BT et C

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

DD is Dead! Long Live DB

"DD" stands for "Dear Darl" and was going to be a column here consisting of open letters to the CEO of The SCO Group. I wrote one, and it was so-so, but before I could turn around thrashing SCO went old hat. Blogologically, it's about as interesting as discussing the Florida recount (or the Ohio one, if that's your taste).

So on we go with the first installment of a column called "DB", which stands for "Dear Bill". I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the rest.

Dear Bill,

You recently had an interview that existed partially to correct your strange statements from a previous interview. In case you've forgotten, here's a refresher

Gizmodo: When you talked to CNet (I believe that was yesterday), you sort of ticked off some of the blog world with some of the comments… a specific comment that was made, about some of the IP advocates—people that are advocating more… not necessarily open source, but Creative Commons and things like that. A less restrictive IP environment. You made an analogy and called them “communist.”

Do you feel that’s necessarily a fair judgment to make, to call those people ‘communists,’ as opposed to someone who adopts DRM as maybe… a ‘capitalist?’ (I don’t know what you’re thinking the opposite would be).


Gates: No, no, no. I didn’t say those people were ‘communists.’ I did say that they’re… The question is: what incentive systems should exist in the world? Call ‘communism’ a system where [in] the extreme case you believe that the idea of the individual getting lots of wealth in return for the things they do… that that’s wrong. If you have no incentive for individual excellence and it’s just sort of, you know, banned. All the way up to an extreme that nobody would believe in, that there’s no redistribution of wealth and that’s there’s no expiration of rights and control. So you have this huge spectrum.


Well, Bill, you're right about one thing: that is, indeed, the question. You didn't answer it, so Greg London answered it for you. (Since that page is very long, I'll sum it up even though it's worth reading: the incentive systems that should exist are the ones that are most efficient, obtaining e.g. "the promotion of science and the useful arts" at the least expense to society.)

You are, however, wrong about another thing, and it happens to be something I know a little bit about.
Gates: Well, ignore DRM for a second. Should an artist that creates a great song be paid for that song? That’s where you have to start. You don’t start with DRM. DRM is just like a speed bump that reminds you whether you’re staying within the scope of rights that you have or you don’t. So you don’t start with DRM. That’s like saying, ‘Do you believe in speed bumps?’ You have to say, ‘Should people drive at 80mph in parking lots?’ If you think they should, then of course you don’t like speed bumps.


It is clear, here and elsewhere in your interviews, that you don't go very deep into questions, or analogies, to figure out whether they are meaningful.* Suppose someone decides actually to ponder this question: should an artist that creates a great song be paid for that song?

As an artist who has created several good songs and half of a great one, I immediately think "yes". Then I think

Will the aforementioned artist be paid?

That, alas, depends on a great number of things, the most important of which is the collective economic decision-making power of the free market, which I assume you've heard of.

As for your speedbumps metaphor, I don't mind issuing you a gentle correction.

-Speedbumps are minor inconveniences, placed on roads, that reduce the chance of a driver hurting people

The differences between this set of relations and DRM are numerous
-Making copies of digital works & ideas does not hurt anyone. So it is more like a technology that prevents people from driving, say, east than from driving too fast.
-DRM does not slow down the making of copies -- it stops it outright. So it is more like a wall than a bump
-DRM technology is placed in the computer -- i.e. in the car. So it is more like having every car come with an RIAA executive who is in charge of operating the radio. You can, I guess, still control the power button, but when you turn it on she gets to pick the station.

I'm sure you would like people not to think too much about DRM, because it changes, fundamentally, the act of operating a computer. It becomes a collaborative effort. Now, if I use Windows I have outsourced -- voluntarily -- a lot of low-level OS functions because I don't want to worry about them. The trade-off is that I don't control every aspect of my computer's behavior. As it turns out, I use Linux, so the level of control I have over my machine depends solely on my willingness to learn about it.

You and the other DRM advocates propose that we change that. You would like there to be a component of my computer, required by law, that I do not control. Why? Because an artist should be paid for writing a great song. DRM opponents reply that, indeed, they should -- but this is too high a price to pay.

