Sharecroppers, nomads, and early open source

The responses to my previous post, on the myth of the fall, brought out a lot of half-forgotten lore about pre-open-source cultures of software sharing.

Some of these remain historically interesting, but hackers talking about them display the same tendency to back-project present-day conditions I was talking about in that post. As an example, one of my regular commenters inferred (correctly, I think) the existence of a software-sharing community around ESPOL on the B5000 in the mid-1960s, but then described it as “proto-open-source”

I think that’s an easy but very misleading description to land on. In the rest of this post I will explain why, and propose terminology that I think makes a more useful set of distinctions. This isn’t just a historical inquiry, but relevant to some large issues of the present and future.

For those of you who came in late, the B5000 was an early-to-mid-1960s Burroughs mainframe that had a radically unusual trait for the period; its OS was written not in assembler but in a high-level language, a dialect of ALGOL called ESPOL that was extended so it could peek and poke the machine hardware.

B5000 sites could share source-code patches for their operating system, the MCP or Master Control Program (yes, Tron fans, it was really called that!) that were written in a high-level language and thus relatively easy to modify. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time such a thing was done pre-Unix.

But. Like the communities around SHARE (IBM mainframe users) and DECUS (DEC minicomputers) in the 1960s and 1970s, whatever community existed around ESPOL was radically limited by its utter dependence on the permissions and APIs that a single vendor was willing to provide. The ESPOL compiler was not retargetable. Whatever community developed around it could neither develop any autonomy nor survive the death of its hardware platform; the contributors had no place to retreat to in the event of predictable single-point failures.

I’ll call this sort of community “sharecroppers”. That term is a reference to SHARE, the oldest such user group. It also roughly expresses the relationship between these user groups and contributors, on the one hand, and the vendor on the other. The implied power relationship was pretty totally asymmetrical.

Contrast this with early Unix development. The key difference is that Unix-hosted code could survive the death of not just original hardware platforms but entire product lines and vendors, and contributors could develop a portable skillset and toolkits. The enabling technology – retargetable C compilers – made them not sharecroppers but nomads, able to evade vendor control by leaving for platforms that were less locked down and taking their tools with them.

I understand that it’s sentimentally appealing to retrospectively sweep all the early sharecropper communities into “open source”. But I think it’s a mistake, because it blurs the importance of retargetability, the ability to resist or evade vendor lock-in, and portable tools that you can take away with you.

Without those things you cannot have anything like the individual mental habits or collective scale of contributions that I think is required before saying “an open-source culture” is really meaningful.

This is not just a dusty historical point. We need to remember it in a world where mobile-device vendors (yes, I’m looking at you, Apple!) would love nothing more than to lock us into walled gardens of elaborate proprietary APIs, tools, and languages.

Yes, you may be able to share source code with others in environments like that, but you can’t move what you build to anywhere else. Without that ability to exit, developers and users have only an illusion of control; all power naturally flows to the vendor.

No open-source culture can flourish or even survive under those conditions. Keeping that in mind is the best reason to be careful about our terminology.

270 thoughts on “Sharecroppers, nomads, and early open source

  1. >. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time such a thing was done pre-Unix.

    Multics?

  2. >Multics?

    Assembler! They did make use of PL/1, though, and some accounts do go so far as to claim the system was written in it. Also, IIRC from the written sources I’ve seen, system programmming was pretty heavily intertwined with system configuration, to the point of making even ports of the PL/I parts rather difficult.

    They were thinking in the right direction, though. Fernando Corbató uttered the first explicit statement of an open-source ethos I’ve found anywhere, in 1963.

    Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be very surprised if Ken Thompson got the idea for a retargetable systems language from MULTICS’s incomplete attempt to do that with PL/I.

    UPDATE: Apparently he didn’t. Thompson later said “The things that I liked enough (about Multics) to actually take were the hierarchical file system and the shell—a separate process that you can replace with some other process.” System programming in a HLL didn’t make that list.

  3. Any reasons you don’t track the origins of open source to the peer review idea in science – after all, hackerdom was mostly university based and they often thought of themselves as computer scientists, mathemathicians? Isn’t it normal that in an university, academic environment a program would have been seen as a mathemathical research result, an algorithm, andt thus would be submitted to peer review?

  4. >Any reasons you don’t track the origins of open source to the peer review idea in science

    I have made that connection, rather frequently.

  5. >Fortran? E.g., Linpack.

    I almost mentioned Linpack. The community around that has a better claim to be early open source than any of the sharecropper communities.

  6. You alluded in the original post what the difference was between linpack and current open source — the open compiler.

    I think a lot more PC software would have been available in source form if the author thought more people cared. Most PC users didn’t have compilers. Microsoft has recognized this, and in their embrace/extend/extinguish philosophy, have started providing free compilers. That actually probably does help them, in that it removes barriers and lets a lot more open source stuff get ported to windows than would be otherwise. But obviously, that’s a double-edged sword…

  7. So, arguably, RMS took a preexisting paradigm that was working well in academia (practically every college had a Unix source license), and started its spread it to the wider world, by supplying GCC. The rest is history, although as you point out, it keeps getting rewritten by some of the victors.

  8. “ESPOL”

    I remember spending hours and hours reading the ESPOL manual, which was essentially the language syntax in BNF with semantics a second thought. Reading required a lot of flipping through the pages to follow the BNF as it descended down to the atoms.

    The Burroughs machines had many oddities, including 51 bit words, 48 bits + 3 type bits IIRC. Yes, both 6 and 8 bit bytes were accommodated. There were also bits of humor in the OS itself, with terminating processes being taken to the morgue and other such images.

  9. This is not just a dusty historical point. We need to remember it in a world where mobile-device vendors (yes, I’m looking at you, Apple!) would love nothing more than to lock us into walled gardens of elaborate proprietary APIs, tools, and languages.

    Apple? Sure. But Google as well with their most useful APIs moving into Google Play Services. That you call out Apple as opposed to “open” Google is simply amusing.

    In any case, 99% of apps are proprietary anyway so that the APIs are proprietary as well makes little difference to the consumer, only to the developer that has to support both Google Play and iOS APIs (ads, IAP, etc). Typically this isn’t a burden since both Google and Apple wants developers to have an easy time of it.

    The only time you get burned is when someone like Twitter doesn’t try to lock you in but to lock you out. Something that both Apple and Google can also do but typically doesn’t against 3rd party app devs but will against folks like Microsoft (for example the YouTube API).

  10. Interestingly enough the sharing of code and information that developed around ESPOL/B5000 keeps popping up other places (Open Source, other sorts of information sharing). This doesn’t necessarily lead to “Information wants to be free!!!!!” (yes, the sign of a diseased mind) but it does lead to the notion that, at least to a degree, these communities will self-develop and that sharing is going to be more-or-less inherent.

  11. >ok, newbie question: was the original cc a retargetable compiler?

    Depends on what version you want to call the original. If you go far back enough you’ll get to one that couldn’t retarget, but that capability was certainly in place by the time of the CACM paper in 1974.

  12. Re, the B5000 (or, in my experience the B5500).

    The Algol compiler was written in Algol and could (and did) compile itself.

    Bob

  13. Dijkstra’s Algol compiler (THE? X1?) and the OS written in it (though use of assembly is likely I imagine), I suspect influenced Ritchie with C. Pascal took this approach too with its P-system, though the CDC implementation seemed more reliant on its host system. However Pascal might have been slightly too late for early influence.

  14. > > Multics?

    > Assembler!

    Um, not quite. The largest portions of both the OS and the utilities were written in PL/1

    I had the privilege of being a Multics users and very junior sysadmin at an installation at a large automotive manufacturer back in the mid-1990′s. In fact, I was present when that community shut down their last Multics system in 1997. Ironically, my main job there was to assist them in transitioning their computing workload onto some Sequent (i.e., Unix) boxes.

    All this said, Multics undoubtedly suffered from the “sharecropper” effect. Being bound to one hardware platform meant that it could not grow or even continue beyond the life of that manufacturer’s product line. There were several sporadic efforts to ‘port’ Multics from a 36-bit architecture to a 32-bit one (so that it could have potentially continued to run on Intel processors), but none of them bore fruit.

    Obligatory anecdote: the Unix command ls got its name from the similar Multics command of the same name, which was an abbreviation of “list segments”. Interestingly enough, in Multics, a “segment” could be either on disk or live in memory – a completely VM representation. Hence Multic’s “ls” had much in common with Unix’s “ps” as well!

    Much interesting detail at http://multicians.org.

  15. Of course, C would not have spread if the compiler had not been retargetable, but also, it would not have been so, and would not have been useful if it had followed the design of its precursors. FORTRAN, ALGOL, etc. weren’t designed for system programming. The fact that C was designed to make compiler-writing easier, and to tinker with the hardware was what made its spread inevitable.

  16. > The largest portions of both the OS and the utilities were written in PL/1 [...] Being bound to one hardware platform meant that [Multics] could not grow or even continue beyond the life of that manufacturer’s product line.

    There’s the smoking gun right in front of you, Mr. Bell! The Wikipedia article claims that Multics was “written in PL/I”, but if that had been actually true retargeting the compiler would have done most of the work of the port. The fact that those sporadic attempts failed tells us that the non-PL/I (assembler) code was substantial and difficult to move – which was my original point.

    Not that this is in any way surprising. The Multics design long predated even the ideas of modularity and retargetability.

  17. > Apple? Sure. But Google as well with their most useful APIs moving into Google Play Services. That you call out Apple as opposed to “open” Google is simply amusing.

    No they don’t. The Google APIs live in Google Play Services, because, well, they interact with Google servers. GPS contains the code for interacting with Google Maps, with Google Play, with Google Wallet, with YouTube, for doing in-app purchases, etc, etc. You know, all of the stuff which talks to a Google server by some necessity.

    The one thing people always call out is Google integrating a more featureful location API into Play Services, but:
    * The core platform has never provided an implementation of the platform location API anyway (It has always been provided by closed Google code interacting with the Google Maps API)
    * There is the point that reimplementing the platform location API is actually very hard, never mind the extended one GPS provides (Amazon have had to make huge investments to get and run a similar database for Kindle)
    * Arguably, there are advantages to platform forkers in having much of the highly server dependent platform components contained in GPS, in that it clearly delinates to app developers which portions are going to be portable and which not.

    If there is anywhere modern APIs have been moving, its’ the support libraries (the DrawerLayout and SwipePaneLayout are good examples of common UI components exclusively available there). As an app developer I can only support this – it makes my life easier if I can use standard UI components across all platform versions.

    (The support library is Apache 2.0 licensed, BTW)

  18. > The fact that those sporadic attempts failed
    > tells us that the non-PL/I (assembler) code
    > was substantial and difficult to move –
    > which was my original point. Not that this is in any way surprising.
    >
    > The Multics design long predated even the ideas of modularity and retargetability.

    From what I remember (and understood poorly at the time), even the HLL part of Multics had many “magic constants” related to its 36-bit’edness baked into it. So yeah, mostly a failure of design and imagination.

  19. It’s worth putting the era of Multics’ design in its historical context. The idea that software should be portable across different computer models from the same manufacturer was still new and revolutionary. IBM was betting the company on System/360, the first computer line designed with cross-model portability in mind, right about then.

    Having software portable across different manufacturers’ systems? Why would you ever want to do that?

  20. @Jay Maynard:

    > Why would you ever want to do that?

    Well, the first mover wouldn’t.

    Unless they are google with their data liberation front. Sorry, Nigel, still not as evil as Apple.

  21. As an app developer I can only support this – it makes my life easier if I can use standard UI components across all platform versions.

    I didn’t say it didn’t make our lives easier. The fact is that an iOS developer can pretty much just do iOS 7 (82%) makes their lives easier too…

    But don’t tell me there isn’t as much lock in when I code against Google Play for my IAP/Location/etc vs coding against iOS IAP/Location/etc.

  22. @ww, @nigel:

    First google gets grief because the OEMs don’t update fast enough or at all, so Android is fragmented. Then google works to get a small amount of leverage over the OEMs (which is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things) to make things better, and they get grief for that, too.

    Plus, people are still claiming massive fragmentation, even though it’s not a problem for most users or developers.

    Get back to me when google tries to throw people in jail for jailbreaking their own phones. Shoot, get back to me when the canary says it’s difficult to sideload an app.

  23. @patrick

    Google gets grief because they claim to be open and they aren’t.

  24. One group that consistently gets short shrift were the pirates. While we didn’t code, we were clever enough to break such schemes as SpiraDisk and copy the dickens out of commercial software to spread around the country at 300 baud or through snail-mail. So, we did make a left-handed contribution to what later became the legit FOSS movement\; the spirit of getting any tool you needed by any means and seeing to it that others could as well.

    Plus, if an expensive bit of software was crap, we’d spread it around with a vengeance to insure no one else paid for it, while getting burnt with the “open this package and you cannot return it” clause on the shrink-wrap.

    We were all mostly working stiffs who barely had the coin to buy a $50 box of floppies, after dumping several grand in 1980′s dollars into a home computer. So, again in a left handed way, the “market” for FOSS was seeded not only by academia but by blue collar types looking to make their expensive toys DO useful stuff. Esquire Magazine contained an article by Leo Gomes, around 1981 or ’82 that was the first ever mention of software pirates in print. Great read if you can find it. I hope you follow up on this notion to give credit to the early ranks of everyday USERS who MADE software free. :)

  25. >One group that consistently gets short shrift were the pirates.

    Sorry, I’m afraid that’s going to continue to happen. Apart from the merits of the case, open-source people have to be hardasses about piracy in order to protect our political flanks against the MPAA and its ilk.

  26. Pirates were obviously a part of the ‘ecosystem’ in those early microcomputer communities, but they didn’t really advance FOSS in any sense. Nor, for that matter did the many freeware or shareware-lite (really, donation-ware) developers who released their software for no charge in binary form. FOSS has always been about ‘free speech’, not ‘free beer’.

    I suppose that this underscores how centralized (‘cathedral’) FOSS software is very much the exception rather than the rule. Without the benefits of distributed collaboration, and with development tools being relatively uncommon, the case for releasing software as open source on these platforms was rather weak.

  27. >Nor, for that matter did the many freeware or shareware-lite (really, donation-ware) developers who released their software for no charge in binary form.

    True, and I think it’s important to be clear about why. The knowledge in those binaries was effectively lost.

    My personal annoyance about this is a nifty little freeware DOS game that traveled as FIRE.COM – a block graphics simulation of fighting a forest fire responding to shifting winds. I’d love to reimplement this for Unix, but I can’t – the source was never distributed and may no longer exist anywhere.

  28. So, they weren’t getting grief for fragmentation?

    Yes, and deservedly so. However, now that 80%ish of the market is 4.x, it’s no longer an issue.

    That said, they still can’t respond as quickly as Apple can to security threats. 7.0.6 hit 13% in 48 hours and 25.9% in 4 days.

  29. >Sounds like you’re talking about Fire Fighter.

    Yes, when I found it on DOSGAMER a few hours ago it had that name. How in the fleepin’ frack did you know the author’s name? Is there some discovery algorithm for this of which I am unaware? (I tried Googling.)

  30. > How in the fleepin’ frack did you know the author’s name?

    Heh. I’d like to be able to describe some recondite ritual, but in reality it was just gumshoe work like you did.

    I remembered the game from some point in my past, and some keyword searching brought up the title. Then I found it, downloaded it, and inspected the binary to confirm the author name. A San Francisco address is given in there, and that correlates with a resume on Linkedin for a guy with the same name. A few other details correlate with Facebook and the Google+ profile I linked to. I don’t technically know that it’s the guy, but I’d put money on it being him.

    The big question is, are you going to ask if he still has the code?

  31. >The big question is, are you going to ask if he still has the code?

    Yes, I’ve already left him a request via G+.

  32. My personal annoyance about this is a nifty little freeware DOS game that traveled as FIRE.COM – a block graphics simulation of fighting a forest fire responding to shifting winds. I’d love to reimplement this for Unix, but I can’t – the source was never distributed and may no longer exist anywhere.

    If it’s a .COM file it’s small enough to be disassembled and reverse-engineered with relative ease. Maybe not by you, if you can’t be bothered, but by some hacker looking for a fun project.

    It’s actually possible to find commented disassemblies of popular old 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. What’s even more interesting is that theoretically the copyright holders could complain — but they haven’t, so far.

  33. >If it’s a .COM file it’s small enough to be disassembled and reverse-engineered with relative ease.

    Going by documentation that says .COM is headerless raw machine code, I tried running objdump -D -b binary -m i386 on it. The result didn’t look valid. I fond a StackExchange board on reverse engineering and left a query there; maybe someone will speak up.

    The query is here: http://reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/3789/interested-in-reverse-engneering-a-small-dos-game

  34. > I tried running objdump -D -b binary -m i386 on it
    objdump -D -b binary -m i8086 –adjust-vma=0×100 will do the trick. But ndisasm -b 16 -a -o 0×100 is better. That’s part of the NASM package, if you don’t have it already.

  35. >objdump -D -b binary -m i8086 –adjust-vma=0×100 will do the trick. But ndisasm -b 16 -a -o 0×100 is better. That’s part of the NASM package, if you don’t have it already.

    Both those do seem to produce plausible listings. But I’m not going to dive in until and unless I determine that the author no longer has the source.

  36. Apple reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. Brilliant designers who periodically say “screw you” to potential customers, because hey, they are brilliant and the potential customers are not. The best thing about FOSS is that a brilliant designer can be like this (it’s a fairly natural state for certain sorts of brilliant designers) and we just fork it and fix it. Share croppers need not apply.

    I want a removable battery and a slide out keyboard and I don’t care if it ruins your precious industrial design. I know it’s a beautiful design. I can see the beauty. Don’t care. I love the ugly Moisin-Nagant because it is simple enough for a 21st century programmer to take apart and put back together again. I am pretty sure that most illiterate Russian peasants beat out 21st century programmers when it comes to practical knowledge of physical machines. Take that, Steve Jobs!

    My daughter likes her iPhone and despises iTunes. iTunes should be FOSS, so we we could fix the miserable thing. Soon, given 3D printers, I hope rifles will be FOSS.

    Yours,
    Tom

  37. > The responses to my previous post, on the myth of the fall, brought our a lot of half-forgotten lore

    “brought out a lot of half-forgotten lore” you mean?

  38. >>ok, newbie question: was the original cc a retargetable compiler?

    > Depends on what version you want to call the original. If you go far back enough you’ll get to one that couldn’t retarget, but that capability was certainly in place by the time of the CACM paper in 1974.

    returning in topic, I quickly re-read that paper, and found just one quick mention of portability in the summary, and none in the text. Also, no mention was made of the fact that cc was retargetable.

    Could it be that the very authors of Unix were not fully aware of the importance of portability and cross-compilation for the success of Unix? They do stress the “organic” growth of Unix in the paper, across different system, but keep returning to the point that Unix spread because it had no specific goal to reach …

    Would you say Thompson and Ritchie (and the unix guys in general) were not aware of what they were doing? IIRC Thompson at the beginning was not exactly friendly to Linux and the FOSS philosophy

  39. >Would you say Thompson and Ritchie (and the unix guys in general) were not aware of what they were doing? IIRC Thompson at the beginning was not exactly friendly to Linux and the FOSS philosophy

    It’s an interesting question to which I don’t have a firm answer. Thompson’s initial standoffishness does seem odd in view of his earlier work on Multics, whose project lead (Fernando Corbató) seems to have been the first person ever to articulate the idea of open source and its desirability. There’s evidence in his published papers that Dennis Ritchie, on the other hand, caught on to the importance of Unix’s open development community pretty early.

    I also don’t know how consciously the original DMR compiler was designed for retargetability. In Steve Johnson’s paper C and the AT&T Unix Port – A Personal History Steve Johnson reports that dmr gave him the idea of porting Unix via a retargeted compiler, but it was Johnson himself who implemented the Portable C compiler beginning in 1973.

  40. @esr Yeah, but Fernando Corbató also said, “The number of lines of code a programmer can write in a fixed period of time is the same independent of the language used.” Crazy.

    @John D. Bell, you worked on the Multics system that had an application program for tracking nothing? Awesome. That was the stuff of legends at the (now non-existent) Alpha building where I used to work.

  41. >@esr Yeah, but Fernando Corbató also said, “The number of lines of code a programmer can write in a fixed period of time is the same independent of the language used.” Crazy.

    I don’t consider Corbató’s Law crazy. Has it been falsified while I wasn’t looking?

  42. LS wrote “The fact that C was designed to make compiler-writing easier, and to tinker with the hardware was what made its spread inevitable.”

    I think it was more that there tends to be a single winner in a niche, and C came to own the (sizable) niche which included languages suitable for 1980s compilers: not just compilers but (my rough impression) most things which needed speed, would be more than a few pages of assembler, and were not a good fit to the limited abstractions available in Fortran. Nice pluses for C were ease of implementation, low runtime library overhead, years of stability, straightforward interface to assembler and other languages, and an upgrade path to C++ for s/w which wanted a few more abstractions (notably various simulations, from circuit boards to games, and also some compilers themselves) enough to justify the associated quantum jump in gnarliness.

    Algol-descended and Pascal-influenced languages had so many of the same advantages and limitations that they fought for substantially the same niche (and lost). It seemed to me that they were a respectable runner-up, though, and could naturally have taken substantially the same niche if e.g. the legal toxic waste around AT&T UNIX had spread to C. I think C deserved its win: the late-1970s K&R aged very well, while its worthy Algolish/Pascalish competition was AFAIK designed only five or more years later.

    Consider the languages which held off and/or displaced C in their own sizable niches around this era, e.g., BASIC throughout, and Perl at the end. They weren’t particularly good for writing compilers. And ML was arguably better for writing compilers but didn’t displace C.

