Subject: Re: "a better world" (was Re: GIF/LZW patent)
From: simo <>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 18:57:20 -0400

On Wed, 2006-09-27 at 23:24 +0200, Norbert Bollow wrote:
> Lawrence Rosen <> wrote:
> > I'll be blunt about it: If we didn't have copyright on software and only had
> > patents, we'd be much better off. At least then monopolies would be based
> > upon innovation instead of mere writings by armies of programmers of mostly
> > me-too code. Programmers would be rewarded for being innovative, and the
> > rest of us could otherwise copy and reuse any non-patented or off-patented
> > software we wanted, regardless of who wrote it. That's how intellectual
> > property works in every other area of technology! Wouldn't that be a better
> > world?
> Only if:
> (a) For all software, full source code were always publicly disclosed.
> (b) Regardless of how many software patents exist, it would always be
>     possible to determine with reasonable cost which of them apply
>     to a given software development project.
> (c) Regardless of how many existing software patents apply to a given
>     programming task, it would always be possible by means of innovative
>     creativity to find a way of solving the problem that verifiably
>     does not infringe any of the existing patents.
> Your conclusions are invalid as soon as at least one of the
> assumptions (a), (b) and (c) is not satisfied.
> Assumptions (a) and (b) are certainly untrue in the world in which we
> live.  In addition, it is not clear whether fixing the legal system so
> that (a) and (b) become true is possible, even if the politicial will
> to do so were there.
> I don't believe that assumption (c) is true either.  I'll admit that
> I'm not able to prove (c) to be false, but I don't think that there is
> any convincing reason to believe (c) to be true.  If one wants to build
> "a better world", isn't it foolish to build that dream on an unproven
> assumption like (c)?
> Why not rather seek to build the "better world" on a copyright-based
> licensing scheme?
> That's the fundamental approach of RMS, and even those of us who, like
> I do nowadays, consider it important to have better money-earning
> opportunities for "shrink-wrapped software" than those which are
> available with the pure GPL approach of doing things, will be
> well-advised to use a copyright-based licensing scheme to establish
> terms and conditions for redistribution and for derivative works.
> There is IMO no justification whatsoever for doing anything that
> strengthens Microsoft's side in the political struggle over software
> patents.


I couldn't express it better!