[clug] Excellent article on GPL and IP

Stephen Jenkin sjenkin at pcug.org.au
Wed Sep 10 18:05:14 EST 2003


Thanks for another useful & insightful posting.

I agree with the author's assertion that you _can_ make money from GPL

There is an important error in this article showing a US bias:
- the cost of digital 'new units' is _close_ to zero, but NOT zero.
=> someone has to pay for the bandwidth or storage media.

Here in the land of Oz, we pay for the Net by the byte.
Even in the US, they _prepay_, so there is a cost per byte, but not
directly billed.

Saying this small charge - $0.00000006/byte [6c/Mb] - is Zero is a logical
fallacy [someone tell me the formal term].
This same logic proves gravity doesn't exist - the Electric force is about
10**20 times stronger than gravity and 0.00000000000000000001 is
identically zero in the normal world...

Planets revolve about the Sun, gravity works because the numbers as just
SO big. Astronomical, in fact [apologies for the pun]

I've included some comments in-line.

The upshot is why we don't have Junk Fax anymore - the sender _pays_.
SPAM is rampant because there is no consequence [ie cost] to the sender.
If recipients could bill back their charges [or recoup them from their
ISP], SPAM would stop _very_ quickly.

Having code + tools widely available on 'commodity platforms' for low cost
creates a new environment where innovation can explode.


Steve Jenkin, Unix Sys Admin
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

On Wed, 10 Sep 2003, Kim Holburn wrote:

> http://newsforge.com/newsforge/03/09/03/2053203.shtml
> To Quote: The artificial scarcity model of value creation doesn't work
> well in the digital universe.
> That cost may decline with greater volumes of production, but it
> never reaches zero. TVs are also difficult to make, I can't
> realistically turn them out in mybasement.
> With software or digitally encoded content (e.g. MP3 and DVIX), the
> incremental cost of producing a new unit is zero.

No, this is wrong. It is _close_ to zero, but not zero.

> In addition,
> technology like broadband and desktop PCs have given the power of
> creation to almost everyone.

This is another false argument.  Potential to create =/= Creating.

The real argument is that some very small proportion of people _will_
create new or derivative works.  These works can be used by everyone and
built upon by others.  This amplification is where the real value lies.

> Therefore, in the long run an efficient
> market will crowd out middlemen that do not add value.
> Otherwise, there would be no scarcity and thus no value to
> their roles as creators or distributors.

> The GPL is based on a world-view <<SNIP>>.
> The GPL places value not on scarcity, but on ubiquity. The more useful
> something is, the more used it becomes and therefore the more valuable
> -- the so-called network effect <<SNIP>>.
> This model of value is inherently more efficient for some kinds of
> goods than the scarcity model.
> It's particularly true in software
> where there are no barriers to entry.

This is simplistic and the same faulty logic [near zero == Zero], there
are _very_ real 'barriers to entry' writing software, or simply there 
would not, could not, be professional programers.  You have to have 
talent, ability, capability, time, interest, motivation and access to

> The GPL ensures that anyone who  wants to use that software can do so
> This does not mean money can't be made. There is widespread confusion
> about the GPL and economic value. <<SNIP>>
> Anyone can sell GPLed software for money if they want to.
> Red Hat does every day.<<SNIP>>
> The GPL does not demand that
> anyone give their work away for free.

This is a good argument.

> This fundamental
> misunderstanding has been willingly perpetuated by those whose
> businesses depend on the scarcity model.

This does not follow from the facts presented...

> -- 
> --
> Kim Holburn  
> Network Consultant - Telecommunications Engineering
> Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering
> Australian National University - Ph: +61 2 61258620 M: +61 0417820641
> Email: kim.holburn at anu.edu.au  - PGP Public Key on request
> Life is complex - It has real and imaginary parts.
>      Andrea Leistra (rec.arts.sf.written.Robert-jordan)

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