    FWIW, it probably wasn’t crucial, but C seems a little better at frolicking in the classic UNIX playground (running around screaming “text! it’s all text! mwahaha!”) than its main rivals. It seems relatively natural to target C for the output from a code generator, and other than RATFOR all the widely-successful code generators that I can think of target C.

    ESR wrote “I don’t consider Corbató’s Law crazy. Has it been falsified while I wasn’t looking?”

    It’s crazy if it’s read as an exact equality — as indeed is anything expressed exactly in terms of “lines of code” which after all varies by quite a lot based on cosmetic choices. I assume it’s not meant to be read as an exact equality, but a decent first approximation; then it looks basically OK to me. OTOH ceteris paribus is so hard to arrange that there can be an awful lot of slop. Consider that producing N lines of non-boilerplate code with tricky cross-cutting constraints running through it (multithread/interrupt issues, e.g.) can easily be significantly slower than producing less fiddly code, and that in different languages the same program can easily have not just different total length but a different proportion of fiddly non-boilerplate lines.

  43. >[Corbató’s Law is] crazy if it’s read as an exact equality — as indeed is anything expressed exactly in terms of “lines of code” which after all varies by quite a lot based on cosmetic choices. I assume it’s not meant to be read as an exact equality, but a decent first approximation; then it looks basically OK to me.

    +1. That is precisely my view of the matter.

  44. >I think C deserved its win: the late-1970s K&R aged very well, while its worthy Algolish/Pascalish competition was AFAIK designed only five or more years later.

    Pascal was actually roughly contemporary, and Algol actually earlier. There was very significant influence from Algol-60 in the design of C, and good evidence that Ritchie was aware of Algol 68 when C was in early stages. Really, it wasn’t possible to be doing anything with languages in 1968-1970 and be unaware of Algol-68; some of its syntax even leaked into the Bourne shell.

    No, I think the reason C won – and deserved to – was that Ritchie did a brilliant job of choosing a clean minimal set of abstractions to cover the problem domain he was targeting.

    Blaauw and Brooks have written a magisterial history of processor instruction set design centering on something they call the “standard architecture”, a style of instruction set that keeps getting reinvented and standardized as new generations of processor technology emerge.

    The genius of C is that its type ontology is almost perfectly matched to the standard architecture. (This is the truth behind the common but misleading description of it as “portable assembler”.) The competition interposed a thicker layer of abstractions – and failed.

  45. This is far from only a software issue. Did anyone notice that Keurig is heading towards a DRM format for their cups?

    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-17889_7-57619817/keurig-2.0-brews-up-drm-to-freeze-out-copycat-cups/

    I think that this is brewing up to be an object lesson on the economics of hardware / software, open standards versus DRM, and first mover versus sharecroppers. Really, as a consumer, the Keurig story has been nothing but a win (unless you are really a coffee hacker / purist). That is threatened now because the economics of corporate structures don’t allow market penetration and revenue to be good in and of themselves, but must be suborned to continued growth as a metric. “Continued growth” in corporate speak requires customer lock in via vendor lock in, as opposed to the softer metric of “adding value.”

  46. @esr

    The genius of C is that its type ontology is almost perfectly matched to the standard architecture.

    Unfortunately they got just about everything else wrong, and we’re still paying the costs..

  47. The proliferation of buffer overflow vulnerabilities in modern operating systems is almost certainly a direct consequence of the fact that C “won”.

    Back in the nineties, the most secure Web server available was WebSTAR on Mac OS (not X, 8.x and 9.x). It was virtually unhackable, simply by virtue of the fact that it used Pascal strings.

  48. “Apple reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. Brilliant designers who periodically say “screw you” to potential customers, because hey, they are brilliant and the potential customers are not.”

    There you go, IMHO, it’s back to the pirates issue I raised. Keep in mind that I am referring to the early 80′s period. I hazard a guess that the EARLY Apple][ era had the greatest number of Apple][ pirates going over any other "home computer". Just look at the Apple ][+. The reset key that would dump you ~unconditionally~ into mini-assembler, was re-routed to reboot. Our club copied the original ROMS and passed them out to the new Plus owners like popcorn. Then the Apple ][c was locked down even tighter, you couldn't open the lid to play with it's innards, the way The Woz originally designed the ][. And now Apple is what it is today, instead of being a platform for a bunch of freedom seeking individualist YoHo types. ~~We were "disruptive"~~ to Jobs vision of a future walled garden. And the FOSS movement came about in responding to "disruptive" types like us and others on their TRS-80's and Amiga's, who were in open rebellion to the walled gardens that companies like Apple/IBM/etc were in the process of becoming. It was those members of the Homebrew Computer Club, who purloined one of Bill Gates paper tapes for Basic to pass around, that was the first clear shot across the bow of the emerging suit wearing software vendors. And, not the last.

    Thankfully, now I can "install all-the-things" to satisfy my tool-gathering itches, not go to jail, and breath easier running Linux! Have you thought that just maybe it's in the best interests of Apple and MS to leave people like us alone? We could become disruptive all over again. :) Ric

  49. >Unfortunately they got just about everything else wrong, and we’re still paying the costs..

    Under the constraints of (a) compiled language, and (b) no GC (because unpredictable high runtime overhead), what do you think they got wrong? (Leaving aside some obvious syntactic awkwardnesses.)

    Goddess knows I don’t program in C any more than I have to, and I’ve done my share and more of advocacy for Lisp and Python and languages with GC in general. But I think you’re overstating the case here.

  50. “Unfortunately they got just about everything else wrong, and we’re still paying the costs..”

    No…they got things pretty much right for their era..slow TTYs, not much memory, expensive hardware, etc. The decisions they made are wrong for NOW, 40 years later. It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen, especially where the future is concerned…..

    C is definately NOT my favorite language, but I still like the fact that I can program in it fairly efficiently. Like FORTRAN and Lisp, it’s a survivor. You just have to keep an eagle-eye on the library now. The Visual C++ 2008 compiler I use warns me whenever I try to use one of the unsafe old favorites out of habit.It’s a big help.

  51. @Morgan Greywolf -

    After reading the stuff on multicians.org, I didn’t remember the ‘frame hole’ program. The last “real” app I remember running on Multics was the so-called ‘teletype’ program. To wit: CAFE for an auto manufacturer is a guesstimate, based upon a series of empirical formulas which say that “if I produce one model X vehicle, with options A, B, and C, it’s fuel economy is a particular f(GVW)”. So, to calculate the entire fleet’s fuel economy, what you do is count the numbers of the various vehicles, taking into consideration the options thereon, and weigh each one as it rolls off the assembly line. All this raw data got shoved (via communications that were originally over leased lines connected to real teletypes, hence the program’s name) into a MRDS database on the Multics box. A gazillion calculations later, and you had your CAFE number to give to the Feds.

  52. Under the constraints of (a) compiled language, and (b) no GC (because unpredictable high runtime overhead), what do you think they got wrong? (Leaving aside some obvious syntactic awkwardnesses.)

    Strings, for one thing, and concomitantly a general lack of array bounds-checking. Sloppy typing, for another, with a lot of bug-prone implicit coercions taking place. Pointer arithmetic. The god-awful preprocessor. Lack of namespaces or true modularity. Lack of generics (though this was somewhat fixed, albeit sloppily, in C11).

  53. ESR wrote “Pascal was actually roughly contemporary, and Algol actually earlier.”

    Yes, maybe I wasn’t clear. Pascal as described in late-1970s books was not as far as I could tell ready to compete with C head to head for general system software. A Pascal environment in 1981 or 1984 might be roughly as capable as a C environment, but only by adding ad hoc Pascal extensions for things the C implementors didn’t need to do ad hoc because they were covered in K&R. I never did anything nontrivial with strings, but I was under the impression that Pascal environments added ad hoc stuff even to support strings, and from my foggy memory I think it was also common for early Pascal systems not to support separate compilation (i.e. compilation of bits of your programs into object files which were linked later, and recompilation of only a single file when a small change was made), and for what separate compilation support there was to be nonportable. K&R C was pretty much ready for prime time: the things fixed and clarified in later versions were important, but not nearly as basic as the things missing from 1978 basic standard Pascal. E.g., a significant complaint I remember about C was that it lacked portable standard ways to declare things that were important for numeric optimizations (e.g., that two array-of-double arguments didn’t overlap, which mattered for vector processing) so in practice portable F77 libraries could be much faster than portable C libraries for matrix-heavy code. AFAIK programmers in portable Pascal never got far enough along the road to efficient matrix libraries that issues as subtle as that were major headaches.

    Of course, C’s built-in support for strings, such as it was, bred a zillion buffer overflow bugs. But I suspect in significant part that was a programming culture problem, not a technical limitation: if you’re writing a program in C that does a lot of string manipulation (1) you’re probably on the wrong track, and (2) after your dozenth buffer overflow bug you should definitely realize you’re on the wrong track, and (3) even if management won’t let you off the track, C gives you enough tools that you could use (or write) a string-handling library that is roughly as safe as Pascal. I interpret the lack of demand for such a library as evidence that in the subpopulation of programmers self-selected by making errors #1 and #2 and refusing to change course, there is a lack of interest in reliability.:-| (I’m talking about a library to protect you from buffer overruns; admittedly C doesn’t give you enough tools to protect yourself from wild pointers after e.g. freeing an object then dereferencing a pointer to it millions of instructions later, but as best I am aware, 1980ish Pascal didn’t either.)

  54. Apple reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. Brilliant designers who periodically say “screw you” to potential customers, because hey, they are brilliant and the potential customers are not.

    It is a common myth that Apple’s designers (in particular, Jobs himself when he was alive) come up with their brilliance ex nihilo. This myth was probably passively or actively encouraged in its spread by Apple itself, no doubt so that the Apple brand could be associated with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. In reality, Apple does extensive market research with repeated iterations on product designs based on feedback from actual potential customers.

    Now this is where the fuck-you aspect comes in: Much like the men women are attracted to are often way different from the men women say they’re attracted to, the products people will buy are often different from the products people say they want. A classic example is the iPod. “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” Yet it is so superior to everything else that it utterly destroyed the portable music player market; in fact, I’d say that the iPod/iTunes ecosystem had an even more disruptive effect on the music industry than the development of the MP3 format itself. Nearly every single time, Apple does things right in a way their competitors can’t match. Sometimes this is because doing things the right way is Apple-owned IP, but more often it’s because very few companies, especially in the razor-thin-margin PC business, have the kind of product-development know-how that Apple does. (Sony may have had it, once, but that mojo is long gone.) And it’s just about nonexistent in the open-source world.

  55. Apple & google, with their mobile platforms, represent the same challenges to FOSS software communities that the original proprietary systems did to their communities. As a community, we have been pushed back into the role of sharecroppers as we adopt these platforms.

    Is java script the successor of the c programming language in the role of allowing retargetable development? (things like GWT, [MESS](http://www.archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Javascript_Mess) are so impressive

  56. “Of course, C’s built-in support for strings, such as it was, bred a zillion buffer overflow bugs.”

    What built-in support for strings? C doesn’t have anything like that. It has no support for printing, either. All that stuff is in the library. All C provides are named areas of memory and named pointers to such areas. Safe use of such pointers is entirely in the hands of the programmer and the library providers. You can object that high-level languages ought to give you protection from such bugs, but C is not really high-level, unless you want to consider it a high-level assembler.
    Its real advantages lie in portability. Its ease in coding is secondary, and can disappear on you when complex pointer stuff needs to be done.

  57. String support is at a whole different level from printing. Printing is an OS-level function. String support is a language-level feature in that it is much less useful bolted on the side as C did. Omitting a native string type was one of C’s worst design errors, along with case sensitivity.

  58. Jay Maynard wrote: “Omitting a native string type was one of C’s worst design errors, along with case sensitivity.”

    I never heard any objections to case sensitivity before. Why is it bad?

  59. I never heard any objections to case sensitivity before. Why is it bad?

    Because humans aren’t case sensitive. It may be poor grammar, but we know that “fred flintstone” and “Fred Flintstone” have the same referent. Distinguishing the two strings is bizarre, arbitrary, and user-unfriendly.

    The same goes for filenames. Case-sensitive filenames were the wrong choice and we are still paying for that decision. In real actual damage — consider the lossage that occurs when one attempts to move files from a case-sensitive filesystem to a case-insensitive one, and there’s a name collision.

  60. >Strings, for one thing, and concomitantly a general lack of array bounds-checking.

    A huge problem, yes, but arguably the least bad choice within their constraints. Don’t mistake intrinsic problems with operating at C’s level of abstraction with errors in the particular design of C.

    >Sloppy typing, for another, with a lot of bug-prone implicit coercions taking place.

    Again – this is just C doing what the hardware underneath is doing. To indict C on this you’d have to exhibit a language that somehow has the same degree of transparency down to the machine architecture without these problems.

    >Pointer arithmetic.

    Um, this is a bug how? You keep trying to evaluate C as though it were a broken Lisp or something. I know better than that, and I’m a Lisp-head. Pointers are promiscuous because machine addresses are promiscuous. Yes, I know all the arguments against them and I agree with those arguments – in a language targeted at a higher level of abstraction.

    >The god-awful preprocessor. Lack of namespaces or true modularity.

    On these, yep, you’ve got a good case. The only defense C has is that nobody knew what a huge pain a preprocessor would turn out to be above toy program scales. The lack of namespaces is not really defensible, but I will note that typical program complexity (and the namespace issues driven by it) was much less then.

    >Lack of generics

    Debatable. I haven’t seen any “generics” feature in a compiled language that isn’t a can of worms and a huge defect attractor. They may have been smarter to dodge this; I think reasonable people can differ on the issue, and don’t myself have a strong commitment one way or the other.

  61. If you do enough assembly language programming, C’s NUL terminated strings seem very natural.

    As for case insensitivity: “Polish this with the Polish polish.”

  62. >Case-sensitive filenames were the wrong choice and we are still paying for that decision.

    Nope. If case-smashing was ever a good idea (which I doubt, but don’t have a strongly held position on) the incentives flipped when i18n became a live issue. Case-insensitive comparison in the general i18n case has depths of lossitude and counterintuitive behavior you will find unimaginable until you have been there.

  63. @esr

    Under the constraints of (a) compiled language, and (b) no GC (because unpredictable high runtime overhead), what do you think they got wrong? (Leaving aside some obvious syntactic awkwardnesses.)

    The standard is full of a billion edge cases and it still doesn’t do everything you want. This is the great low-level language that doesn’t even have proper fixed-width types (lol!). Have you seen the conversions system? By modern standards it’s a joke. Wording in the standard is highly ambiguous. It’s easier to talk about what’s _right_, because the errors are so extensive. Further, syntactic awkwardness isn’t a minor issue. If you had C with good metaprogramming you’d be half way to solving the problems, and for that you need a highly economical syntax.

    Goddess knows I don’t program in C any more than I have to, and I’ve done my share and more of advocacy for Lisp and Python and languages with GC in general. But I think you’re overstating the case here.

    The point is that C is not a good C-like language, and we need a good C-like language because the hardware has co-evolved with C (now if someone could make a good machine for HLL’s then that’d be another story). C’s problem is not that it has no GC, nor that it allows direct memory-access, but that it is an inelegant mess of bad design. Here is, more-or-less, what it gets right:

    - Types/operators are easy for the *optimizer* to map to hardware
    - Standard puts onus on programmer to ensure safety, which means the optimizer doesn’t need to work hard to figure out whether optimizations are safe (see: sequencing)
    - Some nice type qualifiers like “volatile” and “restrict”

    In other words, it is excellent for micro-optimizations (possibly the best there is for present hardware). The big myth is that it’s good for “low-level” programming, in the sense of precise bit manipulations. A language claiming that distinction would – at the absolute least – have a system of conversions that doesn’t actively encourage misuse and a set of fixed-width types. All C has is the laughable “stdint.h”. It promotes your fixed-width types into variable-width types for intermediate ops.. if they fit in ways that alter the result (again.. lol).

  64. In reality, Apple does extensive market research with repeated iterations on product designs based on feedback from actual potential customers.

    Given the secrecy of new Apple products I don’t see any indication that this occurs. They have supply chain leaks but no leaks from market research from potential customers.

    And your next paragraph indicates that such feedback is useless anyway in determining what the right design because if you listen to “feedback from actual potential customers” you end up with the Nomad.

    Apple designers are very good and it’s based on formal knowledge of design, talent and a deeper knowledge of manufacturing/implementation than most designers at other companies. Apple isn’t engineering driven as much as design driven and works because the designers are immersed in manufacturing and implementation. That the number 2 guy at Apple isn’t the hardware (Riccio) or software (Federighi) or operations (Williams) guy but the design guy (Ives) is very different from their competitors.

  65. Thankfully, now I can “install all-the-things” to satisfy my tool-gathering itches, not go to jail, and breath easier running Linux! Have you thought that just maybe it’s in the best interests of Apple and MS to leave people like us alone? We could become disruptive all over again. :) Ric

    I dumped Linux for OSX so I could stop the care and feeding of the system and still be be able to “install all the things” I wanted.

    You guys tend to vastly overestimate the amount of disruption that the independent open source contributors has caused and minimized the importance of “suit wearing software vendors” in what disruption open source has achieved. Remove all the corporate and government coders and tech transfer from the “suit wearing software vendors” and you’re not left with very much. A much less capable Linux, no Eclipse, no OpenOffice, a reduced Apache, no Android, no Java, no Unix, no Internet, etc.

    Linux was successful in the server world not because of independent coders contributing to the greater good of mankind but because there was a significant business advantage for IBM to kick Sun in the nuts by commoditizing low end server OS.

  66. Debatable. I haven’t seen any “generics” feature in a compiled language that isn’t a can of worms and a huge defect attractor. They may have been smarter to dodge this; I think reasonable people can differ on the issue, and don’t myself have a strong commitment one way or the other.

    C++ templates attract far fewer defects than the contortions needed to define a C function in one place that can operate over multiple types — often involving hard-to-read preprocessor cruft and often at the expense of type safety. And the problem of indecipherable compiler barfage that resulted from errors in template code was fixed in Clang — removing one of the two major excuses for not using templates. The other is the inability of the compiler and linker to unify template instantiations over the same types in different compilation units, resulting in space and compilation-time bloat, but there may yet be ways to mitigate this.

  67. And your next paragraph indicates that such feedback is useless anyway in determining what the right design because if you listen to “feedback from actual potential customers” you end up with the Nomad.

    Why did the original Macintosh lack arrow keys? It’s not because Steve Jobs just decided that people should be using the mouse. Apple ran UI experiments and found that mousing was faster than keyboarding — despite those same users’ insistence to the contrary. So yes, Apple did do market research and incorporate user feedback; they just didn’t consider their users’ opinions.

  68. @Jay Maynard:

    s/pirates/thieves/

    I would prefer that people not do that, because the thief terminology is too strong, and plays directly into the **AA’s hands. The concept of thievery allows no fair use.

  69. @esr:
    >The lack of namespaces is not really defensible, but I will note that typical program complexity (and the namespace issues driven by it) was much less then.

    Given that C was originally written for a 16-bitter, my guess would be that you’d generally run out of address space before namespace issues became a big thing.

    @Patrick:
    >I would prefer that people not do that, because the thief terminology is too strong, and plays directly into the **AA’s hands. The concept of thievery allows no fair use.

    Not to mention the fact that it’s legally inaccurate — theft is a criminal offense, copyright is a civil offense (for the time being, and not that the MAFIAA hasn’t tried to make it criminal) — as well as that it misses the fact that information is not a rival good. The only thing a copyright holder loses when his copyright is violated (as with violations of any government-enforced monopoly) is money that he might have made: In short, he is trying to claim property rights over his customers’ money before it leaves his customers’ pockets.

  70. Patrick and Jon: If you disagree with the price that someone is charging for something (and that they are selling instead of giving away is just a special case of this), that does not give you the right to express your disagreement by taking it anyway. You only have the right to negotiate a different price, if the seller is willing, or else to refuse to buy at all.

    Whether you agree with the concept of copyright or not, the fact remains that it’s explicitly permitted by the Constitution, and is part of our legal system. Theft is still theft.

  71. “Linux was successful in the server world not because of independent coders contributing to the greater good of mankind but because there was a significant business advantage for IBM to kick Sun in the nuts by commoditizing low end server OS.”

    …and that was “disruptive”. Once you have enough people acting in concert embracing a disruptive action, if properly managed you have a paradigm shift, instead of a revolution. IBM embraced Linux for sure, as you mention, but it was for all of those coders contributing to the great good of mankind that disrupted things first, and created something that filled the void for a LOT of disgruntled folks. I have zero problems minding my install of Linux (now running Debian) as I am in “gift debt” and if I encounter a problem I share it and gain more knowledge. I have more mind than I do wallet. As I gain more knowledge then I have more knowledge to share. That is my currency, instead of Visa. And THAT is as disruptive as it gets. I love it. :) Ric
    p/s ESR needs to do a “Connections” style show on the disruptive side of Open Source. THERE is something I would pay for!

  72. Not to mention the fact that it’s legally inaccurate — theft is a criminal offense, copyright is a civil offense (for the time being, and not that the MAFIAA hasn’t tried to make it criminal) — as well as that it misses the fact that information is not a rival good.

    Copyright infringement absolutely is a criminal offense, especially after the passage of the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997. Regardless of what the letter of the law actually says, copyright infringers come into receipt of something valuable without paying for it, and thus are ipso facto thieves. The law has only recently evolved to deal with this theft as such.

  73. @Jan Brase

    The only thing a copyright holder loses when his copyright is violated (as with violations of any government-enforced monopoly) is money that he might have made: In short, he is trying to claim property rights over his customers’ money before it leaves his customers’ pockets.

