[clug] Excellent article on GPL and IP

Kim Holburn kim.holburn at anu.edu.au
Thu Sep 11 00:03:49 EST 2003

At 6:05 PM +1000 2003/09/10, Stephen Jenkin wrote:
>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.

I think you're splitting hairs here.

>Here in the land of Oz, we pay for the Net by the byte.

Not true anymore, there are now unlimited broadband accounts in Oz.  Still pay fixed charges though, just not on a per byte basis.

>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 don't agree with this.
Firstly the charge is small and only possibly related to the number of bytes.
Secondly a per byte charge would only be related to direct uploads, not mirrors.  It would be possible to upload once and have all other uploads dealt with by mirrors. 

If the publisher had an unlimited account there would be no "additional" costs for uploading data.

In any case it is nowhere near the kinds of charges you have creating physical things.

>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...

I don't think it's a point logically following from previous arguments rather a comment about how people use the economic model outlined.

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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