these hackers) was the fact that Sony sued George Hotz for doing nothing more than helping to re-enable a feature that Sony had marketed as part of the PS3... and then had retroactively disabled. That's not "protecting Sony's IP." That's breaking a product and false advertising... and then suing people for trying to help make your products more valuable.
But Stringer apparently wasn't done there. You see, the real problem is just those damn freetards:
“These are our corporate assets,” Stringer told the meeting, “..and there are those that don’t want us to protect them, they want everything to be free.”Seriously, Howard? This has absolutely nothing to do with people wanting stuff for free. People are pissed because you're suing people who are trying to improve your products -- the ones they actually paid for (yes, with real money). If anything, they want "free" as in speech, not free as in beer. They're looking for the freedom to tinker and to expand and to build.
And you're giving them the opposite.
And let's can the crap in which you pretend that Sony has to "protect" its intellectual property in this manner. It doesn't. You can treat customers right, even without being overprotective. Why, just look at Samsung, one of your biggest competitors. When it came out with a new device, rather than freaking out about people jailbreaking it, it sent free devices to some of the top modders, and asked them to mod and hack them faster...
That's called treating your community right, not treating them as criminals. It's not because people want everything to be free. People are quite often happy to pay for something of scarce value to them. Where they get upset is when you make that product less valuable by locking it down in anti-consumer ways.
So, no, you weren't hacked by freetards. You were hacked because you had dreadful security, and everyone's pissed not because they want stuff for free, but because you treat them like crap.
* Yes, slight exaggeration. But no more than calling over a month downtime on a popular gaming platform a "hiccup."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 14th 2011 10:27pm
from the economics-at-its-finest dept
We saw another example of the difference between price and value in a recent episode of Planet Money, which involved a discussion with the authors of the book Poor Economics, about their very data driven look at various economic questions. An early part of the discussion looked at the question of whether or not people in poor countries don't value mosquito nets when they get them for free. Apparently some economists have argued that you have to make poor people pay for their mosquito nets or they won't "value" them. Tragically, it seems that even some economists don't recognize the difference between price and value.
Thankfully, the folks who wrote this book went out and did real research, and the data shows that people in poor countries actually seem to value the free mosquito nets even more than when they have to pay for them. That is, people who received free mosquito nets seemed even more likely to use them than those that were paid for. I'm a sucker for data driven economics, so it's always nice to see stories like this one.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 7th 2011 10:33am
from the liability-confusion dept
"Such a claim is an irresponsible business practice," Yeh said.The two companies have been given 15 days to comply with the law, and if they are unable to do so, they could be facing significant fines. It does make me wonder if either company even has the functionality to offer such things across the board, and how various developers would feel about that.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 3rd 2011 8:02am
from the understanding-how-this-works dept
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, where Lady Gaga is asked directly about this issue, she almost seems offended, and notes that, especially when it comes to digital, pricing an album at $0.99 is perfectly reasonable, since it helps spread the music. After being asked if she thought her album was "worth" more than $0.99, she emphatically replied:
"No. I absolutely do not, especially for MP3s and digital music. It’s invisible. it’s in space. If anything, I applaud a company like Amazon for equating the value of digital versus the physical copy, and giving the opportunity to everyone to buy music."This isn't too surprising, given Gaga's previously stated views on her use of free to get her music out there, as well as her encouragement of people to download unauthorized copies. However, it's nice to see her make this point again.
Now, to be fair, she also notes that Amazon covered "the difference" with these albums as part of a promotion -- meaning that she (well, her label) got more than $0.99, but that's a separate issue than the whole question of the "perception" from giving away the music at such a low price.
Later in the interview, she makes another point that we've been making for a while, which is that record labels certainly make sense for some people, but the exciting thing today is that you don't "need" the label any more. She points out that she certainly needs her label, which is great, but that many artists don't need to go that route, saying, "not everybody needs a record label" any more. She also points out that the really valuable thing she's done is build a really strong connection with her fans, and it's that kind of authentic connection that makes her audience so valuable. These are all points that plenty of us have been making for years, and it's great to see such a prominent musician making the same points.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 16th 2011 4:02pm
from the have-any-questions? dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 6th 2011 2:13pm
from the that's-not-advice,-that's-fear... dept
When you get out there, all I ask is that you: DON’T WRITE FOR FREE! Nobody asks strippers to strip for free, doctors to doctor for free or professors to profess for free. Have some pride! What you know how to do now is a skill that 99.9 percent of the people don’t have. If you do it for free, they won’t respect you in the morning. Or the next day. Or the day after that. You sink everybody’s boat in the harbor, not just yours. So just DON’T!Thankfully, folks like Craig Calcaterra are pointing out that this is absolutely "horrible, horrible advice."
Writers need to write. A lot. Indeed, the only way anyone gets better as a writer is to just … do it. Your credential as a J-school grad is nice, but it is insignificant compared to experience. And, as the media world progresses further and further into the digital age, it becomes increasingly insignificant in an absolute sense.Furthermore, Calcaterra points out what Reilly is really saying here, which is "don't undercut me, so I can keep my super high salary":
What Reilly is really doing here is not giving advice to graduates. He’s giving them a warning: “Don’t take my job! Don’t take my friends’ jobs! They make a good living writing, and if you come in and undercut them with your blog or your contributed piece, you may screw with the system, so cut it out, will ya?”Also, I think Reilly is wrong. Plenty of people ask doctors to doctor for free and professors to profess for free -- just not all the time. I assume that people also ask strippers to strip for free as well, and my limited knowledge of stripper employment suggests that they make most of their money from tips, rather than salary, anyway... But the point -- which seems to go right over Reilly's head -- is that doing something for free is not the same thing as not earning money. No one is saying "write everything for free." What people are saying is that writing some things for free can have serious benefits, in terms of exposure, or recognition, or the ability to improve your writing. And, for many, it becomes a way to make money. I wrote Techdirt for free for many years, and now it makes me a good living. If I had followed Reilly's advice, I never would have started Techdirt in the first place.
"Free" isn't the enemy.