    Incredible how often unthinking animals say this, and other bogus “non-scarcity” arguments. Salable-product-time is scarce, which is why you can’t generate a product that will sell at the present moment out of thin air and why it’s hard to maintain product pricing over time in creative works. And it is precisely this salable-product-time that causes the product to come into existence in the first place, and that intellectual property protects. Because without this SCARCE resource, there is no reason to produce the products in the first place. It doesn’t matter whether the exchange is in money, fame, credit, personal satisfaction, future gigs, etc, whichever way the salable-product-time has to be there or nobody will make anything. Nobody has trouble understanding the concept that credit should be given where it is due – and yet it is just another instance of the same concept. And that is because primitive little thieving morons don’t care about credit, only *money*.

  74. Why did the original Macintosh lack arrow keys? It’s not because Steve Jobs just decided that people should be using the mouse. Apple ran UI experiments and found that mousing was faster than keyboarding — despite those same users’ insistence to the contrary. So yes, Apple did do market research and incorporate user feedback; they just didn’t consider their users’ opinions

    That’s not market research. That’s fundamental research.

    The difference is market research will indicate that sports cars appeal to 20-30 year old males in the midwest vs research that makes the engine better.

  75. >ESR
    > Case-insensitive comparison in the general i18n case has depths of lossitude and counterintuitive behavior you will find unimaginable until you have been there.

    As far as I know, the only truly locale-dependent aspect to this is the Turkish I/?/?/i vs everyone else’s I/i. There are other complicated bits, but they’re ones that can be “always on”. i.e. There’s no reason not to still unify ß with ss just because you’re not working in German. (ß is, of course, one of the usual suspects – and one that Windows does not in fact handle at all, because it uses a paradigm of simple character pairs for its case unification)

    Jon Brase
    >Given that C was originally written for a 16-bitter, my guess would be that you’d generally run out of address space before namespace issues became a big thing.

    You don’t need to go anywhere close to the address limit to have two libraries want to call something the same thing. Especially since symbols used to be a lot shorter.

  76. @Jay:

    Whether you agree with the concept of copyright or not, the fact remains that it’s explicitly permitted by the Constitution, and is part of our legal system.

    So where exactly is this “limited time” in today’s laws, anyway?

    Theft is still theft.

    I don’t violate, nor condone violating, copyright, but I submit that many copyright holders, especially in the entertainment industry, have gone way too far, and I sincerely hope it bites them in the ass.

    It did at least once, for a little bit, but it arguably didn’t hurt enough: do you think a bunch of girls sitting around a campfire should have to pay royalties to sing songs?

    Note that the article is quite nuanced, even pro-ASCAP, but the point remains — a copyright makes the government guys with guns your servants, potentially for well over 100 years, and they are quite happy to point them at 8 year olds for singing, if that’s what your heart desires (although you might have to spend more per congresscritter to maintain that status quo if that’s how you roll).

  77. Patrick, I won’t disagree that there are abuses in the current system. Those abuses, though, do not invalidate the basic concept: that a creator deserves to get paid for his time and effort in creating.

  78. And it turns out that this blog still doesn’t support Unicode properly in comments, but I’ll assume that everyone knows exactly which letters of the Turkish alphabet I was talking about.

  79. @Jay Maynard:
    >Patrick and Jon: If you disagree with the price that someone is charging for something (and that they are selling instead of giving away is just a special case of this), that does not give you the right to express your disagreement by taking it anyway. You only have the right to negotiate a different price, if the seller is willing, or else to refuse to buy at all.

    Except that isn’t what’s happening here. If you disagree with the price that someone is charging for something, you also have the option of making your own and selling it at whatever lower price you think is fair, if you can do so without bankrupting yourself.

    If A has 5 items, and sells one of them to B, A has lost one of his items and gained money. No theft has occured.

    If B then takes his item and uses it to make an identical item, which he sells (or gives) to C, you then tell me that something has been “taken away”, and that theft has occured. But which of A’s four remaining items has been taken away? You might say that the money C might have paid to A has been taken away, but that money was C’s to do with as he chose. Copyright does not prevent A’s property from being taken away, it prevents B and C from doing with their property as they wish in a transaction that does not involve A.

    Whether he has the legal privilege to do so or not, A does not have the right to charge more than the market will bear, or to force the market to bear his asking price.

    And the fact is, with computers and the internet, the price the market will bear for copies of information is pretty much zero. If you want to make money off of information, you have to do it in some other way than selling copies, or else you have to use legal shenanigans and propaganda about “theft” to distort the market.

    >Whether you agree with the concept of copyright or not, the fact remains that it’s explicitly permitted by the Constitution, and is part of our legal system. Theft is still theft.

    The first sentence is true, and while it remains part of our legal system, copyright law should certainly be obeyed. But if we are committed to the idea that free-market capitalism is a good idea, copyright is a huge bug in our legal system and a holdover from the dark ages of mercantilism.

    As for the second sentence, see the first part of my post.

  80. The Constitution specifies limited times, but has nothing to say about how limited. Congress is free to impose whatever limits it deems fit, as the Eldred v. Ashcroft ruling contends. If you don’t like it, write your congressman. Until then if you download copyrighted material off the internet without permission, you are stealing.

  81. @Jeff Read:

    > You are stealing.

    Again, I don’t break the laws, but I make a huge distinction between legality and morality. Non-commercial copyright violation is not theft in the legal sense (it’s a tort), and may or may not be theft in the moral sense. In any case it’s not black and white, so I personally prefer not to use terms that make it appear to be black and white, because the primary beneficiaries of that sort of language are scurrilous rent-seekers.

  82. @Jeff Read
    >The Constitution specifies limited times, but has nothing to say about how limited

    It also forbids ex post facto laws, which somehow the Supremes failed to recognize applies in this case.

    There is a very good reason why ex post facto laws are forbidden in the US justice system: The purpose of law is to discourage behavior that violates the rights of others, and to encourage behavior that benefits others. A law can neither encourage nor discourage a past event. It is impossible for the ex post facto extension of copyright to encourage the late Walt Disney to create Steamboat Willie. (I bring that particular film up because the history of copyright extension seems to correlate to its impending transition into the public domain, thus preventing it.)


    I too have a problem with the use of the word “theft”

    Dictionary.com has this definition:
    noun
    1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.
    2. an instance of this.
    3. Archaic. something stolen.

    The key bit of this, I think, is “and carrying away”. If someone steals one of my sheep, I have one less sheep to produce wool, mutton, more sheep, and (if a ewe) milk. Intellectual property simply does not work that way. That’s why we have to use the modifier “intellectual” in the first place.

    Physical property has very clear legal rules. You’re generally not allowed to take it from someone without their consent, and in the rare cases when you are, you’re expected to fairly compensate them. How long they’ve owned it doesn’t come into the equation at all.

    Intellectual property is murkier, because to achieve the stated objective “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, copyrights and patents can’t be forever. The effect of that would be to stagnate innovation, because new designs and stories are inevitably built upon earlier work. The aforementioned Disney has copyrighted a lot of movies based on Biblical stories and folk tales that were in the public domain before they reinterpreted those stories. Every patent for a computer algorithm is possible only because of the work of the pioneers in computing that came before.

    Bear in mind that the system of patents and copyrights the framers of the US constitution knew best was the British system, which did in fact give exclusive rights to certain people in perpetuity. That system did not necessarily grant those rights to the inventor or author of a work. It was simply a favor that the Crown could hand out, like a title of nobility (which is not-coincidentally described by “letters patent”). Of course, in monarchial systems, even physical property is legally considered the Crown’s, and the folks we normally call “owners” actually only own certain privileges attendant to it.

    The way Art I, §8, ¶8 is worded is in that context a deliberate redefinition of how intellectual property should be defined, away from just being a favor granted by the Crown (and therefore subject to revocation at its whim) to something based on recognizing that the creator of a work must enjoy the benefits of his creation, or there will be little incentive to create value that the rest of us may enjoy.

    Unlike many of my friends, I don’t believe that intellectual property is evil, provided it’s carefully tailored to produce the desired effect of advance in the arts and science. The sheer number of inventions per capita in the US vs. other countries ought to give some guidance as to how well that’s been done (with patents that only ran 17 years until fairly recently going to a round 20, and copyrights that originally were for 14 years, renewable to 28, gradually extended in the last few decades beyond the natural life of an inventor).

    But I do object to simply parroting the terminology of physical property and carrying with it all of the value judgements that have been earned by the latter, In fact, one could argue that the people who do that are “stealing” the good name of physical property and appropriating it for intellectual property. (If one were to agree with extending words like “steal” and “theft” that way, of course.)

  83. @Patrick:
    >Non-commercial copyright violation is not theft in the legal sense (it’s a tort), and may or may not be theft in the moral sense.

    The difference is even clearer in a moral sense than a legal sense. The legal aspect is clouded by the MAFIAA’s continuous lobbying to criminalize more and more cases of copyright infringement, and to label the laws doing the criminalization with titles like “No Electronic Theft Act”.

    From the moral perspective, copyright violation and theft are two entirely different things; Even on the off chance that copyright violation is actually wrong in and of itself in the absence of a law against it, it is still an entirely different thing from theft.

  84. @esr: Corbató’s Law is true only in a very general sense..it fails to take into account that different languages require different numbers of lines of code than other languages…or, wait, maybe that’s it’s central observation….huh. I’ve got to rethink that.

    Also, relating to generics, Free Pascal has decent, well-thought-out generics, IMHO: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_programming#Genericity_in_Free_Pascal Unforunately, thanks to “Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Language,” no one will ever take Free Pascal seriously, despite the fact that Borland fixed most of Pascal’s major shortcomings in their dialect (which Free Pascal is mostly based on) almost 3 decades ago.

  85. @Jon:

    Non-commercial copyright violation is certainly not the same as theft in my book. But reasonable people obviously have differing opinions on the morality of it, all the way from “would you like me to get you a copy of that” to “string ‘em up.”

    You and The Monster are doing a fine job expounding on the morality of copyright monopolies. I was merely trying to point out that the word “theft” can really only come from one of two places — the legal realm or the moral realm, and that the way that most people violate copyright is not “theft” in the legal sense, so the term could only be applied in the moral sense, but that we really shouldn’t do that, because IMO copyright is a grey enough area that it often doesn’t really apply in the moral sense either (“those thieving girl-scouts and their harlot den mothers”)

    Since it’s never legally accurate, and often not morally accurate, the only reason to use the word “theft” for non-commercial violations is as a moral cudgel, and while I am somewhat sympathetic, the **AA have wielded this particular cudgel, and backed it up with a real cudgel (civil penalties from the government), far too often. It is time to strip them of whatever vestiges of the moral high ground they may control, and that starts by not calling non-commercial copyright violation “theft.”

    That is all I have to say on the subject, except that if there are any complaints, I will have to start describing Jay Maynard and Jeff Read as MafIAA sympathizers, in the hope that the sheer annoyance of being grouped together will cause them to reevaluate their thoughts on the matter.

  86. Whether he has the legal privilege to do so or not, A does not have the right to charge more than the market will bear, or to force the market to bear his asking price.

    And the fact is, with computers and the internet, the price the market will bear for copies of information is pretty much zero.

    This is false. It costs money to develop information. That the cost of transmission of information is relatively small is immaterial. The market recognizes this and information has very high value.

    In any case, if the market is paying the price then it’s not more than the market will bear is it? Whether the mechanism will be via copyright enforcement or some other contract it will be enforced or people will simply stop doing it.

    If you want to make money off of information, you have to do it in some other way than selling copies, or else you have to use legal shenanigans and propaganda about “theft” to distort the market.

    This is also false given that in both software and information the primary way of making money is selling copies. Paywalls for information and reports and software products for software.

    It isn’t “shenanigans”.

    It is highly amusing that folks rebel against the use of the term theft with respect to piracy and will also get all bent out of shape with the idea of corporations “stealing” FOSS code. If you think information has “pretty much zero” value then licenses like the GPL are completely unnecessary since the value of that code is zero.

    Instead suing for GPL compliance has been very lucrative for the SFLC. How odd.

    The position is generally hypocritical. IP has “pretty much zero value” unless it happens to be MY IP. In which case I’m going to sic the SFLC on you.

    It’s bullshit and it isn’t Jay or Jeff that needs to reevaluate their thoughts on the matter. If you don’t like what MPAA or whatever are pushing with respect to their IP don’t use it and support independents instead. Don’t tell me it’s not theft or that it’s not immoral when your camp uses the exact same wording when it comes to non compliance with the GPL by corporate entities.

  87. And I will continue to call theft of intellectual property theft. You are stealing the time and labor of the creators and denying them compensation for the fruits of their labor. That’s evil, no matter what you think of the property itself.

    You are placing the value of creative labor at zero. Do that enough, and people will not create.

  88. Do that enough, and people will not create.

    in gnutopia they will create after coming home from their McDonalds shift.

  89. >Corbató’s Law is true only in a very general sense..it fails to take into account that different languages require different numbers of lines of code than other languages…or, wait, maybe that’s it’s central observation….huh. I’ve got to rethink that.

    Heh. Congratulations – you have just achieved enlightenment.

  90. @Jay Maynard

    Did Newton steal Calculus from Leibniz, or was it the other way around?

    If someone invented a better yoke for harnessing beasts of burden for Mesopotamian farmers, and someone else invented it for the Chinese farmers, did the Mesopotamian inventor steal from the Chinese guy, or the other way around?

    I’m focusing here on patents, because they’re not the same thing as copyright; the latter protects a specific expression of an idea, but not the idea itself. It is good and just for J. K. Rowling to have the exclusive right to profit from her Harry Potter novels, and can even have a trademark on his name and those of the other main characters to prevent knockoffs, but she doesn’t own the general ideas of wizardry, schools, etc., to be able to prevent others from writing books that follow those general themes.

    The point, of course, is that physical property, trademark, copyright, patent, and trade secret are different things, and using the same words across these domains is generally a bad idea because it encourages conflating disparate concepts.

  91. @Nigel:

    > It’s bullshit and it isn’t Jay or Jeff that needs to reevaluate their thoughts on the matter.

    Although your post is not addressed to me, it constructs a strawman that doesn’t describe any position I am familiar with, and then appears to use these words to associate said strawman with me. Is this your intent?

    > in gnutopia they will create after coming home from their McDonalds shift.

    I’m sure that you realize that I don’t live anywhere near gnutopia.

    @Jay:

    You are placing the value of creative labor at zero. Do that enough, and people will not create.

    No, I am not. You are putting words in my mouth.

  92. If you’re going to compare me with the MAFIAA, then I’ll accuse you of valuing creative labor at zero.

    Don’t like it? Come up with another reliable way for creative work to be compensated by those who use it.

  93. I do not believe and never have stated anywhere that creative work should be valued at zero. However, your statements on this matter are, in fact, to a first order, indistinguishable from both the MafIAA’s and Jeff Read’s.

    So rather than asking me to solve the world’s problems, why don’t you explain how your position is distinguishable from one which, if propagated thoroughly enough, could lead to girl scouts being led away in handcuffs for singing around the campfire?

  94. Although your post is not addressed to me, it constructs a strawman that doesn’t describe any position I am familiar with, and then appears to use these words to associate said strawman with me. Is this your intent?

    A strawman that doesn’t describe any position you’re familiar with what? We’re not reading the same thread? I didn’t write “the fact is, with computers and the internet, the price the market will bear for copies of information is pretty much zero.” I quoted it.

    It’s bullshit and so is your position on it. There is no distinction between non-commercial theft vs commercial theft just like there is no distinction between non-commercial copyright violation and commercial copyright violation from a moral or legal perspective. Theft of BusyBox by corporate entities is morally equivalent as theft of a movie by some teenager.

    And stealing code is exactly how it is characterized by the FSF community. If it is moral to steal a movie it is moral to steal GPL code. Neither IP holder is actually deprived of any property according to Jon.

    Jay and Jeff obviously disagree so why do YOU think THEY need to re-evaluate their position and not Jon?

  95. @patrick my longer response is waiting for moderation but the fact that you wrote

    “You and The Monster are doing a fine job expounding on the morality of copyright monopolies.”

    means that you sufficiently agree with Jon’s assertion that

    “the fact is, with computers and the internet, the price the market will bear for copies of information is pretty much zero”

    to think that this part of a “fine job”. Which is it? A fine job or that you disagree that create work is not “pretty much zero” as Jon asserts and his position if bogus?

  96. @Nigel:

    If I go back and read Jon’s comments, perhaps it’s not an entirely fine job, by itself, although if you take what he wrote, what Monster wrote, and what I wrote as a whole, I think you can discern my position fairly easily, if you really care to.

    As far as the particular assertion that you mention — Jon is right that, for some segment of the market, the price that will be borne is zero. I viewed that particular statement as a fact, not as a morality statement. Until the BSA changed course and reassured the girl scouts that they weren’t going to be sued, the girl scouts had started down the path of only singing certain songs they knew they had the copyrights on, because they couldn’t afford to pay royalties.

    At the end of the day, they get to sing all the songs without paying royalties. Is this a moral business decision on the part of the BSA, or is it letting the terrorists win?

    Another fact is that some of the people who won’t pay will take your stuff anyway without your permission, and there will be edge cases where you can’t do anything about it — at least not without ruining the internet for the rest of us.

  97. @Nigel:

    But thanks for implicitly clarifying that you were, in fact, ascribing your strawman to me. I shall now disclaim and ignore it.

  98. It costs money to develop information. That the cost of transmission of information is relatively small is immaterial. The market recognizes this and information has very high value.

    Two of the most pervasive and useful observations of economics are that price and value are not the same thing, and that the price of a good tends toward its marginal cost. The fact that the cost of transmission of knowledge is close to zero is central, not irrelevant.

    If you’re going to compare me with the MAFIAA, then I’ll accuse you of valuing creative labor at zero.

    Don’t like it? Come up with another reliable way for creative work to be compensated by those who use it.

    You’ve got two major problems with your argument. The first is that, under the Constitution, copyright is supposed to be limited to works that “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”. In the first years of US copyright, only works such as maps and technical or scientific publications qualified. Furthermore, in the US, the Supreme Court has explicitly stated that copyright is not intended to be a reward for effort made; see Feist v. Rural.

    Second, the tired no-creative-work-without-copyright claim can be sunk from either end. From the modern perspective, it’s an open secret that even most “successful” artists make little or no money from sales of copyrighted works: Big-name actors know better than to sign contracts for a portion of the profits of a movie (did you know all eight Harry Potter movies took a “loss”?), and it’s entirely routine for musicians with gold-selling albums to still be underwater to their labels; most of their income derives from performances and sales of collateral physical items such as T-shirts.

    More damning to this position, though, is the blatant fact that copyright as we know it has only existed for about two centuries. Bach, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Homer, and the cave painters didn’t have copyright, and they used a number of different revenue models to support their creative works. Models such as commissions and patronage have always been at least as viable as lottery-ticket publishing/recording contracts, and modern platforms such as Kickstarter and even Gittip have made distributed funding of works routine. For that matter, current estimates are that somewhere around 90% of open-source contributors donate “creative work” to the community on behalf of paying employers.

    (Your argument also doesn’t begin to address the subsidiary empirical issues, such as the absurdity of counting every infringing copy of Photoshop as “stolen” when everyone understands that in the absence of infringement, most of the infringers would use other software or do without, not pay for authorized copies. Microsoft’s famous for ignoring Windows and Office piracy in China for exactly this reason.)

  99. @Nigel:

    Your response that was stuck in the moderation queue popped up after I said I was ignoring your strawman, so I will respond to your longer second attempt:

    A strawman that doesn’t describe any position you’re familiar with what? We’re not reading the same thread? I didn’t write “the fact is, with computers and the internet, the price the market will bear for copies of information is pretty much zero.” I quoted it.

    You didn’t quote it from me. Although I certainly agree that some segment of the market won’t pay for copies of some sorts of information, I would probably not have said that so hyperbolically.

    It’s (redacted in case this was what provoked the filter) and so is your position on it.

    You have not written anything in direct response to my actual position, other than “You’re wrong! That’s STEALING!!!”

    There is no distinction between non-commercial theft vs commercial theft just like there is no distinction between non-commercial copyright violation and commercial copyright violation from a moral or legal perspective.

    As I wrote to Jon, I separated out legal from moral concerns in order to leave room for people (like you) to disagree on the moral ramifications. Obviously you do, so that was the correct call. That’s an opinion. But when you say that there is no distinction between non-commercial and commercial copyright violation in the eyes of the law, you are making a falsifiable factual error.

    Theft of BusyBox by corporate entities is morally equivalent as theft of a movie by some teenager.

    Yes, please keep ignoring my inconvenient girl scout example.

    And stealing code is exactly how it is characterized by the FSF community. If it is moral to steal a movie it is moral to steal GPL code. Neither IP holder is actually deprived of any property according to Jon.

    And… This is where we get to one of the strawmen. Although I hate and disagree with the FSF, this is a completely intellectually dishonest mischaracterization of their intellectually dishonest position. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Your original post said:

    The position is generally hypocritical. IP has “pretty much zero value” unless it happens to be MY IP. In which case I’m going to sic the SFLC on you.

    Right before tying it all to my challenge to Jeff and Jay. I don’t at all believe that IP has pretty much zero value — substituting “value” for “price” is also intellectually dishonest. And I’ve never released anything under the GPL or sic’ced any lawyers on anybody.

    Jay and Jeff obviously disagree so why do YOU think THEY need to re-evaluate their position and not Jon?

    I don’t agree completely with Jon’s position, and I certainly don’t agree with the FSF. But ask yourself why you are studiously ignoring Monster’s arguments as well as the obvious end-game that scared the girl scouts. And please consider Christopher Smith’s well-reasoned post.

