A new look at IP rights

Linguofreak

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Hielor;bt826 said:
The fundamental "problem" here is that computers allow us to make a perfect copy of something for almost no effort at all. If a song/picture/story/program shows up for distribution, any number of people can grab it for free.

Yup. Software development costs are O(1) with relation to the number of copies produced. Traditional goods are approximately O(n).

This means that "intellectual producers" who produce items that can be copied thusly (artists, musicians, software developers, writers) might no longer be able to be paid for their work--if it's available for free, why would you pay for it? If the intellectual producers can't be paid for that kind of work, they need to do something that they can be paid for (since modern society kind of requires money in order to function), and this naturally translates into less time to produce quality songs/pictures/stories/programs/whatever.

People who enjoy taking things for free claim that it's the industry's fault for not adapting to a new climate and coming up with a business model that isn't affected by piracy.

I think the general feeling is that it's unfair to charge per copy when production costs are pretty much constant. That's why I like the guild/bounty scheme. It allows developers to be paid a fair fee for their work that is nonetheless constant in the number of copies sold. The big question is whether one could get enough people participating to make it feasible.

I myself am willing enough to pay on a per-copy basis for quality software. It's just that oftentimes I'm able to find competing freeware products that do the same or a better job at what I'm trying to do.

Except, the result of that is the "software as a service" model, where you need to pay subscription fees for continued access to your stuff, and the items are essentially worthless without the centralized access.

Except that the software as a service model is a step in pretty much the opposite direction from any actual solution to the problem. It's even worse than O(n) (you've got an extra factor, t, the amount of time a user spends using the software as a factor of the cost as well), and negates some of the biggest factors that make personal computing and networking as powerful as they are.

It's the tactics that the software industry uses to try to enforce their copyrights that are driving me to the free / open source crowd more than anything else. DRM and "software as a service" are driving me away from software that I'd otherwise be willing enough to pay per-copy for.

If developers can make money selling per-copy, great. I've purchased software per-copy before, and, if they don't load it up with too much DRM, or drop it entirely in favor of "as a service", I'll probably pay for per-copy software again in the future. If developers *can't* make money per copy, they'd better find a better business model than per-copy with DRM or "as a service", because I won't pay for either of those.

Not to mention that even having purchased some developers software legally, you always have to look carefully through the EULA for such phrasing as "I hereby sell my eternal soul to [insert developer here]". If a program says "This program is licensed under the GPL v. 3", I know that I really don't have to worry as long as I'm not mucking around in the source. It wasn't always the case, and it's not the case with all proprietary developers, but at this point one of the big draws of free software for me is that it's just a whole lot more relaxing.
 

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Linguofreak;bt827 said:
It's the tactics that the software industry uses to try to enforce their copyrights that are driving me to the free / open source crowd more than anything else. DRM and "software as a service" are driving me away from software that I'd otherwise be willing enough to pay per-copy for.

If developers can make money selling per-copy, great. I've purchased software per-copy before, and, if they don't load it up with too much DRM, or drop it entirely in favor of "as a service", I'll probably pay for per-copy software again in the future. If developers *can't* make money per copy, they'd better find a better business model than per-copy with DRM or "as a service", because I won't pay for either of those.

I agree. An example is Rosetta Stone. I've heard lots of good things about that software, to the point that I was considering shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a copy, but then I read that the DRM on it is horrendous and makes it almost impossible to transfer your license to a different computer, and that the company's "service" was very restrictive, so I decided against buying it unless my employer is willing to cover it.

Not to mention that even having purchased some developers software legally, you always have to look carefully through the EULA for such phrasing as "I hereby sell my eternal soul to [insert developer here]".

This is the case with things that have a lot of fine print, like the Amazon Kindle incident a few months ago where they deleted books from customers' readers in the middle fo the night with no warning. You could say, "Shame on the customers for not reading the fine print", but the service provider was taking advantage of its customers trust.

This makes me wary of "buying" e-books or downloading DRM-laden music files. I want to own and control a physical copy, a paper book, an actual CD or DVD. At least then I can use it as much as I want and don't have to read any fine print.
 

Urwumpe

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About the EULA... that is mostly a US problem: In Germany the EULA is actually legally useless. First of all, because you can't read the EULA before buying the product. Second because there are often clauses in the EULA, that are against German law, especially the code civil here contains many regulations about the relation between customer and seller. The EULA is just a matter of threatening the customer with legal automatic fire.

