Re: Obsolesence of Intellectual Property

From: Ross A. Finlayson (
Date: Wed Aug 02 2000 - 11:01:49 MDT

Michael S. Lorrey wrote:

> "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.

A book is a media delivery format, just like a disk. Its content is covered by fair
use and other copyright laws. If it's your personal copy of your book you can do with
it as you please as long as you take reasonable measures in good faith to preserve the
fair use and copyrights, barring alternative agreement..

Now, if you have one scanner and printer, each hardware, if you want another of each
then that requires duplicate physical resources and manufacturing capability.

> >
> > 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
> can't.

Anyone can acquire the Linux kernel and many programs for it for free and start their
own Linux strain, and distribute it for any cost they care to charge.

> >
> > 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.

I disagree. When we were examining the copyright statutes before, I noticed that
there are specific concerns of the semiconductor industry addressed therein.
Considering any part of the von Neumann architecture (memory, bus, processor) I think
that no part of it is patented, yet specific chip designs and manufacturing methods
almost certainly have patents, and many are used throughout multiple generations of
processor and other hardware design architecture, which is largely quite beyond me
besides the use of layman terms and acquaintance of some EEE engineers.

Here's a typical example of a "bad" patent: Lempel-Ziv-Welch dictionary stream
compression. The patent on this method of compression, acquired ten or so years ago
by Unisys, was not enforced (coincidentally, unenforcement of copyright claims leads
them to be unenforceable) for several years as it became a commodity compression
method, and then it was, somehow, and became a barrier to entry to the use of that
simple algorithm.

As far as I know, if a copyright claim is not made within a reasonable time from when
such claims would be valid, then they become invalid. I can not say if that holds
true for patents, an arcane sector in need of retrofit.


Ross Andrew Finlayson
Finlayson Consulting
Ross at Tiki-Lounge:

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