  100. Comment stuck in moderation queue, and I screwed up the blockquote tags. /sigh

  101. @patrick

    Just asserting something is a strawman does not make it so. Especially if you do not identify which part you consider “straw man”. Especially since you choose to demonize Jeff and Jay because the hold an opposing view.

    This statement, however, is clearly argumentum ad absurdum:

    “So rather than asking me to solve the world’s problems, why don’t you explain how your position is distinguishable from one which, if propagated thoroughly enough, could lead to girl scouts being led away in handcuffs for singing around the campfire?”

    The closest reality got to this scenario was ASCAP asking camp grounds to pay royalties for “public performances” of which some were Girl Scout camps. The vagueness of what constitutes a “public performance” caused one such camp to overreact and then the National Restaurant Association started a propaganda war when given this PR gift. In any case, as is repeated by you, it’s not a crime anyway and handcuffs would never apply even if “propagated thoroughly enough”.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/17/nyregion/ascap-asks-royalties-from-girl-scouts-and-regrets-it.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1

    What remains is that if stealing IP from RIAA is not immoral then neither is stealing code from FSF.

  102. @Nigel:

    You had a response stuck in the queue, which I responded to. My response is now stuck in the queue. Go figure.

    > This statement, however, is clearly argumentum ad absurdum

    No, it’s not.

    > The closest reality got to this scenario was ASCAP

    No, that’s just the most egregious example. There are plenty more. In the software world, look up Ernie Ball. Your beloved Apple keeps trying to criminalize phone jailbreaking, and almost got away with it.

    In any case, as is repeated by you, it’s not a crime anyway and handcuffs would never apply even if “propagated thoroughly enough”.

    My primary point is that, if the MafiAA keeps repeating that it’s theft, and Jay and Jeff and you join them, and everybody screams loudly enough, soon enough there will be passed laws that identify it as theft. Or are you arguing that that never happens?

  103. @patrick

    And yet you don’t rail (or even acknowledge…keep dodging there buddy) against the characterization that companies like Microsoft steal open source code. Why? Because it’s true…if MS was to appropriate IP without a proper license it is stealing it.

    So it’s not JUST the “MafiAA” repeating that it’s theft. So does the open source camp. Which in my book boils down to hypocrisy: it’s only stealing if it’s my IP being taken without permission.

    And if laws are passed to make IP theft a criminal offense then the law would simply match the morality of the action. That some bad laws exist does not mean that all laws are bad so a petty misdemeanor for IP theft with little penalty (like littering) isn’t going to be the end of the world either and probably better than what we have today with RIAA suing people for large penalties on their first offense to try to make an example of them.

    So that again is argumentum ad absurdum. EVEN if a law were to be passed that identifies IP infringement as theft it doesn’t mean that girl scouts would get tossed into gas chambers for singing around the camp fire. It probably means that the camp director will get a ticket (like for littering) if someone makes an issue of it and calls the cops.

  104. > handcuffs would never apply

    It’s an exercise of state power; handcuffs only don’t apply if you don’t resist. They would be forced to pay, probably a ruinously punitive judgement rather than the actual royalty amount, and if they refuse to pay guess what happens next?

  105. @Nigel:

    And yet you don’t rail (or even acknowledge…keep dodging there buddy) against the characterization that companies like Microsoft steal open source code. Why? Because it’s true…if MS was to appropriate IP without a proper license it is stealing it.

    I don’t understand what you think I’m dodging or why, but as others have pointed out, “IP” is a bad term. This is one of the few things I agree with RMS about.

    So it’s not JUST the “MafiAA” repeating that it’s theft. So does the open source camp.

    You are comparing some individuals who identify with some common goals (perhaps Jay Maynard), with an entire industry. The comparison is not apt.

    Which in my book boils down to hypocrisy: it’s only stealing if it’s my IP being taken without permission.

    I give away software, typically under the MIT license. I’ve never released anything under the GPL. If someone strips off my copyright header, it wouldn’t be theft, but it would be a copyright violation. So if you’re trying to tar me with this brush, it’s still a strawman. (The fact that you say it’s not a strawman doesn’t mean that it’s not a strawman.)

    And if laws are passed to make IP theft a criminal offense then the law would simply match the morality of the action.

    There’s that term again, and that’s your opinion. Why are you not responding to Christopher Smith or the Monster? They also appear to disagree.

    That some bad laws exist does not mean that all laws are bad so a petty misdemeanor for IP theft with little penalty (like littering) isn’t going to be the end of the world either and probably better than what we have today with RIAA suing people for large penalties on their first offense to try to make an example of them.

    OK, but littering isn’t theft. When you characterize a civil tort as a serious crime, you are working diligently to move the Overton window. In, IMO, the wrong direction.

    So that again is argumentum ad absurdum. EVEN if a law were to be passed that identifies IP infringement as theft it doesn’t mean that girl scouts would get tossed into gas chambers for singing around the camp fire.

    No, that never happens directly. It only would happen if the girl scouts were to stand up for their moral right to sing songs they heard on the radio and were prepared to take it to the bitter end. Because there is always someone in the government who is willing to take it to the bitter end.

    It probably means that the camp director will get a ticket (like for littering) if someone makes an issue of it and calls the cops.

    So you’re deliberately using loaded words like “theft” while at the same time imagining this might somehow lead to a saner, gentler world than the one we currently inhabit. Whatever.

  106. @Nigel:
    >This is false. It costs money to develop information. That the cost of transmission of information is relatively small is immaterial. The market recognizes this and information has very high value.

    The fact that the cost of duplicating of information is infinitesimal is *very* material, because it makes it so that the supply of copies of a given piece of information is effectively infinite, in the absence of measures to artificially restrict that supply.

    Markets do not recognize the cost of developing a product: they recognize the balance of supply and demand across all participants in the market. What they recognize in the current situation is an artificial restriction of supply due to government enforced monopolies on the supply of copies of various pieces of information.

    >In any case, if the market is paying the price then it’s not more than the market will bear is it?

    Which is why I said “A does not have the right to charge more than the market will bear, ***or to force the market to bear his asking price***.” (Emphasis added second time around).

    The market pays the price because the government prevents many potential suppliers from participating in the market. It’s not the price that a free market will bear.

    In pretty much every other situation than IP law, our society’s ethical sense and economic philosophy frowns upon government-enforced monopolies.

    >Whether the mechanism will be via copyright enforcement or some other contract it will be enforced or people will simply stop doing it.

    Or they will figure out some way to collect the cost of developing the information up front (such as crowdfunding), or they will do it because it directly benefits them enough to justify the cost and release it to the public for PR points, or because they see no reason not to (the way that a lot of FOSS development gets done). And “people will simply stop doing it” is not entirely a bad thing: there are significant sectors of the information market that would benefit from a significant culling of their output (I’m looking at you, Hollywood).

    >This is also false given that in both software and information the primary way of making money is selling copies. Paywalls for information and reports and software products for software.

    It wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be the primary way of making money for software or any other kind of information if the aforementioned legal shenanigans and propaganda weren’t in place.

    >It is highly amusing that folks rebel against the use of the term theft with respect to piracy and will also get all bent out of shape with the idea of corporations “stealing” FOSS code.

    I can’t say that I’ve personally seen it, but it’s certainly inconsistent if both come from the same person. The corporations are welcome to the code if they obey the terms of the relevant license, and if they don’t, they aren’t welcome to the code, but the offense they have committed is not theft.

    >If you think information has “pretty much zero” value then licenses like the GPL are completely unnecessary since the value of that code is zero.

    Actually, they are necessary precisely because the market value of that code is zero (but only as long as copyright law exists). If you can figure out why, it will give you a great deal of insight into how all of us FOSStards think.

    A hint: New information is valuable. Old information is not.

    >Instead suing for GPL compliance has been very lucrative for the SFLC. How odd.

    >The position is generally hypocritical. IP has “pretty much zero value” unless it happens to be MY IP. In which case I’m going to sic the SFLC on you.

    My IP also has zero value. And I’m not sic’ing the SFLC on you because I want money, or because I believe anything has been “stolen” from me. Once again, figuring out why will give you a great deal of insight into how FOSStards think.

    >If you don’t like what MPAA or whatever are pushing with respect to their IP don’t use it and support independents instead.

    I don’t in the first case and I do in the second (mostly FOSS projects).

    >Don’t tell me it’s not theft or that it’s not immoral when your camp uses the exact same wording when it comes to non compliance with the GPL by corporate entities.

    I will tell you that it’s not theft and I will tell you that it is immoral to precisely the extent that it is illegal, and has no intrinsic immorality. I have not heard my camp accuse corporate entities violating the GPL of theft, but agree with you completely that this is inconsistent insofar as it occurs. It *is* immoral for corporate entities to violate the GPL, once again, precisely* to the extent that it’s illegal. If copyright law were to disappear, it would no longer be immoral for corporations to violate the GPL, but the disappearance of copyright would remove the incentive to perform many of those violations.

    *Actually, there are certain things the GPL forbids that probably are intrinsically immoral and that the removal of copyright law alone, which would defang the GPL, would not render pointless, but the laws that enable those abuses would probably be abolished at about the same time as copyright law, if copyright law is ever abolished.

  107. @Jay Maynard:
    >You are placing the value of creative labor at zero.

    No, I’m not. I *am*, however, asserting that, in a free market, recouping the cost of that labor by selling copies of the resulting information is unlikely to be successful (because the free market value of those copies *is* zero) and that another business model is needed.

    I am also asserting that, given the value our society places on free market capitalism, the current unfree state of the information market is inconsistent and hypocritical, as well as the assertion that said unfree state of the market has various deleterious effects, including upon the private ownership of physical property.

  108. @Patrick:
    >I viewed that particular statement as a fact, not as a morality statement.

    It was indeed intended as such.

    The morality statement is that it’s immoral to attempt to raise the price that will be borne above zero by lobbying the government to remove competitors from the market. At least, it’s immoral if we believe that free markets are morally superior to mercantilism, which I think most people here will agree with.

  109. @Nigel:
    >So it’s not JUST the “MafiAA” repeating that it’s theft. So does the open source camp.

    I would like to see this substantiated.

    That said, not everybody in the open source camp would be inconsistent to state that it is theft (however much I might disagree that it is). From what I’ve run across of his opinions, I’m pretty sure Lawrence Lessig wouldn’t be. RMS, OTOH, would be very inconsistent in making that statement, from what I’ve read of his writings (although it would be less inconsistent with the general left-wing bent of his political views than with his views on FOSS and copyright).

    Interestingly enough, our host would be in the opposite position from RMS, I believe (he can correct me if I’m wrong) that “copyright violation is theft” would be consistent with his stated views on copyright and IP, but I assert that those views are massively inconsistent with the broader anarcho-libertarian bent of his general political views.

  110. Everyone point and laugh at Jon Brase the imbecile, who accuses others of hypocrisy because he is too dumb to see the consistency, and who thinks there’s some special scarcity of materials. What about materials that can be shared, dumb ass? WOAH GUY get your gubmint hands off me, I’m merely time-sharing this non-scarce space that the owner isn’t currently using. lol. The property being protected is not the “copy”, but the salable product. When you copy the product you damage it. How stupid do you have to be to not understand this? How about we let people burn down others’ houses – so long as they bring their own fuel and ignition. Blathering on about “free markets” like a baboon all the while studiously avoiding the plain and obvious.

  111. @Christopher

    Bach, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Homer, and the cave painters didn’t have copyright, and they used a number of different revenue models to support their creative works. Models such as commissions and patronage have always been at least as viable as lottery-ticket publishing/recording contracts, and modern platforms such as Kickstarter and even Gittip have made distributed funding of works routine.

    Paintings and plays don’t have the same budgetary requirements as Far Cry 3. Name one GOOD video game funded via patronage. Kickstarter makes only enough money to FUND the project under the expectation that it will eventually sell. It makes me lol to think you imagine that the $20K or so under which virtually all Kickstarter projects fall is enough to recoup costs of developing a game plus feed the family. So maybe Kickstarter is the way of the future, maybe it’s not.

  112. @Roger Phillips:

    Picking video games as your example is laughable. Disregarding the question of whether AAA-budget games really need their huge budgets to be made well (several crowdfunded projects have produced movies with Hollywood-quality acting, cinematography, and effects; see in particular the LotR fan project), Valve has made a handsomely profitable business off of its free-to-play games, and you could do worse than to watch the documentary Free to Play, which is just out. And just to answer your argument by ridicule, I was one of the funders of The Banner Saga and helped meet a stretch goal that added official Linux support about a third of the way through the campaign.

  113. @Christoper “by way of ridicule” sorry this form of argument is for people who don’t say retarded things, like putting up Banner Saga (lol) as a counter-argument to the need for big budgets. How does this contradict me? Because you can make a cheap-looking game on a smaller budget? Because horrible free-to-play games like TF2 (wanbai hat??) can turn a profit? What do you think will happen if you put up your own TF2 server with your own hat shop? What do you think will happen to your budget once you commit to cutting-edge production values and mechanics? In short, you are a moron who doesn’t think before posting. But no doubt you’ll just keep going with your chimp-like rationalizations.. “braid was made on no budget.. copyright confirmed obselete!”

  114. @jon Don’t tell me that I don’t understand fosstards while claiming you’ve never heard anyone say that GPL is superior to BSD because Microsoft or Apple can’t steal their precious code. Not infringe, STEAL. At which point BSD proponents tiredly repeat for the 10 billionth time that you cannot steal what is freely given away.

    As a BSD fan I’m tired of hearing that sort of bullshit from stallmanites because I’ve been hearing it since the 80s. And don’t tell me that these same asshats aren’t also going on about how software piracy doesn’t hurt anyone like you do.

    That you act as if this is somehow uncommon behavior of FOSStards indicates it is you that has no clue how FOSStards think.

  115. ” If copyright law were to disappear, it would no longer be immoral for corporations to violate the GPL, but the disappearance of copyright would remove the incentive to perform many of those violations.”

    If copyright law were to disappear then the role would be played by contract law where the IP owner would not sell you any copy without a contractural agreement not to resell or make copies. First sale doctrine would not apply since that’s part of copyright law.

    Most folks agree that if something isn’t yours it is immoral to take it without the owners permission even if it doesn’t harm the owner if you do.

  116. Most folks agree that if something isn’t yours it is immoral to take it without the owners permission even if it doesn’t harm the owner if you do.

    Using “take” to describe making a copy while leaving the original intact is standard but disingenuous. Prometheus is generally considered a hero, not a villain.

  117. “Bach, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Homer, and the cave painters didn’t have copyright, and they used a number of different revenue models to support their creative works.”

    Yes, because patronage is a far more effective and egalitarian way of supporting creative works or scientific research. While we still do patronage in both arts and sciences today (NFS and DoD grants) a wider body of work occurs in the corporate domain.

    I’ve supported dozens of kick starter games and not one is 2012 AAA quality. Even those that ended up with millions in financing.

    And free to play sucks. I generally won’t play such a game because the need to generate income in the vast majority of cases severely impacts gameplay in a negative way.

    And while fan films have come a long way they aren’t AAA blockbuster quality either. And some I would classify as indie films over fan films. Born of Hope were lead by folks already in the industry, not random fans which meant production values, while low budget, were very good. Whether they could have achieved the same quality without the existence of the commercial film industry where they homed their talents is very debatable.

  118. @Roger Phillips:

    > Everyone point and laugh at Jon Brase the imbecile…

    I don’t think that either you or he (or anybody else in this conversation) is an imbecile, although a lot of imbecilic things have been written (I’m sure by me, as well).

    > How about we let people burn down others’ houses – so long as they bring their own fuel and ignition.

    And we have a winner! It’s practically impossible to take anything else you write on this subject seriously as long as you are making this sort of comparison.

    @Nigel:

    Let me get this straight: we need to call all forms of copyright violation “theft”, in order to maintain or move the Overton window (which is already so far to the side that serious attempts are being made on an ongoing basis to break the internet as we know it, to insure that no precioussss IP falls in the wrong hands) just so that big outfits are incented enough to attempt to create entertainment that is good enough to receive your seal of approval.

    It’s not burning down houses, but it’s not a winning argument, either.

    On a more serious note:

    If copyright law were to disappear then the role would be played by contract law where the IP owner would not sell you any copy without a contractural agreement not to resell or make copies.

    The problem with this scenario is imperfect security. If A contracts to give a copy to B, and somebody hacks B and retrieves a copy, sure, A can sue B into oblivion, but that doesn’t alter the fact that a zillion copies are now out there that A cannot do anything about. Unless, there are, you know, actual laws that let people use the government as a weapon to control the creation of copies.

    Most folks agree that if something isn’t yours it is immoral to take it without the owners permission even if it doesn’t harm the owner if you do.

    But what makes a song “yours?” Some people can hear a song once and sing it perfectly. So can some birds, for that matter, and they usually sing in public.

    Honestly, I think your position and my position on all this are not all that far off (given your idea about a littering level fine for some sorts of copyright violation), but I think that recent history shows that right now, in copyright law, we have more to worry about from the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key brigade than we do from the touchy, feely communists.

    And even though I believe that many GPL adherents are communists at heart, and that communism is itself intellectually and morally bankrupt, I also believe that your arguments about the supposed hypocrisy of the SFLC lawsuits are way off base, which is why I say you constructed a strawman. Inside their perfectly constructed worldview, there is no hypocrisy, and they are not the ones making the intellectual mistake of conflating value with cost. Yes, software has value — that’s why they think you should have to share it in the first place. No, their lawsuits are not about keeping people from using their software (in their minds) — they are about insuring that downstream users can also use the software, e.g. more widespread sharing.

    You (and Jay and Roger and Jeff) are absolutely right that some things that people find valuable will not be created unless the creators have a reasonable expectation of a good ROI. It may be that fewer things than you expect fall into this category, for the simple reasons that reasonably fungible goods will be created by others, but I’m not going to quibble about that at the moment.

    Unfortunately, there is no question that, in recent history, the punishment doled out by our government to some copyright infringers is way out of proportion to the seriousness of the infraction in just about anybody’s moral code — the only possible rationale is the same one that leads to chopping off a hand for stealing a piece of fruit.

    So I challenge you to consider what a sane copyright regime might look like (where one major aspect of sane is “doesn’t tend towards increasing the police state without bounds or bankrupt ordinary people in order to enrich millionaires”), which direction the Overton window needs to move before the laws can be changed to create such a regime, and how we go about effecting that.

    If you don’t want to play, that’s fine as well, but don’t go around pretending like you have a monopoly on morality.

  119. @Jon Brase:

    The morality statement is that it’s immoral to attempt to raise the price that will be borne above zero by lobbying the government to remove competitors from the market. At least, it’s immoral if we believe that free markets are morally superior to mercantilism, which I think most people here will agree with.

    OK, this isn’t as silly as burning down houses but if, by “competitor”, you mean someone who acquired a copy and is ready to clone it, it’s an extremely disingenuous argument, because that does not at all mesh with most folks’ definition of competitor. (And this is exactly the sort of argument that has Roger fuming so much that he makes those hyperbolic comments. I can sympathize, but I’m in a mellow mood this morning.)

  120. @nht orr
    >So it’s not JUST the “MafiAA” repeating that it’s theft. So does the open source camp. Which in my book boils down to hypocrisy: it’s only stealing if it’s my IP being taken without permission.

    That’s not entirely fair. Quite a few people in the FOSS camp don’t believe computer software should be copyrightable, but so long as it is, they will use that to enforce copyleft. There is nothing the least bit hypocritical about taking advantage of a law you personally oppose.

    Suppose a someone who doesn’t like the Designated Hitter rule is hired to manage an American League team. Is it “hypocritical” for him to put a DH on the lineup card for every game (other than road games played against an NL host)? Of course it isn’t. His position is perfectly clear and consistent.

    So as long as the FOSS position is conditional on the existence of software copyright, lay off o the “hypocrisy” rhetoric.

  121. @Roger Phillips
    >When you copy the product you damage it. How stupid do you have to be to not understand this? How about we let people burn down others’ houses – so long as they bring their own fuel and ignition.

    Because when you burn down someone’s house, they don’t have a house anymore. If you listen to an .mp3, everyone in the world who already has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.

    The insistence that violating IP is equivalent to arson, theft, r‍ap‍e, or any other act that violates the physical person or property of another is where I draw the line in these discussions. I do believe that IP should exist, but how you get there matters. The tactic of conflating two or more things that are not the same under the same word, in order to get people to transfer conclusions about one to the other(s), is dishonest.

    It’s one of the reasons I despise the “se‍x offender registries” that conflate people who molest pre-teens with someone who peed in an alley. Those two offenses do not deserve to be lumped together under the same name. Neither do theft of tangible property and copyright infringement. In each case, while there may be some common denominator involved, the differences are substantial enough to require clear cognitive separation.

  122. > … and I’ve triggered the mod filter.

    Easily done on this subject, for some unknown reason.

  123. > I found a StackExchange board on reverse engineering and left a query there; maybe someone will speak up.
    > The query is here: http://reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/3789/interested-in-reverse-engneering-a-small-dos-game

    I had a look at your question, and noticed it has been ‘put on hold as off-topic’ because of the content of the question. One of the criticisms is:

    > Have you looked through the existing questions? Have you tried out any of the solutions already provided? Where/Why have the existing questions failed? This question shows absolutely no previous research.

    Perhaps you should have taken some of your own advice, and asked a more precise question, giving details of what you tried already and showing you were familiar with the existing answers to similar questions on the forum ;)

    http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#beprecise

  124. @Patrick:
    >OK, this isn’t as silly as burning down houses but if, by “competitor”, you mean someone who acquired a copy and is ready to clone it, it’s an extremely disingenuous argument, because that does not at all mesh with most folks’ definition of competitor.

