Subject: Re: "a better world" (was Re: GIF/LZW patent)
From: Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com>
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2006 11:03:15 -0500

<stephen@xemacs.org> writes:

> Craig Brozefsky writes:
>
>  > > Relative to serving an HTTP request.
>  > 
>  > Ok, so you are admitting your assertion was ridiculous.
>
> Not at all.  I'm comparing the costs that people who don't hate
> patents claim that patents help finance, to the costs that people who
> do hate patents cite in support of patents being evil.

I'm sorry, but I just don't have anything to say in a discussion that
compares the marginal cost of production of "serving an HTTP request",
to that of a whole range of software objects.  It seems to me like you
compare to HTTP requests in order to justify the use of th word "high"
to describe the marginal costs of software production.  This not only
masks the variation in marginal cost for the field of software
development, but also is relative to something that is not even
production in a meaningful sense.  In the sense that it IS production,
the marginal cost of "producing" another copy of software is arguably
just that of an HTTP request 8^) I'm done commenting on this segment
of the thread.

> So, do it for your argument.  How many of those people are there,
> and how much is it worth?  I have no idea, you have no idea, and
> that is the whole point.  Until those measurements are done, you are
> effectively arguing "this hurts me and my buddies ... it's against
> the public interest."  I didn't like it when Alfred D. Sloan made
> that argument about "What's good for GM," and I don't like it much
> more when FSers make it about their dev actitivies.

The class of people who cannot afford but would benefit from a given
software patent obviously varies with the domain of the patent.  In
the case of pharmaceuticals, it is perhaps easier because we can look
at the set of people effected by a condition the drug is targeting.
When the patent regime expands to the whole world, this class grows
much quicker than the class of those who beenfits because of the
realities of wealth distribution on our planet.  We should also
acknowledge that even within the United States this effect occurs
because of radical disparities in wealth distribution.  In the case of
compression or encryption patents, nearly the entire internet would
benefit, and we get an effect similiar to that of the drugs.  This
effect is so pronounced in the case of drugs that attempts to correct
for it and work around it are legislated by nation-states since the
"cost" is very high, often life itself.

And I think we should also recognize the vast gulf between, "this
hurts me" and "what benefits me benefits all" arguments.  To start,
"public benefit" is being defined by the group that benefits -- but
this fact is occluded by their tendency to generalize their
perspective and consider it objective.  No Dorothy, not everyone can
pony up 20 bux for the commodity software in a box.  The cost of entry
into the class of people who benefit from the patents implementation
is a serious barrier if we're going to really think about the public
as everyone who has to live under the patent regime, and not just
model consumers in the first world.

>  > But this whole "penny of enjoyment" thing is ridiculous, the real
>  > driver of the software patent regime is financing.
>
> Where do you think that financing comes from?  Thin air?  It comes
> from *sales revenues*.

You would have to support that statement with some data regarding what
portion of investment dollars coming into the fincing market are
coming from the sales revenues of patented products.  I would wager it
is a very small fraction of the capital floating thru the finance
markets.

The valuation of the 'tech' sector relative to other sectors of the
economy indicates that there is a transfer of capital from these other
sources into those concerns with extremely low marginal costs of
production, and very high market protection mechanisms (patents).  If
that capital is coming from elsewhere, then it obviously is not
derived from sales revenues of patented products.  

This is a fairly common macro view of what is occuring to the US
economy, but I will gladly admit that I don't have numbers here to
back up the theory.

-- 
Sincerely, Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com>
"Do you want to live forever?"       -- Valeria