Sincerely,
Matthew Crouch

PS: Artists for File Sharing believes that artists should and can be paid for their work without surrendering control over their computers or the Internet to the established content-providing institutions.
----------------------------------------------------------

*I have a theory that Windows users tend toward a mild form of ADD, because their reading/writing/surfing activities are so frequently interrupted by crashes, annoyware, etc. Just a theory. (Also, just a joke ... but it's one of those jokes that makes you think)

15 Comments:

  • haha...Windows-induced ADD? you know the prescription for that! format c

    I won't really go into very much analysis, as I've basically decided, for now anyway, what my stance is. and Greg hit it perfectly in sentence 1 of 1.1.3 of the book. (I won't type it here because, if you noticed, that work is CopyRIGHTed.)

    following from that, the answer to the question

    "What incentive systems should exist in the world"

    is NOT

    "the ones that are most efficient, obtaining e.g. "the promotion of science and the useful arts" at the least expense to society." an answer so completely abstract and totally loaded with ambiguous terminology that only a philosopher could call it an answer ;)

    rather, the answer is:

    "whatever incentive systems people create and participate in"

    in other words, there is a system of incentives set up by Copyright/Patent laws, and a technology like DRM strongly enforces it. there's also another system of incentives set up by GPL/Create Commons agreements. as I've said before, if people want to participate in either system, they should have all options open to them.

    Please don't take this as me defending Gates for his baseless remarks and ideas. I'm not siding with his view of incentive structures. I think the GPL/Creative Commons is the superior incentive structure in nearly (and potentially all) information-based productivity.

    but here's my bash on his remarks of the "new communists":

    "They don't think that those [music, movie, software] incentives should exist."

    when in actuality, opponents of Copyright/Patent incentive systems (or at least I) do not declare that IP systems should not exist, they are only out to prove that Copyright/Patent are not the best systems available to us. or at least they should be.

    but, people who argue for the COMPLETE removal (even on personal contractual basis) of IP systems are arguing against freedom, not for it. let Copyright/Patent exist, let GPL/Creative Commons exist, and let the market destroy the former.

    By Blogger luke, at 2:17 PM  

  • London's work is licensed under Attribution 2.0 -- you can copy/whatev, even sell the copies, if you give him credit.

    As for your answer to "What incentive systems should exist in the world", it is of course deeply unsatisfying. Your answer, if I may paraphrase, seems to be "the ones that exist" and I find that non-commital.

    To say what should be requires that you know and apply your principles. What a philosopher does is know and apply lots of people's principles, e.g.

    By libertarian principles, the incentive systems that should exist are simply free market forces; people buying and selling and doing whatever they want as long as they don't aggress. For details on what this would look like I'd just refer you to London's paper.

    By communitarian principles, the systems that should exist might be "whatever the majority decides to impose"

    By corporocratic principless -- and I believe that if Bill were honest he would come out in this camp -- the systems that should exist are "whatever the government (a minority) decides to impose, once all the campaign contributions are in" ;)

    In presenting the answer you find unsatisfying, I was just wearing my constitutionalist hat: congress's power to create "IP" law is defined, and limited:
    "Congress, in the exercise of the patent power, may not overreach the restraints imposed by the stated constitutional purpose."
    (
    3.5.7
    . Note that Eldred v. Ashcroft seems to overturn this vis-a-vis copyrights, Cf Moglen at Harvard -- skip down to around 30:02)

    Anyway, you and I are not actually too far apart here. But you end with "let Copyright/Patent exist, let GPL/Creative Commons exist, and let the market destroy the former" -- which again implies that "the market" is presently free, or at least free enough to operate effectively in this regard. It is not, and it is getting less free.

    Starting in July, I think, it will be illegal to purchase an HDTV card w/o DRM in it.

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 2:48 PM  

  • sorry, change "there is a system of incentives set up by Copyright/Patent LAWS" to "... Copyright/Patent CONTRACTS" and it indeed becomes the libertarian "people buying and selling and doing whatever they want as long as they don't agress"

    I did not read London's entire paper, obviously, only enough to agree with him that Copyright/Patent are optional systems, not natural systems, as we've already gone over. but, I can guess that I'd agree with him - where libertarian principles and free market forces would take us. since libertarian principles and free market forces demand the revocation of Copyright/Patent LAWS.