    If you’re trying to sell a work by-the-copy, then you have a market in copies of that work. And anyone who can produce a copy is a competitor in that market.

    I would argue that the fact that this doens’t mesh with most folk’s definition of competitor is exactly because pro-copyright propaganda has been so successful in branding such competition as theft.

    @The Monster:
    >That’s not entirely fair. Quite a few people in the FOSS camp don’t believe computer software should be copyrightable, but so long as it is, they will use that to enforce copyleft. There is nothing the least bit hypocritical about taking advantage of a law you personally oppose.

    But Nigel isn’t just saying that they’re taking advantage of copyright to enforce copyleft. He’s saying that they’re using words like “theft” and “stealing” to describe infringement on copyleft. And if the same people in the FOSS camp are saying that infringement on a proprietary work isn’t stealing and that infringement on a FOSS work is, then his accusation of hypocrisy is not at all unfair.

    I would have like to see him provide a few quotes documenting that the same people *are* saying such things, though. But while writing this post I did some research myself, and found this article on the FSF website, which does refer to “stealing” of GPL’ed software, which is inconsistent with the FSF’s position on calling copyright infringement “theft” . http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/enforcing-gpl.en.html

    I think I shall write the FSF a letter.

  125. >Perhaps you should have taken some of your own advice, and asked a more precise question, giving details of what you tried already and showing you were familiar with the existing answers to similar questions on the forum ;)

    But I had in fact looked at other related questions. I thought that asking about the existence of a COM decompiler would be distinct from questions about debuggers, at least to anyone but an idiot.

    Then, the question was marked off-topic by someone, who I accordingly conclude is in fact an idiot.

    All quite disappointing.

  126. “Because when you burn down someone’s house, they don’t have a house anymore. If you listen to an .mp3, everyone in the world who already has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.”

    If you use “free software” in a proprietary program, everyone in the world who has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.

    That sword cuts both ways.

  127. @Jay Maynard:

    If you use “free software” in a proprietary program, everyone in the world who has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.

    Yes, there is a lack of intellectual rigor in the FSF camp. It starts with trying to give users more rights than developers, which doesn’t really work, because developers are users, too. If an end-user gives away a copy of a CD without muttering the right magical incantations to be within the license, nobody is going to sue him, because he’s helping the cause. Add some additional software, though, and poof! you have to follow all the rules.

  128. > I thought that asking about the existence of a COM decompiler would be distinct from questions about debuggers, at least to anyone but an idiot.

    Except that you didn’t mention the word decompiler anywhere in your question. These guys aren’t mind readers, and will be erring on the side of assuming the questioner doesn’t possess the required domain knowledge(not an idiot, exactly) and therefore is making none of the implicit assumptions that an expert would. In other words, the question stands alone.

    > Then, the question was marked off-topic by someone, who I accordingly conclude is in fact an idiot.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to that conclusion. As I’m sure you know, moderation of user provided comment to is a difficult task, and stack exchange has a very high bar for submissions, so as to promote quality of information over quantity.

    Anyway, I have edited the question on stack exchange, so we can see whether that appeases the moderators and gets us an answer…

    http://reverseengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/3789/decompilation-techniques-for-dos-com-files

  129. There is another form of theft — theft of service — which is legally and commonly referred to as theft yet may not involve any deprivation of privacy. In particular, accessing cable TV without a subscription on the old analog cable TV systems imposed a burden on the cable network that was near negligible, might not even be noticed for a long time, and in some areas was trivially easy to do with the right equipment (and that wasn’t exactly rare). Yet the law and the cable companies still defined it and prosecuted it as a form of “theft”. So we have ample precedent for a broader moral and legal definition of theft to include any unlawful receipt of benefits without payment.

    That copyright infringement has been exempt from this seems to be to be largely due to historical accident.

  130. But I had in fact looked at other related questions. I thought that asking about the existence of a COM decompiler would be distinct from questions about debuggers, at least to anyone but an idiot.

    If you had done your prior research, you would have known that DOS DEBUG comes with a disassembler (and even an assembler), so discussions of debuggers in DOS often entail these tools; and you’d be up on your DOS interrupts and what they do, so there would be no need for a tool to walk you through it. Knowing the system you are attempting to RE on is a prerequisite for that forum if you do not want to be flagged offtopic.

  131. @Jay Maynard

    JM> If you use “free software” in a proprietary program, everyone in the world who has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.

    JM> That sword cuts both ways.

    What we have here is an is/ought problem. In the context of “should software be copyrightable?” it would be hypocritical for the opponents to use the words “theft”, “steal” etc. to describe using free software in a proprietary program. However, outside that context, accepting as given the legal regime, the same terminology is not at all hypocritical.

    Is there an example of someone arguing against software copyright itself using such terminology in that context? It doesn’t count if you find someone argue against software copyright in one place and use that terminology in another.

  132. Roger Phillips says:
    >>>Name one GOOD video game funded via patronage.

    I can name one. Have you played FTL, available on Steam? It kicks ass, it is too much fun, and it was funded on Kickstarter.

  133. @Jeff Read:

    There is another form of theft — theft of service — which is legally and commonly referred to as theft yet may not involve any deprivation of property. In particular, accessing cable TV without a subscription…

    Theft of service long predated cable TV. Providing water and electricity costs real, ongoing money, both for the product and for plant maintenance. Even cable TV requires amplifiers, sufficient engineering to make sure that there is enough signal for all the legitimate subscribers, and on-going power from the electric company. Not really a good analogy.

    That copyright infringement has been exempt from this seems to be to be largely due to historical accident.

    I think it’s more reasonably viewed as a historical accident that cable wound up inheriting the theft of service terminology from the water and electricity service. There aren’t any commercials on those…

  134. That’s not entirely fair. Quite a few people in the FOSS camp don’t believe computer software should be copyrightable, but so long as it is, they will use that to enforce copyleft. There is nothing the least bit hypocritical about taking advantage of a law you personally oppose.

    Yes, it is hypocritical. If you don’t believe that software should be copyrightable then you should use CC0 or BSD. If you think that engaging in behavior you oppose as immoral is not the “least bit” hypocritical then I’d like to hear your definition of the word. Not just “unfair” or “suboptimal” but unethical.

    You may think that using a DH is bad for the game of baseball but not that it’s unethical. Cheating is unethical and some teams might cheat. Cheating because everyone else is cheating while decrying cheating as unethical IS hypocrisy. Just because everyone else is cheating doesn’t make it okay for you to do so.

  135. Is there an example of someone arguing against software copyright itself using such terminology in that context? It doesn’t count if you find someone argue against software copyright in one place and use that terminology in another.

    You have never heard a freetard state that they believe that all software should be “free as in speech” AND that BSD is bad because Apple or Microsoft can steal BSD code?

    And why on earth should it NOT count even if they state that in two different instances?

  136. I can name one. Have you played FTL, available on Steam? It kicks ass, it is too much fun, and it was funded on Kickstarter.

    I like how every response to this cites some half-arsed, cheap-looking game like FTL or Banner Saga. when I said “GOOD” I didn’t mention “acceptable” I meant games that are at the cutting edge of quality.

  137. @Monster

    Because when you burn down someone’s house, they don’t have a house anymore. If you listen to an .mp3, everyone in the world who already has a copy of it still has it. Nothing has been destroyed.

    Except the value of the product, much as the value of your savings can be destroyed by the central bank printing money, or the credit for a work can be diluted by others claiming credit for what you have done. These are higher ideas of scarcity but they are not less real. People work to create a valuable product and they then wish to discharge that value according to their own wishes, not the wishes of freeloaders.

  138. Just for the record, I think the DH is an abomination that needs to be stamped out. Not only does it remove critical elements of strategy from the game, it violates the very first rule of baseball:

    1.01
    Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.

  139. @Roger Phillips:

    Except the value of the product, much as the value of your savings can be destroyed by the central bank printing money, or the credit for a work can be diluted by others claiming credit for what you have done.

    Some countries have copyright laws that separate out butt-hurt from economic concerns, giving authors and their heirs inalienable, non-transferable “moral rights.”

    Of course, those countries also tend to have additional laws addressing butt-hurt, because that’s how they roll.

    I don’t think we want to go there.

  140. @nht:

    You have never heard a freetard state that they believe that all software should be “free as in speech” AND that BSD is bad because Apple or Microsoft can steal BSD code?

    Absolutely. They have a warped framework, no question about it. In order for it to be somewhat coherent, they have to effectively grant rights, not to the developers or the users, but to the code itself. That’s plain stupid on several levels, and in order to pretend the system is more consistent than it is, they have to selectively enforce their copyright license, turning a blind eye to end users who hand out object CDs to their friends without a written offer.

    So, it’s stupid, and there are valid criticisms to be made of it. But when I described your position as being a strawman, what I was specifically addressing was where you wrote:

    The position is generally hypocritical. IP has “pretty much zero value” unless it happens to be MY IP. In which case I’m going to sic the SFLC on you.

    It’s bullshit and it isn’t Jay or Jeff that needs to reevaluate their thoughts on the matter.

    This falsely conflates the sentiment that (paraphrasing) “my IP is precious and yours is worthless” with me (since I was the one asking for reevaluation), it falsely conflates value with cost, and it falsely conflates the reason that the SFLC sues (which is to force wider distribution) with the reason that a proprietary software vendor sues (which is to force restricted distribution).

    That’s one false conflation per sentence, which is actually pretty impressive.

    If it makes you feel any better, you pointing out that the FSF uses the term “steal” has given me one more reason to dislike them (although I didn’t really need more). It may be, though that subconsciously I had already internalized that as one of my reasons.

  141. So how about it, Jay? If you use “steal” to describe copyright infringement, you’re not only aligning yourself with Jeff Read and the MafiAA — you’re also aligning yourself with RMS!

    /me ducks

  142. Nobody’s perfect, Patrick. Not even RMS is perfectly wrong.

    Or, as Larry Niven put it, “ideas are not responsible for those who hold them”.

  143. Let me point out a concrete example of creative labor and IP and values and effects that’s not software (though it might be considered data).

    Second Life has a thriving economy in virtual goods. They’re all nothing more than data, records in an inventory server – and yet there’s a metric buttload of stuff that sells, and a real economy that runs on currency convertible from and to real-world currency. (One US dollar will currently buy you 256 Linden Dollars, the unit of Second Life currency, or so at current market exchange rates; the rate the other way is about L$249/US$1. Yes, arbitrage is possible.) The SL economy has a run rate that will surprise folks not familiar with it, in the range of hundreds of millions of L$ per month.

    This means that people who are good enough and work hard enough can earn an RL living from selling stuff in SL. I have a friend who does. She’s got five degrees, including two from the Fashion Institute of Technology (look it up; it’s not one of those outfits you’ll see hawking careers on TV). She designs and sells clothes and accessories and buildings and furniture and …well, you get the idea: a little of everything.

    SL has a rich selection of content to choose from, and buy at what are pittances in RL terms. I just bought two outfits for my avatar at L$99 each. That’s less than a buck. I have a reputation as a big spender because I refuse to drop less than L$250 in a tip jar. Even though the amounts are small in RL terms, they do add up, and represent a way for creators to get compensated for their work.

    There’s an open source software suite that does the same thing as SL, called OpenSim. There are several OpenSim grids, ranging in size from just a few regions to thousands. Some are run for fun, some out of a desire to provide a true competitor to SL, some for reasons the FSF would find congenial. Some have economies of a sort, though none that I’m aware of allow conversion back to RL currencies.

    All of them share one characteristic: the content sucks compared to SL. The selection is very thin and the quality is comparatively low, looking about like the state of the art in SL in about 2008. Entire classes of content that are plentiful on SL simply don’t exist in any meaningful form on any OpenSim grid.

    The reason is simple: There’s nothing in it for a creator, especially since OpenSim provides no meaningful protection against copying assets that have been flagged by their creator as no-copy or transferring assets that have been flagged no-transfer. Some grids, including one I have an association with, channel RMS and call this a feature. “They should create for the joy of creation!” My SL-creator friend is the one who first raised the argument that such places and attitudes value creative labor at zero. How is she wrong?

  144. @Jay:

    I’m not arguing that copyright infringement is always a good thing or that it’s not a problem.

    Although there is a valid debate to be had about whether we would be better or worse off if the rules changed and there was no copyright (and your anecdote dovetails into that argument), I’m not even arguing anywhere along that axis at the moment.

    In your Second Life example, if I somehow stole another players’ copy of something, it would in fact be theft — I would have deprived them of the use and enjoyment of it. OTOH, the way you describe it, the servers actually keep the equivalent of real-life bit-for-bit copying from occurring without the authors’ permission, so there is no analogue to the sort of infringement that is traditionally called piracy.

    Right now, we have laws against copyright infringement. They work well enough for the RIAA to bankrupt a few people with them, but not well enough to completely stamp out the practice. The only way to completely stamp out infringement involves both completely breaking the internet, and putting more people in prison than the war on drugs has ever managed to. The aggrieved parties are working diligently to move the Overton window sufficiently to achieve this, and I am arguing that we should work against that. I noticed that one of their linguistic tools in this endeavor is to label any putative copyright violation (including those that clearly fall under fair use, according to current legal standards) as “theft” and I have decided that I’m not going to play that game.

    On the other side, yes, we have a collection of misfits trying to destroy copyright, or at least to damage it enough just enough so that they can do whatever it is they want without being called miscreants of any persuasion. They use high-falutin’ legal and moral arguments (some of which actually make sense), but also use a heapin’ helpin’ of sophistry, because, really — all the want is free stuff.

    I am not particularly sympathetic to these people, and I don’t think they stand a chance of winning. But I won’t lose sleep worrying about my actions increasing their chance of winning by some miniscule amount, because the universe where they win would actually not be anywhere nearly as bad as the universe where the MafiAA wins.

  145. Patrick, the servers can keep copying from happening. They also have the option, at the creator’s command, of allowing free copying, but no transfer to another user. That’s actually quite common for clothing and the like, as it makes creating outfits that can be worn quickly easier.

    Now, if someone gets a copy of a copy/no-transfer item from another user, what would you say is happening?

  146. If there’s no deprivation, then it’s copyright infringement, not theft.

    But this doesn’t mean that copyright infringement is good, just that it’s not theft. FWIW, I think “piracy” is (now) probably a fine word to describe this sort of infringement. I think it was originally intended to convey something worse than ordinary theft, but it’s so over the top to compare downloading a song to what transpires off the coast of Somalia that in modern usage, the word piracy is now effectively two disparate homonyms.

  147. Argument by analogy is always awkward, because analogies are never perfect and it can be very difficult to choose between analogies that each have some, but flawed, correspondence.

    >Now, if someone gets a copy of a copy/no-transfer item from another user, what would you say is happening?

    Some bits get flipped.

    In this case I think the stronger analogy is with ‘copyright violation’ than with ‘theft of physical property’. If someone transferred an item from another user and then scrambled the other users bits, I might see a stronger analogy to ‘theft of physical property’ but it’s still iffy.

  148. And someone who makes a copy of an item in SL and gives it away is stealing, pure and simple. The end result of that is obvious, and we have an existence proof in OpenSim.

    Don’t pooh-pooh the idea that not stamping out copyright infringement will inevitably lead to no content to enjoy, when we have an existence proof.

  149. Put another way…what’s being stolen is the creator’s time. You get paid for your time working, I hope. Your time, therefore, has value. Someone who takes an item in SL from a creator without paying for it is valuing that creator’s time at zero. What makes your time valuable and hers valueless?

  150. Patrick Maupin on 2014-03-09 at 14:53:38 said:
    > Some countries have copyright laws that separate out butt-hurt from economic concerns, giving authors and their heirs inalienable, non-transferable “moral rights.”

    I think this is true in all countries that signed up to the Berne convention; which is most of them, except of course the good old USA which refuses to do so.

  151. >I think this is true in all countries that signed up to the Berne convention; which is most of them, except of course the good old USA which refuses to do so.

    Not quite. The U.S. is a signatory to the Berne Convention since 1988, but it took a specific opt-out from the “moral rights” provisions. I happen to think this was a good thing; they may have been well-intentioned. but the effect was to decrease the trade value of art by the expected cost of various murky legal risks. That was bad for artists.

  152. @Jay Maynard:

    Don’t pooh-pooh the idea that not stamping out copyright infringement will inevitably lead to no content to enjoy

    It wouldn’t. The content might not be as high quality, but it would still be there. Even its putative lack of quality is debatable, given that there will always be people like you who tip for quality. (Or are you just going to crawl into a hole and die if there is no longer any copyright?) OTOH, you haven’t even addressed the argument that stamping out all copyright infringement would mean that we are no longer free people.

    when we have an existence proof.

    What you have is proof that many people will go where there is more money to be made, especially when it is frictionless to do so — they don’t even have to move in real life. As an aside, those people will loudly proclaim the relative moral virtues of their chosen place, in the attempt to attract more people and insure its continued existence, at the same time that others are eking out a meager existence in the other place and loudly proclaiming its relative moral virtues, in the attempt to achieve the same.

    With two different such places, many of the most talented creators will naturally gravitate to the place where they will make the most money, which will be the curated garden where the rich hang out.

    In other words, (a) even most really talented creators are just whores at heart, and (b) I can reduce the parameters of this whole debate to the fact that you’re an Apple guy and I’m and Android guy.

  153. What leads you to the idea that SL is a curated garden? In particular, who’s the curator? Hint: Linden Lab, the folks who run it, do no content policing except for obvious illegality and infringement of RL copyrights or trademarks.

  154. @grkvlt:

    I think this is true in all countries that signed up to the Berne convention; which is most of them, except of course the good old USA which refuses to do so.

    Jeez, if we didn’t sign the damn thing, the bill of goods we’ve been sold is even bigger, since that “international harmonization” was the primary reason given for selling us down the river the last time.

  155. @Jay Maynard:

    > What leads you to the idea that SL is a curated garden?

    Because it is.

    > Linden Lab, the folks who run it, do no content policing


    The Community Standards sets out six behaviors, the ‘Big Six’, that will result in suspension or, with repeated violations, expulsion from the Second Life Community.

    The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.

    Second Life is an adult community, but “Adult” content, activity and communication are not permitted on the Second Life “mainland.”

    “Content” is just a proxy for “behavior.” Why bother to regulate the former when you can regulate the latter directly? Steve Jobs is jealous.

    But if you chafe at “curated”, I could change the wording to “overseen”, which keeps the part where the overseer can take any action it deems to be in its own best interest, and everybody else has to just suck it up and take it or leave it.

    Heh. This just moved to the democracy/dictator portion of the Dark Enlightment discussion.

  156. >Put another way…what’s being stolen is the creator’s time. You get paid for your time working, I hope. Your time, therefore, has value. Someone who takes an item in SL from a creator without paying for it is valuing that creator’s time at zero. What makes your time valuable and hers valueless?

    Do you realize the silliness of this line of argument? Do you realize that you’ve just argued that reading a newspaper in a coffee shop is theft?

  157. @Greg:

    > Do you realize that you’ve just argued that reading a newspaper in a coffee shop is theft?

    Thanks for reminding me to add all the TV networks to the list on Jay’s side of the argument.

  158. Do you realize the silliness of this line of argument? Do you realize that you’ve just argued that reading a newspaper in a coffee shop is theft?

    If the coffee shop xeroxed the paper yes. Otherwise no since the content creator sold it for such purpose.

  159. >If the coffee shop xeroxed the paper yes. Otherwise no since the content creator sold it for such purpose.

    You’re missing an implication in my little scenario. You read a newspaper that you did not buy yourself, that someone else bought and then abandoned. Jay’s argument is so extreme that it would have you guilty of theft for reading that newspaper. Or for borrowing a book from a friend.

    And your time may have value to you, but putting zero monetary value on someone else’s time is not in and of itself, a crime. Smacks of labor theory of value.

  160. If the coffee shop xeroxed the paper yes.

    Awfully hypocritical of you, going around stealing from the Xerox Corporation to try to make your point.

  161. So it’s OK because the paper didn’t have an EULA saying only one person could read it.

  162. “And your time may have value to you, but putting zero monetary value on someone else’s time is not in and of itself, a crime. Smacks of labor theory of value.”

    No…but if labor is valued at zero, you’ll not get more of it – which means creators have no reason to create.

  163. >No…but if labor is valued at zero, you’ll not get more of it – which means creators have no reason to create.

    Labor doesn’t have inherent value. I’ve seen a lot of labor that I would have been willing to pay to *not* happen. Your line of argument seems to suggest that labor have some kind of inherent value that people should pay for, which is hogwash.

    The rest is shaky argument by analogy, in an area where there is already established (i.e. copyright) law. What you want goes well beyond traditional copyright law, almost to the point of absurdity. I believe ‘Dowling vs. United States’ (as well as common sense) applies, but I’m sure legal experts will correct me as necessary.

  164. No…but if labor is valued at zero, you’ll not get more of it – which means creators have no reason to create.

    Now you’re down to the utilitarian argument, which is essentially equivalent to the argument for speed limits. There’s undoubtedly a consensus that speed limits are practical means of achieving the goal of safety in some circumstances, but I don’t know of anyone who would claim that safely traveling a high speed on a good road is inherently immoral. (Not only that, but experience demonstrates both that eliminating speed limits can be a practical option, as on much of the Autobahn, and that the goal of safety can often be more effectively achieved by road design that puts drivers in an attentive mindset. Both critiques, “we don’t need the attempted-to-be-mandated behavior at all” and “the desired behavior can be produced through other means” apply to copyright.)

  165. >Labor doesn’t have inherent value.

    Neither does anything else – yet people do market transactions. You’re strawmanning.

  166. @Greg:

    > Jay’s argument is so extreme that it would have you guilty of theft for … borrowing a book from a friend.