In fact, it took a while until the GPL was legal in Germany because of the same aspects.

I still think that a law that it is illegal to break copy-protection, is even more dangerous than DRM...
 

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Linguofreak;bt827 said:
Yup. Software development costs are O(1) with relation to the number of copies produced. Traditional goods are approximately O(n).

I think the general feeling is that it's unfair to charge per copy when production costs are pretty much constant. That's why I like the guild/bounty scheme. It allows developers to be paid a fair fee for their work that is nonetheless constant in the number of copies sold. The big question is whether one could get enough people participating to make it feasible.
Modern economies are based on the transaction model from customers: the customer pays some amount of money and gets something in return. This is where the current software industry model comes from. It makes sense to the customer at the basic level: "I pay for something, I get it."

Establishing some kind of artificial economy system just for software seems like it would be very difficult and not very intuitive to customers. The money has to come from somewhere, where are you proposing it comes from, if not the customer?

The production cost may be O(1) w.r.t. the number of copies produced, but this ignores the fact that the cost of a single copy is a tiny, tiny fraction of the total development cost. The customers speak with their wallets as to whether the software is worth it or not--in order for the developer to recoup their development costs, they have to sell enough copies. If they sell enough to cover the development costs and more, well, that's great for them--whereas a toy manufacturer makes a small amount of profit on each item sold (disregarding infrastructure costs), a software publisher essentially makes no profit on the first however-many sold, and nothing but profit after that. This is why special-use software (graphics design programs come to mind) are priced so high, they don't expect to sell as many copies and still need to at least break even.

It allows the income to be based on how good the work actually was. If you tried to say, "the developer gets paid $X for every program," then the developer who makes a program that no one likes ends up with just as much as the developer who makes a program that sells into the millions, and that's not fair. Even if the same amount of work went into it, the developer that sold more has a (by vote of wallet) better product, and so they are rewarded more by the pay-per-copy system..

I myself am willing enough to pay on a per-copy basis for quality software. It's just that oftentimes I'm able to find competing freeware products that do the same or a better job at what I'm trying to do.
Yes, but the people who work on freeware products need to pay their bills somehow. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of open-source contributors have "day jobs" at software companies...and if you can't be paid for software work, then they'll have to find jobs doing something else, and all software development will be "spare time" sorts of things.

Oftentimes there aren't freeware alternatives -- look at flight sims. The two best (MSFS and X-Plane) are payware, and the nearest freeware alternative (FlightGear) is far behind. The MSFS and X-Plane developers get paid for what they do, so they are motivated to continually improve so they can make more money--if their product doesn't get used, they don't get paid. The freeware developer doesn't have that motivation.

Except that the software as a service model is a step in pretty much the opposite direction from any actual solution to the problem. It's even worse than O(n) (you've got an extra factor, t, the amount of time a user spends using the software as a factor of the cost as well), and negates some of the biggest factors that make personal computing and networking as powerful as they are.
As far as the industry is concerned, it's a step in the right direction -- it ensures that they get paid when people use their products. It's also a whole lot easier to implement than some kind of artificial system. The industry sees this as the solution to the piracy problem. Some people say "the business model is unsustainable," but they don't give an alternative that's preferable to both the industry and the user. So the industry responds, "Okay, here's a different business model which is rather more sustainable" and the pirates respond with "wait a minute, that's not what we meant!" and the industry says "Really? What did you mean then?"

It's the tactics that the software industry uses to try to enforce their copyrights that are driving me to the free / open source crowd more than anything else. DRM and "software as a service" are driving me away from software that I'd otherwise be willing enough to pay per-copy for.

If developers can make money selling per-copy, great. I've purchased software per-copy before, and, if they don't load it up with too much DRM, or drop it entirely in favor of "as a service", I'll probably pay for per-copy software again in the future. If developers *can't* make money per copy, they'd better find a better business model than per-copy with DRM or "as a service", because I won't pay for either of those.
DRM is a short-term solution to the problem that software pirates created. Software as a service is a long-term solution. I challenge you to present a "better business model" than those, given the current environment where software without DRM is immediately pirated.
 

dansteph

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DRM came 10 years after the start of massive piracy. (and 20 years after piracy) Maybe DRM are not a good idea (I think they suck also) but it's only one more protection attempt as any other failed. (and they fail also)
Softwares are doomed because of the virtuality: mosts peoples have absolutely no idea how much energy and cost they require.
It's the reason why also NO cooperative reward can work (donate, cookies etc.)