    I don't know how many times I have to request that you stop leveling the "current market != free market" argument at me before you'll actually believe that I'm in agreement with you on that. in this case, I advocate allowing Copyright/Patent CONTRACTS to exist, and GPL/Creative Commons CONTRACTS to exist. at that point, the free market WOULD destroy all productivity of the former. I do not pretend we have a free market. but for this discussion, the removal of Copyright/Patent LAWS is a step towards the free market. other steps are needed, and you don't agree with most of them. but those are separate issues.

    would it be satisfactory to say that the removal of Copyright and Patent LAWS would create a free market in ideas, information, knowledge, and the other intellectual goods currently covered by these government-granted monopolizing LAWS? because if so, I'd like to leave it at that and escape the seemingly corporatism-happy-cheerleader image into which you've cast me.

    By Blogger luke, at 3:10 PM  

  • The document is called "Bounty Hunters: Metaphors for Fair IP Laws". The gist of it is this: intellectual property law is a bounty for Authors and Inventors. It works the same way a bounty on Bad Bart encourages an individual to risk time and energy to capture Bad Bart and bring him in.

    The way to set a bounty actually has an algorithmic design. The community starts off with a bounty as low as possible. If someone succeeds in catching Bad Bart, they get the bounty, end of story. If no one succeeds, then the public may decide to raise the bounty. This sets the bounty as low as possible but just high enough to get people to collect.

    From an IP standpoint, if copyright terms were set to 40 or 50 years and authors were willing to write for that amount of bounty, then there is no justifiable reason to have terms any longer than that.

    It's a cake cutting algorithm. And applying the way bounties are set shows how out of whack IP laws have gotten, grossly overpaying authors and inventors when there are many who are willing to do it for less.

    Why pay a $50,000 reward for Bad Bart when someone is willing and able to bring him in for $25,000?

    My paper is licensed CC-BY, so you can do whatever you want with it as long as you attribute the title, name, and URL, which would look something like this:

    "Bounty Hunters" by Greg London
    http://www.greglondon.com/cc/by/

    It's about 80 pages long and is pretty light reading.

    By Blogger greglondon, at 4:03 PM  

  • > Copyright/Patent are optional systems

    This is true, however, without the incentive system, the abstractness of intellectual ideas create variant of the "Prisoner's Dillema" called a "Hostage Scenario". It often takes work to create some new writing or invention. But the abstract nature of that work allows anyone to use it immediately, and the original creator has no way of naturally recouping his investment.

    If Bad Bart is menacing town, then any individual who tries to capture him will have to risk their life to do so. Charlie may risk his life to catch Bad Bart, but then the entire town immediately benefits and Charlie has no way of recouping his time, money, bullets, etc.

    A hostage scenario discourages individuals from acting.

    A bounty sytem breaks the hostage scenario stalemate, offering a reward large enough to cover the time, money, and bullets that Charlie would spend to bring in Bad Bart.

    Similarly, IP laws are a reward system to encourage authors and inventors to invest time and money to create new works.

    So, while IP laws are optional, without them, you have a hostage scenario stalemate.

    Towards the end of "Bounty Hunters" I talk about another solution to the hostage scenario, which is that all the hostages work together and have a high probability of overpowering the hostage taker, with a reduced risk per individual.

    This is exactly how open source thrives. the ability to communicate and store information with computers and the internet reduces the cost to contribute to nothing but labor. And many users contributing individually small amounts fo labor can work together to create some massive project.

    There are two solutions to the hostage scenario stalemate: a bounty for an individual to offset their risk (copyright/patent law), or lower the cost to contribute enough that many indiviudals can work together (open source).

    By Blogger greglondon, at 5:09 PM  

  • I apologize if I treated your views reductively. I think it comes down to this: my freedoms are, in my view, more threatened by entrenched economic powers than by the government. I think we agree, though, that the largest threat is the government-business collusion.

    Since Greg has come by, let's put that aside. In "Bounty Hunters" there is a memorable exchange:


    Cecil keeps making more and more money. And you keep getting more and more fat, brown envelopes full of cash. And all of it paid for by the people of Eureka paying far more for bounties than they need to.”

    “Eureka pays what it considers to be a fair price for bounties.”