    Well, if that’s true, then you’d certainly also be guilty for buying that book from your friend after he finished reading it. Or buying a used painting from him. But nobody could possibly be that extreme, could they?

  167. >Neither does anything else – yet people do market transactions. You’re strawmanning.

    No, I’m pre-emptively heading off the next (inevitable?) stage of that argument. The ‘lost sales through theft’ calculation so beloved of the RIAA and such.

    There will be people who don’t place value on your time, and may violate your copyright. They didn’t ‘steal’ from you the face value of a lost sale, at your full asking price- your full asking price is not the inherent value of your labor. They wouldn’t have bought from you anyway. But they did violate your copyright.

  168. @Christopher Smith:

    > I don’t know of anyone who would claim that safely traveling a high speed on a good road is inherently immoral.

    I always assumed those rolling 60 mph blockades were done to help save my soul, but now you’re telling me that the involved drivers were just assholes all along.

  169. You’re missing an implication in my little scenario. You read a newspaper that you did not buy yourself, that someone else bought and then abandoned. Jay’s argument is so extreme that it would have you guilty of theft for reading that newspaper. Or for borrowing a book from a friend.

    No. First sale doctrine from US copyright laws means that you are NOT guilt of theft from reuse or sale of that copy.

    Your scenario is bogus because you assume away the benefits of copyright laws while insisting the negatives remain. Jay’s argument is not extreme at all.

    If you do away with copyright and fall back on just contracts between users and content producers what you can do with that content is dependent entirely on what you can negotiate.

  170. >No. First sale doctrine from US copyright laws means that you are NOT guilt of theft from reuse or sale of that copy.

    Yes. Which does nothing to disprove that Jay’s argument DOES make that claim. Because it does. Jay insists that anyone using a copyrighted work without paying for it, is stealing. Blanket statement.

  171. Right now, we have laws against copyright infringement. They work well enough for the RIAA to bankrupt a few people with them, but not well enough to completely stamp out the practice. The only way to completely stamp out infringement involves both completely breaking the internet, and putting more people in prison than the war on drugs has ever managed to.

    Right now, we have laws against murder. They work well enough for the government to incarcerate a few people with them, but not well enough to completely stamp out the practice. The only way to completely stamp out murder involved both completely breaking freedom blah blah.

    So logically we should get rid of laws against murder. Replace murder with speed limits or jaywalking or littering if you think that murder is too extreme.

    That IP has some detrimental effects doesn’t mean that the logical assessment is that they are harmful overall.

  172. @Nigel:

    > The only way to completely stamp out murder involved…

    The wars on drugs and terrorism, which are abject failures. Thanks for helping to make my point.

    Perhaps you missed where I’m all for balance, but the forces wanting to lock up any sort of IP forever aren’t. See that California statute, for example.

    If we can have balance, great!

    If not, I’ll take less regulation, please.

    But balance starts with people using less of the sort of inflammatory language that leads to more regulation.

    > First sale doctrine from US copyright laws means that you are NOT guilt of theft from reuse or sale of that copy.

    Right. And yet Garth Brooks says that reselling CDs is stealing, and California has passed a law requiring a new royalty for resold art. Because the trend is seldom towards freedom.

  173. @Nigel:

    Right now, we have laws against murder. They work well enough for the government to incarcerate a few people with them,

    I replied way too hastily, before I really read your comment. Either you’re engaged in serious sophistry here, or you didn’t think too hard about my comment.

    How are laws that allow record companies to completely ruin the lives of people who “steal” less than $200 worth of songs in any way comparable to the inability of law enforcement to catch all murderers?

    That IP has some detrimental effects doesn’t mean that the logical assessment is that they are harmful overall.

    You keep insisting on conflating all forms of IP. Very well, you should take note that several serious recent studies show that, yes, patents are harmful overall, so in your universe, I suppose that means we should get rid of copyright as well.

  174. >How are laws that allow record companies to completely ruin the lives of people who “steal” less than $200 worth of songs in any way comparable to the inability of law enforcement to catch all murderers?

    Possibly that existing laws aren’t stopping all activity that is already prohibited, so it then becomes necessary to pass more laws making such unwanted activity extra illegal, with more penalties because we really mean it, proportionality be damned?

    I think it’s important that we show zero tolerance for such theft. (yes that last bit was snark)

  175. This falsely conflates the sentiment that (paraphrasing) “my IP is precious and yours is worthless” with me (since I was the one asking for reevaluation),

    It’s not about you. It’s like saying “I’m a reasonable person” while also saying “I’m a FSF supporter”. Sure, you’re a reasonable person but the party that you are associated with has that sentiment. Yes, I understand that you are not FSF supporter. Which is another reason why this isn’t about you.

    it falsely conflates value with cost,

    In what way?

    and it falsely conflates the reason that the SFLC sues (which is to force wider distribution) with the reason that a proprietary software vendor sues (which is to force restricted distribution).

    I would agree with this if you could show how much code the SFC (sorry, my bad, not SFLC) has managed to open source with their BusyBox lawsuits as opposed to legal fees for their coffers.

  176. You keep insisting on conflating all forms of IP. Very well, you should take note that several serious recent studies show that, yes, patents are harmful overall, so in your universe, I suppose that means we should get rid of copyright as well.

    Which studies?

  177. The wars on drugs and terrorism, which are abject failures. Thanks for helping to make my point.

    The war on drugs perhaps.

    The war on terrorism has resulted in the destruction of large segments of the al-queda network and indicated to dictators that while terrorists can fade into the hills the folks with ornate palaces and third rate militaries cannot.

    Despite the great desire for terrorists to hit the US in a big way again so far the only success post 9-11 on US soil was Ft Hood, the Beltway Sniper (which arguably is just a guy who likes killing using religion as the excuse) and the Boston Marathon. All small events on the scale of Aurora shooting by lone operators.

    In what way was the war on terror “an abject failure”?

  178. Final comment for the night: regardless of whether or not copyright exists that doesn’t help open source one bit. Even if copyright disappeared there’s no need to distribute source. It just allows for legal piracy.

  179. ESR> Neither does anything else – yet people do market transactions. You’re strawmanning.

    It is necessary to explicitly reject the Labor Theory of Value, particularly in the context of a discussion of software, which is produced and distributed using a lot less labor than the goods and services it replaces, and arguably has value based primarily on the labor it saves.

    After all, it just isn’t “fair” for some geeks to make more money pushing buttons on keyboards than people who perform manual labor.

  180. >It is necessary to explicitly reject the Labor Theory of Value

    Another strawman. None of the advocates for treating software and other content like real property here, and precious few elsewhere, deny that capital and other factors of production besides labor are important.

    The quality of argument on both sides of this dispute is terrible.

  181. “The quality of argument on both sides of this dispute is terrible.”

    That may be true, but it is only because the standards here are so high.

    Thanks for that, Eric.

    Yours,
    Tom

  182. The war on terrorism has resulted in the destruction of large segments of the al-queda network and indicated to dictators that while terrorists can fade into the hills the folks with ornate palaces and third rate militaries cannot.

    It’s also resulted in journalists being hosed down with machine gun fire, wedding parties being blown up by drone strikes, and the NSA snooping on everyone”s lives with help from the telcos. Meanwhile, AQ is like Anonymous: all it is really is a name and a set of memes under which anyone can cause mayhem. It doesn’t need a permanent network and can survive its destruction simply because the AQ meme-complex is, itself, a Schelling point. The folks with ornate palaces were all too often put there with the help of USA aid, and only become our enemies when they get the notion in their heads that their regimes can, and should, exist independent of the USA hegemon.

    Any victories the GWOT may have had are small, Pyrrhic, and solve problems that were caused by American interventionism in the first place. The GWOT is not about keeping Americans safe, nor our freedoms, so much as it is about geopolitical full-spectrum dominance.

  183. Jeff,

    The nature of Islam as expressed in tribalistic societies is not “caused by American interventionism in the first place”. It has been a plague on the planet, particularly in Islamic tribalistic societies, since Mohammed. It causes or exacerbates nasty very long lasting conflicts. See India v. Pakistan, for an external to Islam example. See Arabs v. Persians for an internal to Islam example. Sometimes the Muslims are least at fault. See Burmese v. Rohingya. In the defense of the Burmese, fearing large numbers of Muslim immigrants is not irrational or unwarranted, just unkind.

    Yours,
    Tom

  184. @nht
    “Very well, you should take note that several serious recent studies show that, yes, patents are harmful overall, so in your universe, I suppose that means we should get rid of copyright as well.

    Which studies?”

    For instance, those linked here:
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4479&cpage=1#comment-385266

    See also this blog post:
    Numbers don’t lie: Patent trolls are a plague
    Recent research supports view that patent troll activity is rising — costing America a fortune in wasted legal fees and lost jobs
    http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source-software/numbers-dont-lie-patent-trolls-are-plague-205192

  185. >Another strawman.

    No, it’s not. Whether anyone here has explicitly made that argument or not, when someone argues that a particular value of labor must be enforced, they’ve implicitly put it on the table until it’s been explicitly ruled out.

    Consider “equal pay” laws that purport to eradicate inequality between male and female incomes. They rest upon the conceit that anyone other than the people buying and selling something have a say in what it’s worth.

  186. @Nigel:

    > It’s not about you. It’s like saying “I’m a reasonable person” while also saying “I’m a FSF supporter”.

    OK. I usually am. And I am not.

    > In what way? [does it falsely conflate value with cost]

    Your original post seques into the value starting off with how it costs money to develop information.

    > I would agree with this if you could show how much code the SFC (sorry, my bad, not SFLC) has managed to open source with their BusyBox lawsuits as opposed to legal fees for their coffers.

    I think the SFLC actually managed to get Cisco to open source a lot of stuff. Busybox may be a different story. We all know that any organism takes on a life of its own, things become their own worst enemy, etc. But, hey, I fully support and applaud the SFLC in their mission to piss off enough developers so that we have permissively-licensed versions of all the important pieces. As I wrote, I think their agenda itself is lacking in intellectual rigor, but within that framework, the lawsuits are perfectly logical, not hypocritical.

    > Which studies?

    winter may have responded to this, but the recent Federal Reserve study was interesting.

    > In what way was the war on terror “an abject failure”?

    I suppose reasonable people can differ on this, but I think history will show that the costs incurred far outweigh any possible gains. Certainly the economic costs, but also, in particular, the psychological costs of training the populace to be sheep.

  187. “So it’s OK because the paper didn’t have an EULA saying only one person could read it.”

    If they could*, don’t you think they would? Software companies can and do, and it’s not obvious how the incentives are different.

    *i.e., even if not perfect enforcement, if they could run a successful propaganda campaign to make a large number of people believe it is wrong and could enforce it just well enough to make people afraid to do it.

  188. @esr:

    > The quality of argument on both sides of this dispute is terrible.

    And from the middle. And yet, I choose the middle, even if I argue it badly, because I can see serious problems with both sides. The colonial implementation of copyright was, itself, originally in the middle — between no copyrights and infinite copyrights. Given the time-value of money, if you couldn’t make back your time investment in 14 years in colonial times, in general, you never would. Given the size of markets these days, and enhanced communication speed, perhaps the middle is better represented by a term of 5 years than 14.

    My choice of the middle is predicated on several observations:

    1) In software, copyright functions somewhat as a patent.

    (Which, of course, is why several people keep conflating different forms of IP.)

    No, copyright doesn’t directly keep someone from reverse-engineering your program and making something similar, but it indirectly performs that function. Take Photoshop as an example. There is apparently no money in creating a clone — people want the original. Law-abiding people pay for it; lawbreakers copy it.

    If it were somehow made uncopyable, there might actually be more of a market for clones, because all the people who can’t afford it might settle for something less. This observation has been made for Windows in developing markets, but I think it’s actually more generally applicable.

    So the argument that “stealing” Photoshop is always somehow taking money away from Adobe is misguided on several levels. Adobe would probably actually lose more money if Photoshop were uncopyable and a competing product could independently develop a serious revenue stream and pay for regular development to add features.

    But whether someone who pirates Photoshop is or is not directly taking money from Adobe, in point of fact, if they use it commercially, they are unilaterally conferring upon themselves an advantage over the Photoshop users who actually paid for the program. At the end of the day, at some level, it might amount to the same thing — if enough Photoshop users pirate the product, then the value of Photoshop to a non-pirating user is reduced (since he has to compete with the pirates), so Adobe has to reduce their prices, possibly below the point where it is profitable for them.

    2) Patents (or copyright in software) reduce the need for trade secrets

    If I imagine Adobe Photoshop in a world without viable copyright, my first imagination might be, as others have pointed out, a distribution scheme protected by contracts between Adobe and its customers. But that would fail miserably the first time one customers’ employee absconded with a copy.

    Organisms learn and adapt. Soon enough, Adobe would not be a separate entity. It would be an integral part of the graphics artist guild, and all guild revenue would be by subscription. No programmer or graphic artist would ever be allowed to leave the guild alive. So perhaps an argument can be made that patents (or copyright in the case of software) are useful to reduce reliance on trade secrets, using historical examples of abuse of trade secrets to show why this is a good goal.

    3) Outsiders are often the ones to make breakthroughs

    Also, knowledge can be lost if not widely disseminated.

    Progress is made by building on what came before. If no outsiders are ever allowed to build on what came before, stagnation, inefficiency and enormous rent-seeking happens. The combination of point 2 with this point forms the theoretical basis for the patent system.

    4) Justice must be rational

    When I see someone held liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars for downloading thirty dollars worth of songs, or see someone sued held liable for billions of dollars for infringing a patent that describes a solution that would have been arrived at independently by thousands of people within minutes or days after they were given a valid description of the problem, my blood boils.

    The song downloader is morally wrong according to many accounts (although some of them apparently already had the CDs, but it was easier to download than to rip), but doesn’t deserve that level of punishment. The patent infringer is often only guilty of actually going out and trying to build something.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but if I were made king I would probably start by making it much harder to get a patent, and by implementing the “speeding ticket” low-level copyright fine that is based on a lower evidentiary standard, but doesn’t cost too much, and by declaring that the term of both patents and copyrights will now be 5 years, but that special dispensation might be given to certain fields where recouping costs might be difficult in that timeframe — but only if really serious supporting evidence is presented.

  189. @Random832:

    If they could*, don’t you think they would? Software companies can and do, and it’s not obvious how the incentives are different.

    That’s my point. The whole reason we have fair use is because the Supreme Court ruled that you couldn’t have an EULA on a book. The whole reason we don’t have fair use on software boils down to the fact that it’s licensed, rather than sold, which apparently owes its existence to a quirk in copyright law — since you have to copy the program (to hard disk, to RAM, to the CPU, whereever) in order to run the damn thing, you need a license for that.

    So Nigel’s point about how the entire purpose of a newspaper is to be shared is disingenuous — the newspaper company would also obviously prefer if everybody bought their own copy (or maybe they would charge more for shareable copies).

    The incentives are the same, but the enforceability of the creators’ wishes is not.

  190. @Patrick

    Thanks for the study, I missed it. Here is the link
    http://research.stlouisfed.org/wp/2012/2012-035.pdf

    And here is a discussion of it:
    The Case for Abolishing Patents (Yes, All of Them)
    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/the-case-for-abolishing-patents-yes-all-of-them/262913/

    Here’s the (slightly jargony) core of their argument, which we’ll unpack together in a moment:

    A closer look at the historical and international evidence suggests that while weak patent systems may mildly increase innovation with limited side-effects, strong patent systems retard innovation with many negative side-effects. Both theoretically and empirically, the political economy of government operated patent systems indicates that weak legislation will generally evolve into a strong protection and that the political demand for stronger patent protection comes from old and stagnant industries and firms, not from new and innovative ones. Hence the best solution is to abolish patents entirely [emphasis mine] through strong constitutional measures and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent-seeking, to foster innovation whenever there is clear evidence that laissez-faire under-supplies it.

    In plain-speak, the authors are arguing that, yes, the evidence suggests that having a limited amount of patent protection makes countries slightly more innovative, presumably by encouraging inventors to cash in on their great ideas without fear of being ripped off. But patent protections never stay small and tidy. Instead, entrenched players like intellectual property lawyers who make their living filing lawsuits and old, established corporations that want to keep new players out of their markets lobby to expand the breadth of patent rights. And as patent rights get stronger, they take a serious toll on the economy, including our ability to innovate.

  191. “which apparently owes its existence to a quirk in copyright law — since you have to copy the program (to hard disk, to RAM, to the CPU, whereever) in order to run the damn thing, you need a license for that.”

    Which quirk the legislature tried to erase with 17 USC 117(a)(1). It apparently didn’t take.

  192. @The Monster:

    Consider “equal pay” laws that purport to eradicate inequality between male and female incomes. They rest upon the conceit that anyone other than the people buying and selling something have a say in what it’s worth.

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but if copyright worked perfectly from a typical seller’s perspective, then from a market standpoint there doesn’t appear to be an equivalent distortion — either the copyright holder and a potential customer agree on a price, and the customer has access to the work, or they don’t and he doesn’t. The only possible wrinkle would have to do with market dominance — if you’re required to use Word due to network effects, then Microsoft would have you by the short and curlies.

    In addition to the network effects, if copyright worked perfectly from the seller’s perspective, it would make differential pricing extremely easy (think student software bundles, or DVD region coding). Wielded correctly, differential pricing is a compelling, powerful tool to help combat competition, because the startup usually has to focus on a particular niche market segment. This sort of behavior often invites regulatory scrutiny, so it may be that the current scheme, whereby the only thing counterfeit about the rival goods is the price and legitimacy, actually makes it easier to maintain a monopoly.

  193. So, how about if we change things so that copyrights or patent rights cannot be sold or assigned? Infringement lawsuits can only be carried through by the original (and only) copyright or patent holder. Should cut down on the trolls, though large engineering companies would still benefit from patents held by their own employees. (You can be sure that their employment contracts would be written with this situation in mind.)

    I know that there would be law firms seeking revenue by representing inventers on a contingency basis, but they would no longer have patent inventories, and would have to chase after them, like they were ambulances.

  194. @LS:

    So, how about if we change things so that copyrights or patent rights cannot be sold or assigned?

    That might or might not be necessary, but certainly wouldn’t be sufficient. In addition to buying lots of patent portfolios, Intellectual Ventures has a lot of people sitting around on their asses dreaming up shit they have no intention of building, so something along the lines of “it has to be specific enough for somebody to build one” and/or “you can only use it to protect what you yourself are building” might be useful, too. Of course, as you point out, that still wouldn’t stop Apple from beating up on Samsung.

    Of course, as soon as you start modifying property rights, it gets messy. If company A acquires company B, what happens to company B’s patents? OK, now how about when a guy with patents joins a company?

  195. “Of course, as soon as you start modifying property rights, it gets messy. If company A acquires company B, what happens to company B’s patents? OK, now how about when a guy with patents joins a company?”

    Company A already licensed the employee’s patents. The patent isn’t transferable, but the license is.

    The guy who joins a company owns his own patents. He can license them to the new company or not. If he got them while working for his previous employer, that employer had an opportunity to get an exclusive license from him at that time.

  196. wrong. Back in the nineties, the most secure web server was CL-HTTP, written in Lisp.

    Well, I’ll be. Lisp wins again!

    Still, it just goes to show that the choice of C as a systems language was a catastrophically poor one.

  197. >None of the advocates for treating software and other content like real property here, and precious few elsewhere, deny that capital and other factors of production besides labor are important.

    Apparently speaking as the guilty party here… some of the complaints/rants/arguments from the folks who want software and other content treated like real property – gave me the impression that they felt that, because labor went into something, that labor must be valued. Specifically it comes back to this:

    >Put another way…what’s being stolen is the creator’s time. You get paid for your time working, I hope. Your time, therefore, has value. Someone who takes an item in SL from a creator without paying for it is valuing that creator’s time at zero. What makes your time valuable and hers valueless?

    Saying that labor *must* be valued, and not strictly by what someone is willing to pay for it, what does that remind you of?

    Note that there is no deprivation- the content that the creator spent time working on, is still in the creator’s possession and said creator is still free to negotiate licenses for that content to whomever they wish, at whatever rate they can manage. Losing one *potential* licensed sale of an item that isn’t tangible, that can be freely and infinitely duplicated, is not the same as being deprived of an item of physical property that you spent time creating (isn’t the wildly different character of the different types of property why we have copyright law in the first place?) And anyone who tries to argue it is, is dishonestly trying to take advantage of our primal emotional reactions to issues concerning real physical property.

  198. “Still, it just goes to show that the choice of C as a systems language was a catastrophically poor one.”

    Except for one minor detail: I strongly doubt that other languages that incorporate your desired features are suitable for systems programming. The features you like are too high overhead and heavyweight for systems work.

  199. Greg, you’re not just stealing one copy. You’re stealing the creator’s right to benefit from his creation, by putting yourself in a position to give away copies for free (and, given your rhetoric, I have little doubt you would actually do so).

    So no, you are indeed depriving the creator of something.

    If you disagree, then why, under your regime, should a creator create anything?

  200. >Greg, you’re not just stealing one copy. You’re stealing the creator’s right to benefit from his creation, by putting yourself in a position to give away copies for free (and, given your rhetoric, I have little doubt you would actually do so).

    Well if you can say that (you are clearly projecting *something*, I don’t even download music I’d much rather spent a buck and buy that one track, etc), I can say to stop arguing with the voices in your head.

    “My rhetoric” is support of existing copyright law. We have it for a reason. Note that I am opposed to the continued drift of treating copyrightable materials as real property, and especially the disgusting rent-seeking of the various content cartels. Basically, fuck rent seekers, in this case ones who want to claim the benefits of laws and traditions governing physical property, without being subject to the limitations of physical property. If that shoe fits…. well I hope it doesn’t.

