Subject: Re: Software Trademarks
Date: 29 Jul 1999 02:39:41 -0000

>It's funny - some tech people think lawyers are useless and ought to be
>hung, and that law ought to "just work" without much fuss or attention,
>very much the same way that some lawyers think tech people are useless
>and ought to be hung, and computers ought to "just work" without much
>fuss or attention. 
>It's tempting to say that people who can't appreciate the complexity and
>subtle nuances of other people's professions/interests/disciplines ought
>to be hung, but it's unnecessary - that behavior is self-punishing, and
>the punishment usually takes the form of frustration, wasted effort, and

A sentiment with which I somewhat agree.

But, I will note that a lawyer writing some decent code in his spare time,
and distributing it via the Internet; or helping people use their
computers, or to understand issues such as standard conformance;
or other similar activities, cannot (yet) be thrown in jail for doing so.

On the flip side of that statement: Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL).
'Nuff said -- anyone who doesn't recognize that sufficiently to get
what I mean, do some research (check out an outfit called Nolo Press,
for example).

On a more positive note...the more I learn about the inner workings and
mysteries of the computer (especially software) field, which is my main
area, and the more I've had opportunity to learn about law (something
I rarely pursue, not even as a hobby, but grand jury duty can teach you
some things), the more I see them as sharing a fairly substantial set of
core issues, concerns, problems, and opportunities.

So, while their practitioners might compete and/or get in each others'
way in trying to "benefit mankind", I no longer think of the primary
burden of guilt being in the realm of one or the other area -- to me,
they are more and more like siblings with a vast difference in age,
slowly beginning to recognize each other.

In fact, it has become about as easy for me to recognize developing
problems in law (e.g. patents on business methods, which I probably
predicted would become a problem a la software patents on gnu.misc.discuss
five or more years ago) as to do so vis-a-vis software (e.g. continuing
attempts to evolve things like computer languages into byzantine
sets of teeny features, each designed to make some particular application
run "fast").

I believe that's not because I'm a particular expert in either field per se,
rather because I believe I've gotten pretty good at understanding some
of the underlying issues both fields (as well as others) have in common,
along with how human nature inevitably fights against any canonical approach
to doing things on the one hand, and on the other hand inevitably attempts
to canonize nearly anything novel.

A succinct, if not entirely accurate, way to say that is: if you think
US civil and criminal law is too complicated *now*, and that programming
is therefore an easier and/or more profitable discipline, wait until another
few decades have passed, then take a look at the standards, aka "laws",
to which programmers must adhere to get anything done.  I predict it won't
take much longer than that for programming to look then like what lawyering,
or even being a law-abiding citizen, looks like today.  Personally, I try
to fight against the sorts of encroachment in programming that resulted,
in law, in our present mess, but it seems to be a losing battle.  It seems
every programmer enjoying even modest success succumbs, at some point,
to the Peter Principle, deciding he can make *everything* better by
improving "law" rather than simply practicing it.  The public is perhaps
as willing to go along with that as it was previously to allow mostly
lawyers to serve as legislators, and I see the same sorts of things
happening today, when programmers serve as designers of specifications,
despite having no demonstrable expertise or experience doing so.  In
that capacity, most do what yesterday's lawyer-legislators did -- generally
choose to legislate *more*, not less, complexity into the system,
on the premise that people insufficiently brilliant to cope with it
should not be programming (practicing law).

Most of the truly heated discussions on mailing lists I've seen
recently (including the one currently going on on fetchmail-friends)
have this sort of disagreement about the long-term consequences of
design decisions at their root.

And, as is the case on fetchmail-friends, those in favor of unnecessarily
complex systems to be used by only experts in one context (software),
inveigh against the same sorts of thing in other contexts (such as law).

        tq vm, (burley)