On Linux, Software Patents, Shakespeare & the Web

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Fuzzy
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01 Mar 2011, 5:20 am

A great blog post if you are interested in intellectual property.

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Nothing so describes the current attitude of corporations like SONY, Apple or Microsoft. They have no interest in “ideals of open access or illusions of speeding progress”, unless it serves their bottom line. (The censors during the time of Shakespeare, likewise, had little interest in permitting plays that didn’t serve their bottom line: power.) When open access competitively threatens the bottom line of modern corporations, they have shown a willingness to use and abuse current copyright and patent law to criminalize whoever is cramping their wallet.


http://poemshape.wordpress.com/2011/02/ ... akespeare/


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theWanderer
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01 Mar 2011, 11:52 am

I'd agree with everything you say, but as a writer, I'd add that there is one other feature no one seems to consider. Writers (and other creatives) really do need to consider their bottom line - at least enough to have a place to work and enough to eat. If we don't, at best we can create in our spare time; this gives us less time to practice, so we aren't as good, and the result isn't as good.

And we're squeezed at both ends. Sure, the impact of open access isn't much; the paltry royalties we get are so small that even a thousand people downloading something we wrote for free won't hurt us much. But, I know of a solid midlist writer who'd been writing for three decades - and in 2008, the last year she lived solely on writing, her total annual income was less than $10,000! We aren't trying to be greedy, we're just trying to survive. With that little coming in, every nickel lost hurts.

And the big corporations you speak of are just as interested in squeezing us, in giving us as little as possible for as much as they can extract from us, so their bottom line will benefit. I'm not a committed foe of open access - certainly, anyone who wishes to give their work away is well within their rights to do so - but if people like our work but don't donate, if they think they are only sticking it to the corporations that are squeezing us, they're wrong. I don't care if every large corporation in the world goes broke. I hate Amazon as much as anyone and more than almost anyone, Walmart, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, etc. not much below that. Bankrupt them all and I'll laugh with glee. And I'll probably have a bit easier time trying to survive.

But, please, don't forget that people who actually create useful or worthwhile stuff do need to be able to eat if you want them to keep doing it. Sure, a digital copy doesn't cost us anything - but creating the original took time, which does cost us in real terms. That was time we could have been doing something else, making money, whatever. And creation takes longer than you think. Some books have taken their authors years to create. Most of us don't mind being poor, but we need to at least have a chance at survival. And those corporations you hate are squeezing us, too. In fact, the vise is tighter around our necks than yours, since you can always just walk away, while if we are to create, we must find some way to get it out there. Even if we don't sign a contract with the big companies, we must compete with all the schemes they set up to lure money into their pockets.

So for open access to work well for everyone, it can't just be "great, I can get anything digital I want for free" - there has to be a realisation that the creators of that stuff need to at least have a chance to scrape by, or they'll stop creating it. Sure, new guys will spring up eager to show what they can do - but they won't be as good, because they won't have the practice. And when they figure they are never going to get anything at all for their efforts, they'll give up, probably just about the time they've learned enough to be better. Corporations don't give you anything you can't get somewhere else at less cost, but creators do.

Edited to add: and, yes, this goes for software, too. I'm a big fan of Linux, but a lot of distros get abandoned because no one bothers to donate or give anything to the people who develop them. Some distros manage to sell enough support services to get by that way. Which is great; it is one way of making things work. But writing and music don't lend themselves to support services. So Linux and other FOSS has a built in method for taking care of its creators. Which is a good thing; I've got a lot of FOSS apps on my machine that are quantum leaps ahead of crap I paid huge prices for. But just remember that everything doesn't have that built in option for keeping its creators going.


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Jono
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02 Mar 2011, 3:56 pm

Fuzzy wrote:
A great blog post if you are interested in intellectual property.

Quote:
Nothing so describes the current attitude of corporations like SONY, Apple or Microsoft. They have no interest in “ideals of open access or illusions of speeding progress”, unless it serves their bottom line. (The censors during the time of Shakespeare, likewise, had little interest in permitting plays that didn’t serve their bottom line: power.) When open access competitively threatens the bottom line of modern corporations, they have shown a willingness to use and abuse current copyright and patent law to criminalize whoever is cramping their wallet.


http://poemshape.wordpress.com/2011/02/ ... akespeare/


That blog post says a lot.