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"Crispen, Bob" <[log in to unmask]>
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Crispen, Bob
Wed, 28 Feb 2001 14:22:41 -0600
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Tom Moran [mailto:[log in to unmask]] sez:

>  I presume you don't support yourself with programming done for hire,
>either for taxpayers or corporations?  Kind of hard to understand when
>your e-mail address indicates Boeing.

That's a little silly, don't you think?  No need to go ad hominem here.

Perhaps the dissonnance you perceive is due to (a) not understanding
the notion that the public good is a higher value than whatever your
personal good (or mine or anybody's) happens to be at a given moment;
or (b) confusing my values (the values of an individual) with the
corporate values of the company I happen to work for at the moment.
In case it needed repeating on this list, I do *not* speak for my

As an example of (a), I have long concluded that it would be greatly
to my personal good to recline on soft pillows and be fed delicacies
while I watch sultry women dancing.  Having queried the candidates
for those positions in my immediate environment, I've reluctantly
decided that my plans in that regard must be postponed.  One of the
candidates felt this was so far from *her* idea of her personal good
that she threatened me with bodily harm should I mention it again.

Actually, I don't believe you made the mistake in (a) at all.  Read

>> "Intellectual property" is a phrase you'll search for
>> in vain in
>> the 18th and 19th centuries and indeed most of the 20th.
>  But look at the US Constitution (18th centry) for the concept, if not
>the phrase, and at any economics textbook for an explanation of the
>economics of "Public Goods".

An interesting discussion of the net and public goods can be found in
which, in deference to the author's restrictions on use, I will not
quote here.

The notion of IP is, to my way of thinking, an attempt to extend the
constitutional and treaty provisions of copyright and patent into areas
in which they didn't previously apply, and in which they now apply badly.
Using the term muddies discourse and claims the virtues of property
(which, Marx excepted, everybody thinks is a good thing) for things
which have few of the characteristics of property.

And it further muddies discourse (and thinking) by claiming ownership of
the property for an entity (a corporation) which shares few of the
characteristics of a person.

Thus, if we take as our premise that it's a matter of public good for
people to own property: to have the use of it for themselves, to be
compensated for its use by others, and so on, casting the discussion
into intellectual property terms obliges us to conclude that it's a
matter of public good for corporations to collect fees for anything
their employees (or the employees of companies they acquired) have
invented that they can befuddle the patent office and courts into
accepting as their intellectual property, from GIFs to hyperlinks.

Because the latter, seen plainly, has as little to do with the public
good as my visions of sultry dancers and larks' tongues in aspic, it is
in corporations' interest that we do not discuss it plainly, but rather
squirt the octopus's ink of "intellectual property" between the issue
and our naturally skeptical gaze.

I'm merely pointing out that since corporate interests in this case are
antithetical to both individual insterests and public interests, it
makes sense for individuals to be aware that this is the case, and to
be aware that when they participate in a discussion couched in terms
of intellectual property, that the deck is stacked against them.

Btw, I don't accept the premise that corporate interests are inevitably
antithetical to individual interests or public interests.  It's more a
matter of corporate interests being completely alien to what human
beings generally regard as good or what particular human beings regard
as good, so that both conflict or concord between the two are matters
of mere happenstance.

As I mentioned before, it's sometimes a very good thing indeed for a
technology to have one or more corporations backing it because of the
resources corporations can summon to promote the technology, and
because their support lends stability to the technology.  And, while
all of us on this list are likely to be strong supporters of standards
that are independent of corporations, I will point out that there is
room for de facto standards as well.  While herculean efforts have to
be expended so that there is little argument about what a sequence of
characters in an Ada source file is supposed to do, there never has
been any argument about what a series of bytes in a PowerPoint 97
file is supposed to do.

"The only significant question in life," said my old friend Spider
Olshesky, "is what to do next."  If we grant that Microsoft has an
interest in what it's proposing, and that the words it uses to discuss
the issues will be deceptive (and I've argued that *all* IP discussions
must be this way, even if the proponent weren't Microsoft, but Mother
Theresa), then we must look not at these generalities but at particulars.

In some cases, for example, it's worthwhile to have government software
protected by the GPL.  In other cases the LGPL is appropriate.  In still
other cases, a BSD-style license or even a license owned by a particular
person or group (private or governmental) is appropriate.

I think it's up to sponsoring organizations to make that determination,
ideally, up front, on an individual case-by-case basis.

Because if we decide the issue in broad generalities in the terms in
which $CORPORATION expresses it, there is likely to be one and only
one beneficiary of our decision.
Bob Crispen
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