    “Whatever happened to getting the lowest professional bid for a job? Isn't that what Eureka should pay? Shouldn't it be the lowest bounty that will get the job done? The bounty that keeps Cecil here in silk cowboy hats and a thousand acre ranch is corporate welfare.”

    At this, Cecil finally spoke up.

    “Galen, you're starting to sound like a communist. Is that what you are? Someone who doesn't believe in property rights? That's all these Bounty Rights are, after all: property rights. Are you anti-capitalist? Is that it? Because you don't seem to like the fact that I make money off of my work.”

    “Cecil, you haven't slung lead in years. You're lazy and comfortable and you're using your position to keep yourself cozy. In itself, I wouldn't care a plugged nickel about you or how you live. But the thing is that you're living the way you are by enforcing a monopoly on the people, granted in part by the purchase of a few political offices. And that really burns my bacon. Capitalism is about competition. And in that sense, I'm all capitalist. I know my bounty hunter trust is growing. And I know we're doing the same job as you for a hell of a lot less money. And that means only one thing...”

    He pointed a finger at Cecil in a flash of movement and Cecil flinched.

    “In the long run,” Galen finished, “I'll beat you.”

    Galen turned and walked out the door.


    This reminds me of two of Eben Moglen's catch phrases: He frequently ends articles with "We win", conveying the (libertarian) belief that the most efficient and fair system(s) will eventually win out.

    But Moglen also likes to say "Freedom. Now". I think this is a gentle reminder that the wait-and-see approach is an invitation to the colluders to keep pushing the envelope.

    Can't believe I never found this before: Moglen has a blog, and it has a catchy title, eh?

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 8:48 AM  

  • wow Greg. thanks for coming by! I'm sorry I didn't take the time to read the paper in its entirety, but your summary of those ideas were strikingly clear, to-the-point, and the metaphors are perfect. I will have to read the rest of it. I can't help but think of the movie "Three Amigos" where the entire town works together to run El Guapo out of town.

    I've only dabbled into a couple Games in my economic studies, but I think they're an amazing way to metaphorize (word-check?) and analyze real-life scenarios.

    but let me dig a little further (even without reading the rest of your writing yet), if you're still able to suffer through my comments.

    I would say there are at least 2 solutions to the hostage stalemate situation. the two you mentioned of course, but there are a number of others. ie, the National Guard comes in and arrests Bad Bart, or Bad Bart dies of alcohol poisoning, or the town hires PR consultants to launch a marketing campaign, he has a change of heart and gives all he stole back to the town and asks to join as the community's soccer coach.

    I bring this up to highlight my original point - the set of incentive systems that should exist are the ones that free people create. and whichever one works best for those free people will, if they are really free, win out in the end. we can never hope to reduce all systems and situations into an approriate game or model, and therefore, we cannot ever know with even a small amount of certainty what rules (ie, LAWS) should be applied universally.

    we should not force a bounty system (copyright LAWS), or a community-risk system (copyleft LAWS). the development of Open Source - a highly advanced form of the community-risk incentive system - is no doubt amazing, effective, and superior, as I keep saying. I'm furthermore impressed by and proud of the fact that all the individuals in that system are agreeing to interact under copyleft-style CONTRACTS with each other, demonstrating there is no need for incentive-system LAWS.

    I propose only that bounty-hunter CONTRACTS be allowed to exist, not as LAWS. and furthermore, that a FREE market (not the current market) would demonstrate superiority of the community-risk modeled contracts, and therefore beat out the bounty-hunter contracts.

    I have either miscommunicated this proposal, or I am finding little or no tolerance for this proposal, thus far, from the (until-recently) lone audience member. Could you provide some comments on it?

    again, thanks for coming by, hope we haven't bored you TOO much.

    By Blogger luke, at 9:10 AM  

  • I think corporate-purchased government is just another form of tyranny, and is the biggest threat to individual rights.

    But I'm not anti-capitalist. I think competition is vitally important. The problem is when the dominant players use their dominance and their money to legislate out the competition. Disney has used their billions of dollars in revenues to purchase the ears of a few choice politicians and have monopolized copyright law to wipe out competition. When Steamboat Willie first came out, copyright terms would have had it become public domain in the 80's, but the copyright act of 1976 and the CTEA of 1998 have kept it private property far longer than Disney deserves. They've been paid their bounty many times over now, and its time to release the works and let competitors use it as well.