    >So no, you are indeed depriving the creator of something.

    >If you disagree, then why, under your regime, should a creator create anything?

    Um, ‘my regime’, ‘protection for creators of content’, hmmm. Are you not aware of the existence of copyright law?

  201. Something’s been nagging at me. Finally figured out what it was.

    >by putting yourself in a position to give away copies for free

    If being in a position to give copies away for free is somehow indistinguishable from actually giving away copies for free…. should people who get erections be prosecuted for rape? Because we all know what getting wood puts them in a position for…

    Let me stop to note that each and every one of your *paid* customers is in position to give away free copies as well, unless you’re heavily into DRM. So, are your paid customers causing you a deprivation?

    Anyway, I understand the concern with wide enough unauthorized distribution effectively putting something in the public domain and ruining the content creator’s market. But there are already rules against unauthorized distribution. You just want to make more, because of something that *might* happen, something that is already punishable by law.

    Seeking to impose extra penalties or restrictions on an activity, because it could potentially lead to some other activity that you think is worse, well that is a whole new impressive level of fail. That’s one of the main arguments gun banners use, if you let people have guns they might misuse them and there would be blood in the streets.

  202. @Jay:

    One example of treatment as real property that Greg is discussing is the now-indefinite, possibly infinite, copyright term. It didn’t start out this way.

  203. WRT C, I realized years ago that, if someone were determined enough to do so, it would be possible to write portable assembler. Two approaches come to mind: create a universal assembler that then compiles down into a target assembler, or to write an assembler A to assembler B compiler. Either way, though, you’re still left with the basic problem that you’re programming in assembler. Chances are, if you’re doing this, you’ll despise the extra layer between you and the machine, or you’re trying to chew your leg off, to get away from assembler altogether…so, either way, an assembler-to-assembler compiler is likely not going to be written, except under extraordinary circumstances.

    While we can debate the truth about whether programming in C is really independent of the machine (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t), the really nice thing about C is that you don’t have to re-implement for loops, if statements, and functions every time you needed those things. I would suspect that doing that alone would be a huge portability boon, especially if you’re using an assembler that doesn’t have such advanced features as “labels”. (The realization that such assemblers exist was an “aha” moment for me: it helped me realize that classic BASIC was “basic”, in part, because it was high-level assembler, and those numbered lines were “addresses”.)

    WRT copyright, and IP in general, I find it funny that we are arguing over the utility of these things, yet we have an examplesof how things get done, when no patents are involved, and people give up their rights to what is done, and still manage to make a living: we call it “Open Source”. BSD, MIT, GPL, Apache, CC0, in all sorts of varieties…

    When I look closely at the examples of where copyright and patents are used to “help” the creators, I see little guys crushed by lawsuits when they try to “reign in” the Evil Big Corporations; I see writers and musicians locked into draconian terms, and told to like it, because without the distributors, they would get nowhere (but they at least get to make money on public performances!); I see pointless spates between two competitors who have near-equal rights to a given idea; in short, I see mayhem, and I /don’t/ see how it “fosters innovation”.

    I became anti-software-patent because of the likes of RMS and EFF. Once you see the evils of software patents, it’s /very/ easy to generalize that to patents in general. Despite years of being seeped in Linux, I didn’t see the evils of copyrights until reading “Against Intellectual Property” by Stephen Kinsella, but that left me unsatisfied: that treatise is theoretical in nature, and while I was vaguely aware of economic models without copyright, I wanted something more concrete. That came with “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by David Levine and Michele Boldrin.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m a mathematician, and so I come from a field where patents are strictly forbidden, by definition, and copyrights don’t seem to be of much value: most people make a living by being professors. It shouldn’t be difficult to imagine a mathematician who can get good enough in another profession, that they could work part-time and develop new mathematics part-time as well…but the point is, mathematics progresses, and it does so without the benefit of “intellectual property” protection.

    Folks, we DON’T NEED patents and copyrights. Indeed, they do more harm than good! And the faster our artists, writers, musicians, engineers and other creators realize this, the better off we’ll be!

  204. ““My rhetoric” is support of existing copyright law. We have it for a reason.”

    I would like to point out that the reason we have copyright law, is because English monarchs thought it would be a reasonable way to control what was published, and to prevent certain things from being published; when the monarchy decided that wasn’t a legitimate purpose of government, the publishers still wanted control over what was published, so they insisted that the copyright would help the writer–and that, of course, it was a transferable right–which would be reasonably transferred from writer to publisher, of course.

    Just because we have a reason for copyright, doesn’t mean that it’s a good reason. And when you consider that it’s original raison d’etre was to be a tool of censorship, it should come as no surprise when, to this day, it’s used as a tool of censorship. Indeed, when this is understood, it should be no surprise at all that the most draconian measures proposed to enforce copyright also make it trivial to impose censorship.

  205. One example of treatment as real property that Greg is discussing is the now-indefinite, possibly infinite, copyright term. It didn’t start out this way.

    With the rise of virtual environments such as Second Life — and even cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, information is real property, and is even recognized as such by law. So I’m not really sure how indefinite copyright considerably worsens things; such a situation is what we were evolving to even without the Sonny Bono Act.

    Now for a more practical issue. Everybody knows that virtually all decent typography is done by professional typographers and firms — people who design fonts for money. Now that the Web has somewhat decent support for online fonts, how are we going to make a wide selection of non-shitty fonts available on the Web and still protect professional typographers’ intellectual property rights? Some form of DRM inherent in the Web infrastructure is the only way I can see this working out. I think Ted Nelson had it right from the word “go” and we needed to build knowledge of copyrights and licensing into the hypertext infrastructure from the very beginning — not tack it on as an afterthought.

  206. >I think Ted Nelson had it right from the word “go” and we needed to build knowledge of copyrights and licensing into the hypertext infrastructure from the very beginning — not tack it on as an afterthought.

    With due respect to Ted, who was ahead of his time in many ways, that would have been a barely-mitigated disaster. The kind of mechanism required to “build knowledge of licensing into the hypertext infrastructure” would have implied content-control capabilities that would have been politically abused about a nanosecond after the word go.

    And if it comes to a choice between crappy fonts and DRM, crappy fonts win.

  207. The kind of mechanism required to “build knowledge of licensing into the hypertext infrastructure” would have implied content-control capabilities that would have been politically abused about a nanosecond after the word go.

    Reading just a moment ago that Google has given the UK government broad censorship powers over YouTube “for national security purposes” of course, I can’t help but conclude that you might be right.

    And if it comes to a choice between crappy fonts and DRM, crappy fonts win.

    The fucking illiterates tend to win an awful lot.

  208. @Jeff Read:

    Did you seriously compare owning a Bitcoin to owning a copyright on a song or program?

  209. @Jeff Read
    Copyright == Censorship
    It was that way from the early start in the UK. My goverment censors Mein Kampf using copyright law.

    Yes, market parties use it primarily to extract rents and create artificial scarcity. But the underlying mechanism is that of censorship.

  210. Did you seriously compare owning a Bitcoin to owning a copyright on a song or program?

    They are similar only in that there is value in controlling a particular piece of information. If the one value is considered real property, why shouldn’t the other be? Why shouldn’t debasing the value of a song or program by copying it all over the interwebs be considered deprivation of the owner of that value, i.e., theft?

  211. By the way, Google may yet be taken to task for appropriating Oracle’s IP. Google’s case of noncopyrightability of the Java APIs was pretty flimsy to begin with, and the CAFC panel has expressed considerable doubt about Judge Alsup’s decision with Google.

  212. >Google may yet be taken to task for appropriating Oracle’s IP.

    Says Florian Mueller. Whose record in calling these things is so bad that the smart money would listen to whatever he says and bet on the other side.

    There was a point at which I was paid a lot of hard cash for being a technical topic expert on API copyrightability and the abstraction/filtration/comparison test. Alsup’s opinion was in no way flimsy; it was solid, logical, and beautifully written. There is never any guarantee that a court won’t do something crazy, but I like Google’s odds.

  213. @Jeff Read:

    Did you seriously compare owning a Bitcoin to owning a copyright on a song or program?

    They are similar only in that there is value in controlling a particular piece of information.

    Comparing a bitcoin to a song is seriously retarded. Secrecy is necessary to keep your bitcoin from being stolen. You can keep a song secret and it won’t be stolen, either, but nobody ever does that. Geez, I wonder why.

    The closest historical analogy to a bitcoin is that the public address is like a numbered swiss bank account, and the private address is like the password you give the bank. If you absolutely have to compare owning a bitcoin to some sort of IP, that would be a trade secret, not a copyright.

    If the one value is considered real property, why shouldn’t the other be?

    A bitcoin is not real property, by the standard definition. In any case, a bitcoin private key, like any trade secret, only retains its value for its owner as long as it is kept private. If writing a song and keeping it secret has value to you, go for it! (No copyright required, although the government will give you one automagically.) But that’s not typically how people expect to extract value from a song.

    Why shouldn’t debasing the value of a song or program by copying it all over the interwebs be considered deprivation of the owner of that value, i.e., theft?

    And to think that artists used to have to pay radio stations to play their stuff. There is a real tension between developing demand and exploiting the developed demand. That’s why suing girl scouts for singing your song is ludicrous. You can’t simultaneously say “this is great — make it part of your culture” and then expect to extract rent for every single instance. Or maybe you can, but not in a society I’d want to live in.

  214. Says Florian Mueller. Whose record in calling these things is so bad that the smart money would listen to whatever he says and bet on the other side.

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. In this case Mueller is simply reiterating the CAFC panel’s strong disagreement with Google’s arguments and Alsup’s decision.

    Alsup indeed makes some silly statements in his ruling, such as comparing APIs to “the organizing system for a library”, and asserting that the latter is not copyrightable. If he had bothered to check, he would find that, for example, the Dewey Decimal Classification system is copyrighted, and you will be sued if you use it without permission.

  215. @Jeff Read:

    If he had bothered to check, he would find that, for example, the Dewey Decimal Classification system is copyrighted, and you will be sued if you use it without permission.

    The only lawsuit I know of was for trademark misuse. I could also see a suit on literal copying of the material, but unless you can provide a cite, I’ll continue to believe that any library can shelve in the dewey manner without fear of litigation.

    FWIW, a lot of them don’t bother any more:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-18/news/ct-met-drop-dewey-20110218_1_dewey-decimal-system-main-library-newer-books

    http://sussex.patch.com/groups/editors-picks/p/libraries-ditching-or-doctoring-the-dewey-decimal-system

    http://www.aasl.ala.org/aaslblog/?p=3461

  216. Greg, existing copyright law treats copyrightable content as property. If it’s property, it can be bought and sold, and restricted. If it can’t, then it’s not property.

    Alpheus, I’m on very public record as opposing software patents in their present form. (I’m not yet convinced there aren’t limited cases where they might be applicable, but we’re far, far beyond that point.) Even so, there’s a difference between patent and copyright protection: patents protect an idea, copyrights protect an expression of an idea. The former must be more strictly limited.

    Open source is wonderful when voluntarily chosen, and where there’s value in the software beyond the software itself (such as in consulting relating to it, etc.) None of those models apply to, say, a jacket in Second Life. How would you propose a creator of Second Life items make a living? Or if your answer is “get a real job”, then why should anyone make anything?

  217. @Jay
    > How would you propose a creator of Second Life items make a living?

    A thought: custom order items i.e. commissions. Bank on their reputation for creating quality content as a brand, and charge a premium for that service. Use a rotating selection of low-cost items that are approved for permissive copying to extend the brand recognition, and advertise heavily the designer service.

    See online comics creators for key examples of this business model. See the soon-to-be-released documentary “Stripped” and how old newspaper comics folk seem confused how the “kids” are making money giving their content away for “free.”

    Content creators get paid for creating content. When I buy a movie at the store, I’m (ideally) paying for a copy of the content, not for that content’s creation, which has (also ideally) already been paid for. The current, dominant business model is to leverage a premium on the cost of copies of the content to offset the original creation costs. This worked when copies could only be manufactured at centralized locations and distributed on physical media. The main problem that model now faces is that copies of digital data have epsilon cost to manufacture, and can be done by anyone with a computer.

    I’m with Patrick on this one. Data piracy may be an ethically, morally, and legally murky swamp, but using reactionary words like “theft” is subtly and deeply damaging, and empowers dark forces.

  218. Basic economic theory states that the equilibrium price of a good is its marginal reproduction cost.

    Copyright law etc. is a (desperate) attempt to use the force of the state to drive up the marginal cost of reproduction and create an artificial scarceness. Note that 99% of content creators do not get paid from copyright proceeds. They get their income from performances. All the money stays with the publishers.

  219. “Open source is wonderful when voluntarily chosen, and where there’s value in the software beyond the software itself (such as in consulting relating to it, etc.) None of those models apply to, say, a jacket in Second Life. How would you propose a creator of Second Life items make a living? Or if your answer is “get a real job”, then why should anyone make anything?”

    The funny thing is, even /with/ the copyright regime, if you want to make a living in writing or art, you have to start with a “real” job to support yourself, or go into debt getting an education and some training, or both, and then get really good at what you do. Once you’re good at what you do, you’re in a position to set up a fan base–and then you’re in a better position to sell books if you’re a writer (and you’ll have First Mover advantage with your books, even if everyone wants to copy them, and your fan base will have motivation to support you financially) or if you’re a musician, you’ll be able to draw crowds to concerts.

    When Linus Torvolds set out to write a kernel, he wasn’t out to become the leader of the arguably most important OS kernel in the world. He merely wanted to learn 386 Assembler programming, and invited others along for the ride…the profits from that endeavor came much later, and only somewhat indirectly at that! And I suspect that, if there’s one “true” motivation of creators, it is something like this.

    Even today, though, few writers are fortunate enough to support themselves via writing (and cutting out the publisher middle-man will likely help writers get more profit per work, if their work is worthy of sale), and most musicians make their money via live performances (those wily music studios are very good at making sure most CDs are sold at a “loss”).

    As for creators of Second Life items making a living, I don’t really know at all. I have no idea what Second Life is like. But I don’t see why First Mover advantage doesn’t exist; nor do I see myself making a living at Second Life, copyrights or not, simply because I do not have the experience to create things that Second Life people would be interested in buying.

    If copyrights disappeared overnight, I doubt that much of anything will change. Perhaps movie studios, music studios, and publishers will lose out on some profit–particularly if they don’t change their business models!–but that seems to be happening anyway, with copyrights.

  220. >And to think that artists used to have to pay radio stations to play their stuff. There is a real tension between developing demand and exploiting the developed demand. That’s why suing girl scouts for singing your song is ludicrous. You can’t simultaneously say “this is great — make it part of your culture” and then expect to extract rent for every single instance. Or maybe you can, but not in a society I’d want to live in.

    Yes. For some reason “Do not bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain” comes to mind. Publicity is good for an artist, if they’re any good as an artist. On a related note there’s the experience of the Baen Free Library. Here is something the Free Library’s initiator (an author and, heaven help us, Trotskyite) wrote about the subject.

    http://www.baen.com/library/prime_palaver6.asp

    Oddly enough, he found that making high quality, DRM-free copies of his books available on the Internet had if anything, a positive effect on his sales.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baen_Free_Library

    Has some useful links to other essays Flint has written on the topic.

  221. I’ll add – when a Biblical quotation and a Trotskyite are able to school you on fair use and personal liberty, respectively, your cause is probably not a good one.

  222. >(an author and, heaven help us, Trotskyite)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Eric Flint, for all he labels himself a Marxist, thinks far less like a typical one than the hundreds of thousands of Gramscian-damage cases infesting American politics who would sincerely deny being Marxists if you asked them.

  223. I find it humorous that folks on net seem to expect that folks won’t actually follow the links they provide to support their position to see if it actually supports that position.

    Here is what Eric Flint wrote in one of the referenced writings:

    “ERIC’S RESPONSE:

    I don’t know the details of the case you’re talking about, but I’m wondering if what was involved is that the site did not ask Niven’s permission. If so, then he has my blessing. You should not misunderstand my position. My books belong to me, not to anyone who chooses to steal them. And theft does not stop being theft simply because technology makes it easy. What would you think if I advanced the proposition that we should eliminate the concept of “murder” because some poisons are undetectable? Or that rape using drugs is not “really” rape because the victim doesn’t remember it?

    Bah. These are the sophistries of villains, as Heinlein once put it.

    My books are the product of MY labor, not yours or anyone else. If I choose, as I did with the Free Library, to donate them for free public use, that’s one thing. If someone else chooses, without my permission, to make a pirate copy of them that’s another thing entirely. Mind you, in practice I probably wouldn’t bother to do anything about it unless the site involved was trying to make money from selling my work. But the moral issue is unequivocal. I have nothing but contempt for the “information wants to be free” bullshit. That’s the prattle of ignorant juvenile delinquents (who don’t, as a rule, even have the excuse of being juveniles).”

    Seems to me that this Trotskyite uses the words steal and theft in response to piracy.

    Baen gives some number of older titles away and has reasonable prices for ebooks. Thus piracy of Baen titles is lower and sales higher. This is a better strategy of deterring theft than DRM.

    Maybe your position is not the good one?

    If you want to do bible study we can but first show that pirates are oxen and not vermin.

  224. @Nigel:

    The actions of the man show that his heart and brain are both in the right place.

    The rhetoric of the man is over-the-top. Hyperbolic. Even you can probably tell, if you stare long enough. Hint — how are copyright violations like murder and rape?

    People get that way. I get it. He’s defending his livelihood. OTOH, when we’re not speaking hyperbolically, I still think it would behoove us to not conflate theft and copyright violations. But you knew that, otherwise, you wouldn’t keep bringing up stupid shit like this to show that I’m completely wrong.

    > Maybe your position is not the good one?

    No, I am as convinced it is the correct one as you are convinced that I am wrong.

  225. . But you knew that, otherwise, you wouldn’t keep bringing up stupid shit like this to show that I’m completely wrong.

    Did you link to Eric Flint? No? Did you reference Deuteronomy? No? Did I quote you? No? Is your name Greg? No? Then I shall reiterate: it ain’t always about you.

  226. No, it’s never about me.

    But it must hurt when Greg agrees with me, and then you disagree with Greg based on a strawman so flimsy that you have to prop him up until Greg comes to knock him over.

    But I’ll shut up now and let Greg touch your precious strawman with his pinky.

  227. No, it’s never about me.

    But it must hurt when Greg agrees with me, and then you disagree with Greg based on a strawman so flimsy that you have to prop him up until Greg comes to knock him over.

    Is there a reason you are behaving like some kind of jealous lover? Because it’s weird.

    No, it doesn’t “hurt” me that Greg agrees with you. I’m sure he’s cool and all but I have no idea who he is so I have no idea why you’d think it matters at all to me that he agrees with you. As I posted I find it amusing when folks link to something that supports the opposite of their opinion. I’ve done it by accident before as well. And that’s not a straw man, that’s simply then internet.

    Greg is correct that Baen has done quite well with their ebook strategy but that doesn’t mean that they are all hunky dory with people stealing their books. I view it as good business sense. Just like iTunes reduces music theft by providing goods at a fair price (and no, that is not the marginal cost of reproduction) and makes it easier to do the right thing than pirating.

    But it’s still up to the content owner to be smart. They can rail against the wind with DRM but in my opinion that only hurts honest customers and deters piracy not at all.

    And no, I don’t really care that you dislike it when I say “stealing”. My calling a spade a spade does not enable RIAA stormtroopers to frog march hapless girls scouts into FEMA death camps. Folks who take stuff that isn’t theirs is stealing. And most folks are smart enough to distinguish the difference between stealing a candy bar or song and stealing a car.

  228. When I try to be subtle, it comes off like I’m a jealous lover? Interesting. Perhaps that’s why I usually don’t bother.

    Let me try again:

    Did you link to Eric Flint? No? Did you reference Deuteronomy? No? Did I quote you? No? Is your name Greg? No? Then I shall reiterate: it ain’t always about you.

    1) When you attack a position I hold, which I have previously expressed and you know I hold, I will defend it. Because it’s not always about you, either — you don’t get to make everybody sit down and shut up when it suits you.

    2) You’re being more dickhead-ish than usual, asshole.

    Clear enough?

  229. I may have “attacked a position you hold” but I didn’t make that post “to show that you are completely wrong”. I wasn’t even thinking about you.

    Patrick, I don’t associate you with the positions you hold whether I agree or disagree with them. I’m not out to get you or embarrass you or whatever. Just like Greg, I assume that you are a cool person that I may or may not agree with about certain issues.

    I’m giving Greg a bit of a hard time but it’s deserved given the link. I assume folks here are not thin skinned and will give as good as they get. Especially if they screw up. Few folks here are stupid and if you hand someone an opening expect to take the hit.

    Positions are just that. Positions. And people change them all the time. Besides, as you said before, we don’t even disagree all that much except on word use.

    But seriously, I wasn’t thinking about you at all when I made that post and I’m surprised that you took it so personal. If you go back and re-read your responses from my perspective it’s just weird that you thought I was personally attacking you when I was actually giving Greg grief.

    Sorry to be dickishly sarcastic in response to that but it hasn’t been a particularly good day at all. I don’t really need you jumping my shit for some imagined slight I didn’t make.

    Clear enough asshole? ;)

  230. @jsk (and you too Patrick)

    “Data piracy may be an ethically, morally, and legally murky swamp, but using reactionary words like “theft” is subtly and deeply damaging, and empowers dark forces.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy that.

    You don’t get to force me to use terms you want like RMS attempts to do. Using the word “theft” to describe taking something you don’t own is common usage, not “reactionary”, nor even necessarily a legal assessment, and does not enable dark forces.