Almost 60% users steal my soft when I did absolutely nothing wrong of what was mentionned above (we just survive). On 1000 peoples that enter my "store" 600 steal a "box" on my desk and goes out without any consideration for me, my work, my familly.

Conclusion: When one can have free things without any risk most do it: right ,IP, EULA or "bad major" discussion are pure self justification.

The ideal world is as follow: no copy protection, all peoples pay the price that autor ask OR they do not buy and use. (market decide) 5% idiot steal as ever but that's not enough bad to worry about protecting, locking or spying which cost a hell to everyone.

But we are speaking about Lion kissing the Antelope ? :lol:

Seriously: how are we supposed to get out of this situation ? (In the real reality)

Dan
"Da bad guy"
 

Urwumpe

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Dan: Maybe you just use the wrong analogy... you currently sell really small products, that are kept literally on the street, without somebody watching. You don't tell people to steal your product, but you make it easier for those who want.

Also, your calculation about 60% loss is roughly as flawed as the record industries calculations about their losses. It is right that you get less money, but you have logical jumps in your argumentation. You should never have constant income for the same product.

At one point,the market is always saturated, unless you come up with regular updates, that cost money. The crack will only worsen the effect, but will mostly affect those, who never had the real intent to buy your product. Now that it is there for free (and only a part of their soul), they download it, without any appreciation or association with it. They just get it because they can now get it for free...instead of getting it because they want it

I think, the key question is rather: How can you sell software at all? DRM is not selling your software, it is allowing people to enter your store and play with the software there and only there, with security checks at the exit.

Better would be bundling the software with hardware. But also much more expensive. Making the software dial home, is also bad, since it discriminates those few that have no regular Internet connection. But it would be the smallest price compared to DRM, since you could also supply updates and fixes over such a channel - it would be similar to the business models of antivirus software producers.

But without good work behind it, people will not accept it, not even if they like your product in general. On the other hand: If you do good work with the fixes and updates, such a channel would increase the appreciation of your product. If the fixes come faster as the crackers can work around it, you have won - cracks in file sharing sites of your software will be outdated and useless. Which is again similar to illegal activities in the real world.
 

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Also, your calculation about 60% loss is roughly as flawed as the record industries calculations about their losses.

No because of one fact: Income curve are surprisingly pretty regular since the first version: It start high at release then smoothly slowdown month after month as more and more intterested peoples got it. (I was very surprised also but I don't have much variation on month basis, else sales would drop to zero in few month)

In december 2008 a new version was out: high sales starting to descend slowly, but as my first version was "cracked" almost the first day (one idiot released his code) this one resisted more than three month. (multi level delayed protection, online check, took me countless hours to do. I hate doing this and p** users)

Result ? Sudden 60% income drop the next month. Never saw that in 3 years of sales, never saw that again also with this version, income never went to the "normal" level but continued to descend regulary from this "low" level.


If the fixes come faster as the crackers can work around it, you have won - cracks in file sharing sites of your software will be outdated and useless.

That's like putting water in a can that have a hole.


Okay, now that's my work, I'm not either an angel, I had many cracked soft on my computer, I know both side. The truth is that only a few peoples resist to save 30$ or 50 $ when it's so easy. Period ! it's the game, we'll deal with this or change job.


Now what really P.ISS me are the systematic discussion about the "bad major" or whatewer to justify what is mainly a comfort steal.
Now you have a new kind of discussion that goes further: those that say that creation should be "free" and a "right" for anyone, that authors just have to go down the street and make "live" performance. (where is my red nose?)

All this favor piracy which have a high human and economic cost and many negative side effects: From the net and softs that become more and more invasive and locked (DRM, internet filtering, data collect) to the original creator that are demised, higher price due to loss & cost or company that make "fast & dirty" because you can get money from them.

I say this will end badly for everyone: authors, users, creation, liberty.

So I would like to see at least a BALANCE in those discussions. People's act are often the result of ideas and most discussions on internet about all this miss the big picture and are demagogic and manichean.