    By Blogger greglondon, at 9:18 AM  

  • A bounty system offers a reward for an individual to come forward and take on personal risk. The national guard is a bounty system on a salary, same with police officers. Rather than pay an individual a lump sum reward for a single job, they're paid a regular salary and go wherever they're orders take them. From a game theory point of view, its the same as a bounty. An individual is compensated for the risk they take for the benefit of the public as a whole.

    The alternative is everyone cooperates, reducing the risk per individual to the point where individual danger is far less than individual reward of overthrowing the hostage taker.

    I think it comes down to two possible responses: individual or group action. But there are many possible payment methods to compensate individual action, bounties, salaries, etc.

    By Blogger greglondon, at 9:25 AM  

  • I propose only that bounty-hunter CONTRACTS be allowed to exist, not as LAWS. and furthermore, that a FREE market (not the current market) would demonstrate superiority of the community-risk modeled contracts, and therefore beat out the bounty-hunter contracts.

    Well, this is problematic. Intellectual works are by their nature abstract, which means that they naturally transmit easily, copy easily, and can be derived from easily. Its the initial discovery that is the hard part.

    Contracts are voluntary, meaning that if Disney were to make a movie under this model, they'd have to have a shrink-wrap contract with every movie ticket and every DVD sale of that movie saying you agree not to copy, distribute, or create derivatives. It would also mean that "Fair Use" would disappear because Disney would never allow a bad review in their contract. Disney would have to treat their movies as "Trade Secrets" and I abhor the way corporations have used trade secrets in the past, using it as an excuse to prevent reverse engineering. (One of the arguments attempted by the MPAA when DVD's were first cracked was that DVD's were a trade secret)

    Contracts would wipe out Fair Use (Ebert wouldn't be able to give a bad review) and would enforce trade secrets (You can watch the movie, but you can't tell anyone about it.)

    Also, Contracts are voluntary. Meaning that if I decide NOT to engage in the contract, then I can treat the work as a naturally abstract idea and copy it as much as I want. This becomes a self-fullfiling prophecy in open-source's favor, but it ignores the hostage scenario game theory that is going on.

    Bad Bart is tearing up town. Some bad guys are so bad that even collective action would fail to defeat him. What is needed is some special forces (Delta Force) who can take the bad guy down. But special forces training is valued to be around a million dollars per man.

    Now, you have two options, put the special ops on salary and have them on standby until you need them or don't have anyone on staff, but offer a bounty when specific trouble arises.

    Government subsidized writings and inventions is fraught with problems, but that's what it would mean to have authors and inventors on "government staff". It's all public domain as soon as its available, but what should they write, what should they research?

    Copyright and patent law is a bounty system, and it rewards authors inventors with exclusive rights to their work for a limited time, allowing them to treat their creation as non-abstract long enough to make back their money.

    But then it only grants rights, it doesn't pay them anything. It is up to the author/inventor to get the PUBLIC to pay them by selling their work on the market.

    So, by paying no money up front, the government creates a bounty system that then leaves the payment to whoever in the public decides they want to pay for the work.

    By Blogger greglondon, at 9:41 AM  

  • Luke,
    Just thought I'd re-link you to the Kinsella critique of IP. Beginning on page 34 is a very good discussion of the problems in (Rothbard's approach) confining IP law to contract mechanisms.
    Against Intellectual Property

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 11:36 AM  

  • again, I have probably mis-communicated my thoughts, so I'll try to formulate them along the lines of your reply...

    the example of Disney "shrink-wrapping" contracts with each of their hypothetical goods... how is this different than the GPL requirement to "...give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program." ? the GPL must effectively be shrink-wrapped with every copy.

    this clause, combined with "Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License" can be said to represent a contract, does it not? a contract that one agrees to by using a product in a particular way. and the GPL is a contractual agreement concerning the nature of use of the product it's been applied to. just as the hypothetical Disney copyright contracts could be agreed to by usage (watching/reading/holding/criticizing), and establish rules in regard to the product.

    the point is that the contractual model is sound. the GPL and other open-source licenses are based on this model of contractual agreements that are agreed on by specified use of product, and that pertain to the subsequent use of the product in question.

