Subject: Re: -- Tangled Webs: What Gives Them the Right?
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 08:09:21 -0800

OK, these are good answers, far more helpful than Stephen's blanket

Russell Nelson wrote:
> Stephen J. Turnbull writes:
>  > >>>>> "Tim" == Tim O'Reilly <> writes:
>  >     Tim> and does a good job of making the case that the software
>  >     Tim> industry claims IP protection that is way of line relative to
>  >     Tim> other industries like the auto industry.
>  >
>  > The analogy is bogus, and the article is full of half-truths.
> For example:
>   o The automobile industry works very hard to ensure that nobody will
>     create aftermarket parts.  They use special electrical connectors,
>     for example.

That doesn't seem true to me.  When I go into an auto parts store there
are lots of parts from 3rd parties, but now that you mention it, they
are mostly frosting, and all of the expensive parts are from the
original manufacturer.  So you're likely right.

>   o The automobile industry works very hard to ensure that nobody can
>     service their cars except the dealer.  Car computer interfaces are
>     completely undocumented.

This *may* be true, but seems unlikely.  I have had many different
species of car in my life, and have never had it serviced at "the
dealer."  But it may be that there's some behind the scenes licensing of
tools for servicing certain types of cars?  Does anyone know this for a

>   o In the software world, anyone can write a replacement for anyone
>     else's program, or library, or can change that program on the fly.
>     Nobody is fined or failed for this.

This is not true, and was the point of the article.  It was sent in in
response to a piece I wrote in Salon, in which I recounted the tale of
how, back in 1996, Microsoft shut competing web server vendors out of
the NT OS by bundling IIS with NT Server, and making it a violation of
the NT Workstation license to run a web server on it.  The reason I'd
brought this up again was that in order to do so, in addition to the
license, they used much the same technique of registry tweaking to make
differences between NT Workstation and NT Server that they complained
about in DOJ's demonstration of how IE could be removed from Win98, to
make bundled and unbundled versions of the software.  In each case, most
of the underlying functionality was still there, just disabled and
hidden.  But in one case, MS said it was their right to create such a
product, and in the other, they said it was impossible to create such a

>   o Microsoft ships a set of software called Windows.  Anybody can
>     modify that software by shipping a program that inserts itself
>     into Windows.  This is not only not illegal, but Microsoft
>     encourages it, and it has become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Except in areas that Microsoft wants to prohibit competition.  See

> In other words, the automobile industry is exactly like the software
> industry in every way that Romero says it's different.  The problems
> with the current state of the art in mass-market computer software do
> not require legal action.  Simply protecting property is all that we
> need the government to do.  Laissez-faire!

I agree that the analogies are weak, but I'm not sure that they are as
weak as you say.  I'd love to hear more from someone who really knows
the auto industry.  But in any event, analogies are always inexact.

Nonetheless, because of the strong allergic reactions from people who I
respect, I'm thinking we should put up some of these responses to the
article, if you guys are willing.
> --
> -russ nelson <>
> Crynwr sells support for free software  | PGPok | Government schools are so
> 521 Pleasant Valley Rd. | +1 315 268 1925 voice | bad that any rank amateur
> Potsdam, NY 13676-3213  | +1 315 268 9201 FAX   | can outdo them. Homeschool!

Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
101 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104,