Re: Obsolesence of Intellectual Property

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Wed Aug 02 2000 - 08:03:13 MDT

"Ross A. Finlayson" wrote:
> Max Moller Rasmussen wrote:
> > Linux is very nice but it is a tool somebody has made so they don't have to
> > pay for the tools from other. Free hammers would also be nice for the
> > carpentry business but would destroy the hammer business. So you can turn it
> > around and say that if people want free music they should make it themself.
> > Just like the Linux crowd supposedly does.
> Here is the difference, about the software/hammer analogy. Making two copies of
> a software is a marginal action. Making two copies of a hammer requires twice
> the quantities the comprise the hammer. Also, making a hammer requires forging,
> casting, or machining the hammer head and possibly the handle, or carving the
> handle.
> So, both software and hammer have start-up costs, the software's fixed costs
> being the programming time and code and test platforms which are mostly reused
> or reusable, while the hammer has the fixed costs of the machines and tools to
> make the hammer.
> After the fixed costs, reproducing software is basically a costless operation.
> I see those as obvious statements.

Take printed material, like a book. I can cut off the binder and feed it
into a Docutech scanner and reproduce as many as I want for only a
couple bucks each. Should I be able to do that? How about once I've
scanned it in (which only takes a couple minutes of time) I send it to
my workstation and have the scanned pages OCR'ed. I can now send that
book anywhere. Have I broken any laws? Its easy to reproduce that book
now for nothing, and I don't need to mess with printing costs, etc.

> Linux or the other free UNIXs were not free, they are made from thousands upon
> thousands of programmer hours and precursor code, they were just freely given.
> There is a concept of sum societal utility. Linux, free, has contributed to the
> sum societal utility many times over its investment given by volunteer
> programmers and supporters, some might say. Some statistics have it running
> half the Internet.

Except that linux is NOT free. It typically is sold on CD-ROM for
$40-80, which is little different from other operating systems. Can I
reproduce a Redhat CD-ROM and sell them for a buck if I want to? No, I

> Copyright laws are in place for a reason, and most of them are good laws. Some
> patent laws, in my opinion, are cumbersome and infringe upon the growth of sum
> societal utility, and any patent should expire in twelve years.

Given Moore's Law, most any patent on computer related items issued at
the time of its technological and economical applicability has only an
18 month window of marketablity.

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