Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 7 Nov 1998 17:50:01 -0500

   Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 15:36:51 -0500
   From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>

   What I'm really searching for is a business model for a mixed economy,
   where some things are cheaply copyable and some are not, and neither
   kind is dominant.  Unfortunately the only working business model I've
   seen is run-time monitoring, and that has horrendous police-state
   implications.

I'm not sure where you're going with run time monitoring, but there
are lots of services you can sell in your mixed economy.

For example, one way to look at free software support is that the
vendor is selling insurance against failures or inadequacies in the
software.

It's logical for the customer to purchase insurance, because it
permits them to limit their risk in the face of conditions they do not
know or future actions they can not predict.  It's logical for the
vendor to sell insurance, because it permits them to take advantage of
special domain knowledge accumulated over time, or to pool a large
group of risk taskers in order to limit the average risk.

Even if all material goods could be copied cheaply, it would still be
impossible to copy understanding.  We already live in an age of
information overload, and it's only going to get worse.  We already
have clipping services, and they will get more sophisticated over
time.  Eventually, I expect to be able to read every morning at
breakfast the newspaper ``things Ian Taylor wants to know'' (you know,
the one which carries all the comic strips, and has fewer clothing
ads).  This is another free business: not free software, but free
information.

In short, if material goods are nearly free, we have an information
economy.  The fact that in principle I could learn everything I want
to know out of the sum of human knowledge is irrelevant; I don't have
the time or, in some cases, the intellectual ability, to do so.  I can
pay other people to do it instead.  I can in turn earn money myself
with my detailed knowledge of superhero comics trivia, highly useful
for settling bar bets.

(In fact, comics trivia a good example of what I mean, if somewhat, if
you'll pardon the expression, trivial.  Suppose you wanted to know
something meaningful but reasonably obscure, like the names of
Superman's Kryptonian parents.  Sure, you could probably find it on
the web, especially if all the old Superman comics were available, but
it would probably take you at least an hour which you could put to
much better use.  Instead, you could just ask me, or others like me.
Maybe you would pay a monthly retainer to an information service, and
they would pay me a small amount per comic-related question.  Just to
hook you in, the answer to the sample question is Jor-el and Lara.)

I'd actually really like to see a free information service of this
sort--one which answers questions based on freely available
information, but charges per question.  Does anybody know of one? (The
Usenet Oracle doesn't count.)

Ian