Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: (Frank Hecker)
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 00:53:02 -0500

Brian Bartholomew wrote:
> Maybe I should discard the libre model, as great for volunteers but
> fundamentally incompatible with business.
> Perhaps cheap unlimited copying is incompatible with all known
> economics.  Economics is predicated on the choices made under
> scarcity.  Cheap copying is predicated on having eliminated scarcity.

You're making the (unwarranted) conclusion that because cheap copying
theoretically eliminates scarcity of information (really, "scarcity of
bits") therefore economic principles no longer apply.  You are not alone
in making this assumption.

But scarcity of information is not the only scarcity; economic
principles apply to choices under scarcity, but are not restricted to
any particular class of scarce thing.  In particular it is (or should
be) now a commonplace that people's time and attention is a scarce
resource (the amount of it being inherently limited and almost always
exceeded by the demand.  Economic principles are equally applicable to
this scarcity as well as any other, with suitable reformulation and
tweaking where appropriate.

Some time ago I floated the idea of a FSB charging customers higher
prices to have "VIP" status, e.g., to be able to meet with the FSB's
developers one on one, influence development direction, etc.  This is an
exact example of putting a monetary value on time and attention (in this
case that of the developers), and it is equally applicable whether the
software in question is libre or not.

(The example in the libre software case does depend on accepting part of
Eric Raymond's "Homesteading the Noosphere" hypothesis, particularly the
part about developer's "owning" a project; otherwise all developers
actual or potential would be equal, and their time and attention not so
scarce.  But I think this is a reasonable assumption and in accord with
real-world experience.)

Frank Hecker          Pre-sales support, Netscape government sales