    I'm NOT saying that the copyright contracts will be popular for producers or consumers. I'm NOT saying that the incentive system derived from those contracts would yield equally desirable results for the market or society as open-source style contracts...please just keep reading.

    where you say "Contracts would wipe out fair use," I would say "Copyright Contracts would wipe out fair use." and (with those whole, what do they call it...Internet-thing?) we're seeing that fair use is, well, damn useful to the market and society in general. it's a strike against copyright contracts, but it doesn't mean copyright contracts can't exist.

    Also, Contracts are voluntary. Meaning that if I decide NOT to engage in the contract, then I can treat the work as a naturally abstract idea and copy it as much as I want.

    since the GPL formulates a usage contract with those people that distribute the goods licensed under it, would this reasoning not also imply that I can choose not to engage in the GPL contract when I redistribute a GPL good? ie, receive the item, treat it as a naturally abstract idea (incapable of being held under a contract), and thereby re-distribute it without source? if the answer is "no, the GPL binds you to the contract when you re-distribute," then a copyright contract with a usage clause would be just as binding as the GPL.

    as Matt will readily testify to, I would not support any such system of government-subsidized invention. I'm not sure how that came up. however, I won't let that stop me from continuing to enforce my point with your response...

    in a single stroke, we have drastically altered the game we were discussing before. in the game before, the only players were the townsfolk and Bad Bart. so let's do say that even collective action on part of the townsfolk would not drive out Bart. although your use of the special forces was based on my introduction of the new game elements, I originally brought them up to make this point - the nature of the games in the whole of the market and society is so highly circumstantial that there are countless such situations/games that could exist. add to this the fact that there can be many incentive system models inside of each game or situation, and you have no way of being able to say this or that system, derived in the context of a game with parameters X, Y, Z, would apply equally true to even one other game where parameters are different.

    the government-subsidized-invention incentive system that you outlined and (enjoyably, for me) rebuked is yet just one incentive system among the infinite that may exist.

    I am NOT arguing for any single system. I am stepping back off of the argument as to which system is best in this or that situation, and I am only arguing that:

    1. several different contractual agreements can exist simultaneously
    2. among the possible agreements, contractual copyrights are as equally binding as contractual copylefts
    3. because of the above 2, the myriad of incentive systems born out of the various contracts are all valid.

    notice I have not, at any point here, asserted any single system as being preferable to another. I'm not trying to decide what incentive systems should exist, because that objective implies that we use some kind of force or power to implement the chosen system(s) onto society. I assert that a plethora of them exist, and that none of them justify government-enforcement by law.

    so, unlike Matt, I AM ready to revoke copyright and patent legislation.

    whatever incentive systems people create and willingly participate in.

    By Blogger luke, at 12:02 PM  

  • again, I have probably mis-communicated my thoughts, so I'll try to formulate them along the lines of your reply...

    the example of Disney "shrink-wrapping" contracts with each of their hypothetical goods... how is this different than the GPL requirement to "...give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program." ? the GPL must effectively be shrink-wrapped with every copy.

    this clause, combined with "Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License" can be said to represent a contract, does it not? a contract that one agrees to by using a product in a particular way. and the GPL is a contractual agreement concerning the nature of use of the product it's been applied to. just as the hypothetical Disney copyright contracts could be agreed to by usage (watching/reading/holding/criticizing), and establish rules in regard to the product.

    the point is that the contractual model is sound. the GPL and other open-source licenses are based on this model of contractual agreements that are agreed on by specified use of product, and that pertain to the subsequent use of the product in question.

    I'm NOT saying that the copyright contracts will be popular for producers or consumers. I'm NOT saying that the incentive system derived from those contracts would yield equally desirable results for the market or society as open-source style contracts...please just keep reading.

    where you say "Contracts would wipe out fair use," I would say "Copyright Contracts would wipe out fair use." and (with those whole, what do they call it...Internet-thing?) we're seeing that fair use is, well, damn useful to the market and society in general. it's a strike against copyright contracts, but it doesn't mean copyright contracts can't exist.