    Erik Flint is not enabling dark forces (oooooohhoo) when he says it’s stealing. Neither is Jay and neither am I.

    It’s not a murky swamp at all. Take any reasonably brought up 5 year old and ask the following questions:

    Q: Was what you took yours?
    A: no.

    Q: did the owner give you permission to take that?
    A: no.

    Q: and what is that called?
    A: borrowing?

    Q:
    A: stealing.

    If you are teaching your 5 year old otherwise, well, it’s your kid.

    You can claim that you aren’t hurting the owner or the owner was evil for attempting to collect rent or whatever but it’s still taking something that’s not yours to take.

    And there’s a common English word for that.

  231. @Nigel:

    I may have “attacked a position you hold” but I didn’t make that post “to show that you are completely wrong”. I wasn’t even thinking about you.

    That’s fine. But when I hold a position and am active in a debate, sometimes I feel, rightly or wrongly, that if I don’t respond to an attack on the position, other readers may feel that I have admitted the correctness of the attack.

    Patrick, I don’t associate you with the positions you hold whether I agree or disagree with them. I’m not out to get you or embarrass you or whatever. Just like Greg, I assume that you are a cool person that I may or may not agree with about certain issues.

    I’m glad you feel I there’s a chance I might be cool (can I say the same about you without striking the wrong tone again? lol), but honestly it takes a lot more than that to embarrass me.

    You don’t get to force me to use terms you want like RMS attempts to do.

    I’m not trying to force anything. I am trying to influence. I realize it might not be you I’m influencing. That’s fine, and part of the point. It’s not really about either of us.

    And there’s a common English word for that.

    Are girl scouts stealing when they sing around the campfire without paying royalties?
    If not, where is the line? Why is it there and not somewhere else?

    FWIW, when my girls were 5 we were having a lot more nuanced conversations than that Q&A. OTOH, the teacher at my eldest’s mother’s day out pre-K program told my wife that my daughter was “a 40 year old trapped in the body of a 4 year old.”

  232. Using the word “theft” to describe taking something you don’t own is common usage

    And begging the question, because the objection is that making a copy of something is a fundamentally different act from depriving the holder of it.

  233. My three daughters have long been (since maybe age 10 and now my oldest is 18) on Nigel’s side of this issue, whereas I am more on Jessica’s “no intellectual property” side. Weirdly, this is because I find their struggles with fair use more onerous than they do. This is a hint I may be totally wrong. They like creating and consuming things like fan-music, fan-fiction, fan-games and fan-art. I say that if you want to be in the conversation you have to let others speak, and not try to control your brand / idea.

    And I think people are full of it when they says things won’t be created. There is an explosion of creativity out there because of love not money. Some of the My Little Pony fan music is stunning. This twenty year old guy guy Radiarc is writing smashing symphonic stuff using open source tools.

    http://bronymusiciandirectory.blogspot.com/2012/10/radiarc.html

    Yours,
    Tom

  234. @Nigel
    “Using the word “theft” to describe taking something you don’t own is common usage, not “reactionary”, nor even necessarily a legal assessment, and does not enable dark forces. ”

    The problem is at two points:

    Theft is historically used to designate depriving another person from an object that is rightfully his by moving it out of his reach. It has been expanded metaphorically to include appropriating valuable immaterial rights, say to land. But a metaphor about rights does not translate into legal rights.

    The concept of “owning” things other than (mostly moveable) material objects is a metaphor itself. The idea that you can own a “song” to the extend that I am not allowed to sing it without your permission, is ridiculous to 99.9% of humans and even more over history.

    If you look outside of your jurisdiction, you will find that the idea of “ownership” depend on culture and time. There is no consensus over time and place about what can be “owned”, who can “own” it, and what rights are given to the owners.

    There is a nice discussion about this in “Debt, the first 5000 years” by David Graeber.

  235. If the only things you can steal are tangible/movable material objects then can someone steal your place in line? Or steal your idea for a new project with the boss because he overheard you talking with a co-worker? Or steal the credit for the work you did on a project?

    Folks that assert that you cannot use “steal” to describe taking something you don’t own, tangible or not, even through pretty much everyone uses this term colloquially (in English anyway) reminds me of folks that assert that you cannot call software that costs no money “free software” because it would make RMS cry and enable dark forces (presumably Microsoft and Apple).

  236. @nht Nice strawman you have there. The distinction isn’t necessarily between tangible and intangible so much as exclusive and non-exclusive. A line position and credit for work done are both exclusive goods, and plenty would argue that the use of “steal” applied to ideas doesn’t reflect reality.

  237. @Nigel:

    If the only things you can steal are tangible/movable material objects then can someone steal your place in line?

    So if someone cuts in line in front of you, the first thought that comes to mind is “theft” and your first utterance will be “STOP! THIEF!!!”

    Or steal your idea for a new project with the boss because he overheard you talking with a co-worker? Or steal the credit for the work you did on a project?

    As far as I know, there is no coalition of disgruntled doormat office workers working diligently to make these crimes. If there were, then yes, I would argue that calling such things theft plays into their hands. But the entire reason that “stealing credit” is a euphemism is everybody knows that “credit” in this context is not something that you would get directly paid for anyway. And if you told a friend “John told my boss my idea”, your friend might say “Stole your credit, eh?” but he probably wouldn’t say “That’s STEALING!!!”

    On the other hand, getting back to my assertion that this is a continuum here, industrial espionage, like commercial copyright violation, is a crime, and “theft of trade secrets” is a thing. But not when your co-worker down the hall sells your secret to your boss for political favors.

    FWIW, if your boss really doesn’t know the score, you should get a new one in any case. The ability to be regularly fooled by credit stealers is indicative of worse problems that won’t help you out at all in the future.

  238. @Christopher Smith:

    The distinction isn’t necessarily between tangible and intangible so much as exclusive and non-exclusive.

    Yeah, I thought I put that to bed here, but since it was a response to Jeff Read, Nigel’s eyes probably glazed over.

  239. I’ve got to agree with Nigel here on a purely intuitive linguistic basis by someone who knows almost nothing about linguistics. This is not an Orwellian redefinition of the word “steal”. This appears to my ignorant eyes as a normal linguistic coalescence of a word around an idea. Could we confine ourselves to calling out actual Orwellian redefinitions, like tolerance that is actually rigidly intolerant? Otherwise you are fighting human nature in a way it strongly resists being fought. This might might be resisting human nature in as difficult a way as building a space elevator to resist the natural problems of living in a gravity well.

    Yours,
    Tom

  240. @patrick “Yeah, I thought I put that to bed here, but since it was a response to Jeff Read, Nigel’s eyes probably glazed over.”

    Winter evidently didn’t get the memo. Did you guys jump in correct him when he wrote

    “Theft is historically used to designate depriving another person from an object that is rightfully his by moving it out of his reach.”

    “And if you told a friend “John told my boss my idea”, your friend might say “Stole your credit, eh?” but he probably wouldn’t say “That’s STEALING!!!””

    Except that he just did. What does stole your credit mean otherwise? Why use the word “stole”? Normal folks don’t say “Violated your IP, eh?”

    And did my friend just enable dark forces by saying that John stole me credit?

  241. “Nice strawman you have there. The distinction isn’t necessarily between tangible and intangible so much as exclusive and non-exclusive. A line position and credit for work done are both exclusive goods, and plenty would argue that the use of “steal” applied to ideas doesn’t reflect reality.”

    Plenty seem to use the words to describe exactly that activity.

    Perhaps I simply don’t know what “steal” means. Here are three quick dictionary searches. I’m going to assume you will dislike them because in neither Dictionary.com nor Google nor Miram-Webster does it mention exclusivity as a requirement for theft.

    So perhaps you want to provide some dictionary that makes such a distinction before you claim that linking theft to ideas is considered out of touch from reality by most people when it’s part of the definition in all three.

    Dictionary.Com

    steal
    [steel] Show IPA
    verb (used with object), stole, sto·len, steal·ing.
    1. to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force: A pickpocket stole his watch.
    2. to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.
    3. to take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance: He stole my girlfriend.
    4. to move, bring, convey, or put secretly or quietly; smuggle (usually followed by away, from, in, into, etc.): They stole the bicycle into the bedroom to surprise the child.
    5. Baseball. (of a base runner) to gain (a base) without the help of a walk or batted ball, as by running to it during the delivery of a pitch.

    Miram-Webster:

    intransitive verb
    1: to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice
    2: to come or go secretly, unobtrusively, gradually, or unexpectedly
    3: to steal or attempt to steal a base

    transitive verb
    1
    a : to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or make use of wrongfully
    b : to take away by force or unjust means
    c : to take surreptitiously or without permission
    d : to appropriate to oneself or beyond one’s proper share : make oneself the focus of
    2
    a : to move, convey, or introduce secretly : smuggle
    b : to accomplish in a concealed or unobserved manner
    3
    a : to seize, gain, or win by trickery, skill, or daring
    b of a base runner : to reach (a base) safely solely by running and usually catching the opposing team off guard
    — steal·able adjective
    — steal·er noun
    — steal a march on
    : to gain an advantage on unobserved
    — steal one’s thunder
    : to grab attention from another especially by anticipating an idea, plan, or presentation; also : to claim credit for another’s idea

    Google:

    steal
    st?l/
    verb
    verb: steal; 3rd person present: steals; past tense: stole; gerund or present participle: stealing; past participle: stolen

    1. take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.
    “thieves stole her bicycle”
    synonyms: purloin, thieve, take, take for oneself, help oneself to, loot, pilfer, run off with, abscond with, carry off, shoplift; More
    embezzle, misappropriate;
    informalwalk off with, rob, swipe, snatch, nab, rip off, lift, “liberate”, “borrow”, filch, pinch, heist;
    informalnick;
    formalpeculate
    “the burglars stole a fax machine”
    theft, thieving, thievery, robbery, larceny, burglary, shoplifting, pilfering, pilferage, looting, misappropriation;
    embezzlement;
    formalpeculation
    “he was convicted of stealing”
    dishonestly pass off (another person’s ideas) as one’s own.
    “accusations that one group had stolen ideas from the other were soon flying”
    synonyms: plagiarize, copy, pass off as one’s own, pirate, poach, borrow; More
    informalrip off, lift, pinch, crib;
    informalnick
    “his work was stolen by his tutor”
    take the opportunity to give or share (a kiss) when it is not expected or when people are not watching.
    “he was allowed to steal a kiss in the darkness”
    synonyms: snatch, sneak, get stealthily/surreptitiously More
    “he stole a kiss”
    (in various sports) gain (an advantage, a run, or possession of the ball) unexpectedly or by exploiting the temporary distraction of an opponent.
    Baseball
    (of a base runner) advance safely to (the next base) by running to it as the pitcher begins the delivery.
    “Rickey stole third base”
    2. move somewhere quietly or surreptitiously.
    “he stole down to the kitchen”
    synonyms: creep, sneak, slink, slip, slide, glide, tiptoe, sidle, edge More
    “he stole out of the room”
    direct (a look) quickly and unobtrusively.
    “he stole a furtive glance at her”

    noun
    noun: steal

    1.
    informal
    a bargain.
    “for $5 it was a steal”
    2.
    an act of stealing something.
    “New York’s biggest art steal”
    an idea taken from another work.
    plural noun: steals
    Baseball
    an act of stealing a base.

  242. @tom “I’ve got to agree with Nigel here on a purely intuitive linguistic basis by someone who knows almost nothing about linguistics. This is not an Orwellian redefinition of the word “steal”. ”

    In fact it is an Orwellian redefinition of the word “steal” to change the common usage of taking something that isn’t yours to it’s okay to take something that isn’t yours if you think the owner isn’t losing an “exclusive good”.

    Just like the reason some folks wish to invert/narrow the definition of “free”.

  243. I am an anti-IP guy, and Nigel is winning this argument about words. You all know very well that people are very possessive about their thoughts and ideas. The word steal is natural.

    Yours,
    Tom

  244. @nht: I note that you’re still ignoring the very distinction between taking and replicating, which is fundamental.

    @Tom: I deny that the word steal is “natural” in any meaningful sense. I’ll quickly agree that distorted public discourse has led many people to develop irrational possessive tendencies about their own idea, but they also copy “respectable” journalists in crediting job creation to politicians.

  245. @Nigel, @Tom:

    Your most recent comments made me realize that this argument got seriously derailed, and I didn’t even notice it, because of standard word usage.

    There is no question that “steal” is often used hyperbolically, and I am guilty of inconsistency and following the word choices of others, partly through laziness but mostly because “steal” is the normal transitive verb used for the act of theft.

    But my original argument, which I stand by, and originally tried (and obviously subsequently failed) to be consistent about maintaining, was about the word “thieves”, particularly because of its relationship to the word “theft.”

    Although they bleed into each other, both out in the real world and here, in my experience, “theft” is not usually used as hyperbolically as “steal”, so when someone uses “theft” it is more likely a legal and/or really serious judgement. “Thief” or “thieves” is somewhere in the middle, but when someone refers to a “merry band of thieves” it is usually clear from the context whether they are serious or not.

    To accuse someone of “stealing” something is quite often not bad — great artists steal — but to accuse someone of being a thief usually is, and the act of theft is almost always a serious offense.

    Obviously, even “theft” is deliberately used inaccurately from time to time, but that is almost always crystal-clear from the context.

    I don’t think “they stole my code” or “they stole my song” moves the Overton window much, if at all, but I think that, repeated often enough, “copyright violation is theft” probably will. FWIW, Google shows 680M hits for “steal”, 85M hits for “theft”, 36M hits for “thief”, and 16M hits for “thieves”.

  246. I note that you’re still ignoring the very distinction between taking and replicating, which is fundamental.

    The definition of the word does not include this distinction. Therefore it cannot be fundamental.

    Given that the definitions provided include stealing ideas which can only be replicated then the assertion that applying the term steal to IP is somehow out of the mainstream use of the word is wrong.

    It’s not your work. If the creator wishes to give it away great. If not then you are taking/copying it without permission.

  247. “theft” is not usually used as hyperbolically as “steal”, so when someone uses “theft” it is more likely a legal and/or really serious judgement.

    @patrick

    This is fine since theft/larceny is a legal term that distinguishes between different kinds of stealing. Theft isn’t burglary which isn’t robbery. Infringement isn’t legally theft. As to whether it is a more serious judgement depends on the context, society and language.

    You are on far more solid ground here in terms of correcting word use vs the generic term stealing. Just like it is far more reasonable to assert that zero cost proprietary software isn’t open source software vs isn’t free software. It sure as hell is free. They aren’t charging me money. Likewise software piracy isn’t theft but it is stealing.

    If you also dislike the term piracy to describe infringement, well, it’s been called that for 400 years. That ship has long since sailed.

  248. Regarding replication vs taking. Both cause harm and deprives the owner of something of value. Bootleg (aka replicated) Coach bags deprive Coach of both revenue and reputation. Bootlegs are often of inferior quality and can impact the manufacturer’s reputation. And the buyer, if unaware it is a bootleg, is harmed by getting an inferior product.

    Digital media can be impacted in the same way. A bootlegged (aka replicated) android app can have a harmful a payload added and sold for less or given away. This harms the app writer’s income and reputation if everyone starts associating their app with a virus and stops buying it.

    So, replication vs taking isn’t central at all to me for the concept of stealing or harm or the morality of these acts.

  249. @Nigel:

    If you also dislike the term piracy to describe infringement, well, it’s been called that for 400 years. That ship has long since sailed.

    I think it’s perfectly fine.

    Regarding replication vs taking. Both cause harm and deprives the owner of something of value.

    Have you never, in any area of you life, seen or heard something you liked and then made a reasonable facsimile of it?

  250. >I’m giving Greg a bit of a hard time but it’s deserved given the link. I assume folks here are not thin skinned and will give as good as they get. Especially if they screw up. Few folks here are stupid and if you hand someone an opening expect to take the hit.

    Who knew I was such a celebrity? lol

    For such smart people, you are remarkably unable to put things in context. Patrick made a point about acknowledging the tradeoff between publicizing and monetizing copyrighted works, but offering the opinion that brutally strict copyright enforcement was a nasty thing he disapproved of. Baen’s experience with the Free Library is that maybe its not so much a tradeoff as you might think, that activity that some of you would call ‘theft’ (the use of copyright materials without payment or license) can benefit sales, (how’s THAT for a deprivation?) which would severely weaken the position of the like of the RIAA.

    Was that so difficult? Some of you people need to get a room, the tension is thick.

  251. @Nigel:

    Bootlegs are often of inferior quality and can impact the manufacturer’s reputation. And the buyer, if unaware it is a bootleg, is harmed by getting an inferior product.

    But you realize that this is perfectly adequately covered by completely separate laws than copyright, right?

  252. But you realize that this is perfectly adequately covered by completely separate laws than copyright, right?

    For Coach bags I presume trademark and design patents. For apps and music then copyright is applicable.

  253. Baen’s experience with the Free Library is that maybe its not so much a tradeoff as you might think, that activity that some of you would call ‘theft’ (the use of copyright materials without payment or license) can benefit sales, (how’s THAT for a deprivation?) which would severely weaken the position of the like of the RIAA.

    And yet Flint calls it stealing. The point is the author is free to give away his work in which case it is bot stealing. If the author does not then it IS stealing in his opinion. Therefor he and presumably Baen books in general disagrees with your position.

  254. >And yet Flint calls it stealing. The point is the author is free to give away his work in which case it is bot stealing. If the author does not then it IS stealing in his opinion. Therefor he and presumably Baen books in general disagrees with your position.

    He is free to call it anything he likes. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, whether or not I agree with it. (There’s also the minor matter of always phrasing things in the language of those you are trying to convince, but that’s an unimportant tangent.)

    You don’t seem to know my position, as you keep responding to things other than what I am actually saying. The Baen piece quite nicely supports me in my disagreement with Jay over the issue of ‘deprivation’, as well as to support Patrick in his assertion that prosecuting girl scout campfire girls is lunacy (as well as apparently self-defeating).

    Important: He can call it theft, even when offering data that supports the stance of not treating it as theft. It’s the data that matters. Playing ‘gotcha’ games with someone who isn’t actually following the argument is annoying.

  255. @Nigel:

    Bootlegs are often of inferior quality and can impact the manufacturer’s reputation. And the buyer, if unaware it is a bootleg, is harmed by getting an inferior product.

    But you realize that this is perfectly adequately covered by completely separate laws than copyright, right?

    For Coach bags I presume trademark and design patents. For apps and music then copyright is applicable.

    The Lanham Act is broadly written and should apply to any inferior product passed off as the original, whether that product is a physical good or a bitstream.

  256. Important: He can call it theft, even when offering data that supports the stance of not treating it as theft.

    Except the data does no such thing. It shows that providing limited free content to stimulate sales of other works of the author is effective. Not the unrestricted free access is good as you seem to want to state. If that were true then baen would release their entire catalog on the free library. Clearly the assertion that piracy/free access is a positive for authors and has no harmful effects is not supported by the data in Baen’s eyes.

    All you’ve shown is that data can be misrepresented to support any position.

  257. >Except the data does no such thing. It shows that providing limited free content to stimulate sales of other works of the author is effective.

    That is sufficient. Funny how you can agree well enough with the essential point I’m trying to make, as if you feel that contradicts me. This point is important, as it actually blows Jay up, see below. (You have a history of that not-actually-a-contradiction, it seems to suggest something.)

    >Not the unrestricted free access is good as you seem to want to state.

    Stop with the strawmen already. (You do that too.)

    >All you’ve shown is that data can be misrepresented to support any position.

    Context again. During my earlier back and forth with Jay, he made several claims. Normally when you claim something the burden of proof falls on you, not the other guy. Anyway, those claims, if true, would have consequences in the real world, testable predictions.

    I’ll be quite explicit to avoid the usual misreading and strawman- Baen’s actual real world experience with the Free Library contradicts and falsifies Jay’s claims and predictions. I’ll repeat myself because you seem to have missed it last time – *somehow*, people committing acts that Jay would label as theft (use of copyrighted material without paying) did not cause a deprivation for the creator of said content, but somehow, through some completely inexplicable (sarcasm) mechanism resulted in financial benefit to the creator. If reality contradicts your model, something is wrong with your model.

    Existing copyright law may not be perfect or make everyone happy, but just because something is imperfect doesn’t mean you can’t make it worse. What the content cartels are pushing (dare I call them the Kopyright Kops, or does that make them sound too harmless?) is change yes, but not for the better.

  258. I’ll repeat myself because you seem to have missed it last time – *somehow*, people committing acts that Jay would label as theft (use of copyrighted material without paying) did not cause a deprivation for the creator of said content, but somehow, through some completely inexplicable (sarcasm) mechanism resulted in financial benefit to the creator.

    I didn’t miss it. I just disagree. Again, there is a difference between a controlled release as part of a business strategy and wholesale, undesired, access to all your content.

    If what you state is true (free release = greater financial benefit) the would Baen not have released their entire catalog as part of the Baen Free Library? If that “real world experience” was compelling then they would be irresponsible not to do so.

    They do not, so your conclusion is very suspect and you have not disproved Jay’s assertion as much as supported it. The most liberal ebook publisher a) calls unauthorized copying stealing and b) does not release their content for free duplication except for a small portion of their back catalog.

    Further, the assertion that a Trotskyite “schooled” Jay “on fair use and liberty” is clearly false. If anyone was “schooled” it was the person who made that statement before insuring he made sure he knew what the Trotskyite wrote in the very links he himself provided.

    If you’re going to take a cheap shot you best have your ducks in a row.

  259. Yet another reason why C should be considered too dangerous to use as a general systems programming language:

    The Heartbleed bug.

    Basically it means that SSL, isn’t.

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