I do not ask too much, just honnesty: one steal on internet because it's easy and save money but it's still a bad thing. period !

Dan
 

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Imagine a world without IP, and without DRM or "software as a service".

For some software there might be a "business model", because only a few customers are sufficient to finance the development. An example is a piece of CAD software I wrote as a student, and which is used by two or three small companies. I kept it really small and basic, and as a result it took me only a couple of thousand euros in working hours.

For other software there might not be such a business model. Development may only reach break-even when investments from thousands of customers are brought together, and without laws (such as copyright) or contracts, most will not be interested in investing, if they can also get a copy for free.

For such software there could be a trade-off between economy and freedom. With freedom-restricting laws, we can have a thriving software industry. If we choose for freedom, we'd have to wait for the (possibly slower) development of free software.

But maybe the dilemma is not as big as it seems. Free Software development seems to be especially good at developing general purpose software (Linux, Firefox, Open Office etc.): especially the type where commercial development fails when there is no effective copyright law.

One scenario for the future is that IP will be enforced with an iron fist. You probably won't have anything to say about what you can do with your computer: that will be decided by the government or the big corporations.

The other scenario I see is that IP law will be effectively abandoned. Free software development will provide large general-purpose building blocks, like operating systems, applications and programming libraries. Commercial developers will mostly focus on specialized software, and on 'meta-software' (selecting and setting up existing software for companies and individuals who don't know much about computers). Luckily, this commercial development will be increasingly productive when it uses the free software building blocks. Occasionally, commercial developers will also contribute to the building blocks they use, when that happens to be convenient for them.

And when the free software development isn't going fast enough, it can still be stimulated by government funding. I know this may sound dirty to some US readers, but you should realize that this is already established practice in the development of science. The business of science is creation of knowledge, just like software development. Therefore, what would be wrong with trying an approach for software which is known to work for science?
 

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Actually, I would take issue with you on the notion that government funding "works" for science. It has resulted in a situation in which all scientists and research organizations compete for government funding, and where private patrons take it for granted that science is somebody else's problem. This distorts the market to the point where science is now all politics and people think that stopping government funding means stopping all research. The steam engine wasn't developed by government money, no reason why other technology has to be, including software.

In any case, this is getting off the topic which is the future of IP and, beneath it, the concept of IP itself.
 

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Andy44;bt846 said:
The steam engine wasn't developed by government money, no reason why other technology has to be, including software.

In any case, this is getting off the topic which is the future of IP and, beneath it, the concept of IP itself.
Well, its your blog, but I think you can't talk about the future of IP law without talking about how creativity will be supported under future protection schemes.

Copyright, at its heart, is meant to stimulate the creativity and, more specifically, the implementation of creative ideas. I want software, so I can either:
1. Write it myself; or
2. Pay someone else to write it.

Let's start by considering option 1. For a small project, I may well select option 1. Most wouldn't though, since it would be too far outside their expertise. For anything substantial, the investment of my time would be greater than the return I would get, so would need to consider option 2. With option 2, the investment also quickly outstrips the return. A feasible solution is to share the investment with all my friends that want the same software. Since the distribution costs are so low, this works very well and is effectively what occurs with traditional pay per copy software.

The profit imperative drove the development of steam engines. Watt et al only had to satisfy themselves that people valued their work before commencing their investment. Modern software developers not only need to satisfy themselves that people will value their work, but that the they have some protection of an income stream from the use of their work, given that illegal use of software without payment is rife. Perhaps the solution is a social one, not a legal one. That is, encourage the payment for works through social imperatives rather than capitalist ones?
 

Andy44

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Modern software developers not only need to satisfy themselves that people will value their work, but that the they have some protection of an income stream from the use of their work, given that illegal use of software without payment is rife.

Only because they operate in the system as its currently set up.

In order to imagine a world without IP, you have to rethink how it would work. In your example, you would be paying the guy to write the code for you, but he would be using code he lifted from public domain. So what you'd really be paying him for is his time and his expertise in using the compiler and in porting software to your system. If he invents an algorithm along the way, so much the better, maybe you'd pay him for that, too, but neither you nor he get to keep the "rights" to it. You could hang onto it as a trade secret, but once it gets out you wouldn't have recourse.

Long story short, you're paying him for the work he does for you, nothing more.
 
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