    Also, Contracts are voluntary. Meaning that if I decide NOT to engage in the contract, then I can treat the work as a naturally abstract idea and copy it as much as I want.

    since the GPL formulates a usage contract with those people that distribute the goods licensed under it, would this reasoning not also imply that I can choose not to engage in the GPL contract when I redistribute a GPL good? ie, receive the item, treat it as a naturally abstract idea (incapable of being held under a contract), and thereby re-distribute it without source? if the answer is "no, the GPL binds you to the contract when you re-distribute," then a copyright contract with a usage clause would be just as binding as the GPL.

    as Matt will readily testify to, I would not support any such system of government-subsidized invention. I'm not sure how that came up. however, I won't let that stop me from continuing to enforce my point with your response...

    in a single stroke, we have drastically altered the game we were discussing before. in the game before, the only players were the townsfolk and Bad Bart. so let's do say that even collective action on part of the townsfolk would not drive out Bart. although your use of the special forces was based on my introduction of the new game elements, I originally brought them up to make this point - the nature of the games in the whole of the market and society is so highly circumstantial that there are countless such situations/games that could exist. add to this the fact that there can be many incentive system models inside of each game or situation, and you have no way of being able to say this or that system, derived in the context of a game with parameters X, Y, Z, would apply equally true to even one other game where parameters are different.

    the government-subsidized-invention incentive system that you outlined and (enjoyably, for me) rebuked is yet just one incentive system among the infinite that may exist.

    I am NOT arguing for any single system. I am stepping back off of the argument as to which system is best in this or that situation, and I am only arguing that:

    1. several different contractual agreements can exist simultaneously
    2. among the possible agreements, contractual copyrights are as equally binding as contractual copylefts
    3. because of the above 2, the myriad of incentive systems born out of the various contracts are all valid.

    notice I have not, at any point here, asserted any single system as being preferable to another. I'm not trying to decide what incentive systems should exist, because that objective implies that we use some kind of force or power to implement the chosen system(s) onto society. I assert that a plethora of them exist, and that none of them justify government-enforcement by law.

    so, unlike Matt, I AM ready to revoke copyright and patent legislation.

    whatever incentive systems people create and willingly participate in.

    By Blogger luke, at 12:02 PM  

  • As you know, the GPL only works because copyright exists first. It is not a voluntary contract you can just ignore, because nothing other than the GPL gives you the right to distribute, e.g. the linux kernel.

    Without any copyright protection, no contract (GPL, PHP License, Apache License, etc) regarding the use/distribution of intellectual works would be necessary. Everything would immediately become public domain when disclosed.

    Greg's investigation is into the technical basis for an IP regime, assuming that the Hostage stalemate is a proper description of the writings/discoveries problem in a "state of nature".

    I like that he calls it an algorithm. Morally speaking, one can use any algorithm at all to solve a problem. Technically, though, some algorithms are better than others. This can be demonstrated mathematically.

    By Blogger Matt Crouch, at 12:35 PM  

  • I assert that a plethora of them exist, and that none of them justify government-enforcement by law.

    You could take that to a metaphorical extreme and argue that government enforced law isn't required either. We don't have to have a police force to enforce the law, we could just give everyone training in the law and give them weapons training courses and turn the country into the wild west. We don't need indivudal police officers, we could have group cooperation where everyone does a little bit of enforcement in their own part of the world.

    Except that in the real world, doing away with police and government would lead to absolute chaos. And doing away with copyright and patents would lead to the Hostage Scenario stalemate.

    Individuals would be greatly encouraged to do nothing rather than take some huge individual risk for little or no return.

    The only action that would occur would be group cooperation, many individuals working together, making small contributions to a larger project: Linux, wikipedia, etc.

    But group cooperation doesn't work in every situation. Sometimes you need 12 delta force guys on standby, rather than a million man army with slingshots.

    If you wish to argue doing away with copyright and patent law, you will have to provide a solution to the Hostage Scenario that you leave as a result. I am not willing to do away with it and simply say "Leave it to the people to figure out", because that's a wild west approach to law enforcement, and I can't support it. I need a solution to replace the current solution.

    What I'm proposing in "Bounty Hunters" is not to do away with copyright or patent law but to adjust the bounties using the algorithm I outline in the document. Make copyright terms and rights just enough to encourage authors to write.

    I don't ahve a problem with giving authors a fair compensation for their work. I don't have a problem with paying law enforcement or delta force a fair compensation for their work either.

    By Blogger greglondon, at 12:43 PM  

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