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Re: gpl licensing

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: gpl licensing
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 00:56:28 +0100

On Tue, 05 Dec 2006 22:19:39 +0000
Rui Miguel Silva Seabra <> wrote:

> Ter, 2006-12-05 às 22:21 +0100, Stefaan A Eeckels escreveu:
> > On Tue, 05 Dec 2006 14:48:46 +0000
> > Rui Miguel Silva Seabra <> wrote:
> > 
> > > A government GRANTED and TEMPORARY MONOPOLY right is not property.
> > 
> > So land cannot be property by your definition.
> When you buy a piece of land, does it say your contract that it
> becomes public property after 20 years (as in patents)? 90 years
> after you die (as in copyright in the US)?
> That's bullshit, what you just implied.

It's not - when you purchase a piece of land the community as
represented by the government gives you a monopoly on the use of the
land (a limited monopoly, for you in all likelihood do not have the
mineral rights). You can now decide what to do with the land, and stop
others from growing corn, or building houses. The deeds prove it's your
land, and you can ask the government to enforce your rights (like
having the police remove illegal occupants etc.)

> > > You can say there's "enough similar" characteristics, but there
> > > are also many "totally dissimilar" characteristics so it can't be
> > > like property.
> > 
> > There are quite a lot of differences between real estate and stocks,
> > but no-one questions that both are property. 
> Stocks represent a portion of a company's perceived market value.
> Stock exchange is like bingo but with a slightly bigger suicide rate.
> Stocks aren't property either. You own a portion of a company, but
> it's not property.

Well, it's not real estate, but I can assure you that the SICAVs
(shares in a trust company here in Luxembourg) I bought are my property.
I can sell them, use them as collateral, etc. The digits on my bank
account and the Euros in my pocket are also my property, and just like
shares they are mere tokens - representations of intangible value.
Believe you me, all this is "property".
> > > Immateriality, duplicability at (marginally) zero cost, non
> > > scarse, etc...
> > 
> > Stocks can be duplicated.
> Haha. That would be the instant death of stock exchange markets, which
> is strongly based on scarcity and perceived value of the item subject
> to scarcity. 

Indeed - and this is exactly what copyrights and patents try to achieve
for creative works and inventive devices. But you'll have to agree that
stock certificates _can_ be duplicated. And money _can_ be duplicated
as well (we try and make it as difficult as possible of course). The
fact that something _can_ be duplicated for far less than the value it
represents is not an argument for it not having value.

> >  Water isn't exactly scarce on this planet,
> > but people can own springs.
> People own the land that has springs, and as consequence they have the
> right to explore their land and what is on their land. They don't own
> *springs*.

Go and tell that to Vittel, or Perrier. 

> >  And mind you, good software is hard to
> > find. Copies of good and bad software is something else, but the
> > copies do not make the software - people do. And while they are
> > creating software (good and bad) they have to buy food, and pay for
> > lodging. So one way or another, software has to be something that
> > pays for food, but that does not mean it should be packaged as a
> > cereal.
> Drink a glass of water, and it's gone. It's no longer a glass of water
> but part of you.
> Now, when you copy digital content, what happened to the original? Did
> it disappear? No, it's exactly as it was before being copied.

When you copy a stock certificate it does not disappear either. And
just as a piece of software it represents the work of people. If you
work for a year on the creation of a program (mind you, you're not paid
for that software, you just sit down and write the next Visicalc), you
have invested money in that program. Or that novel, for all I care.
That software is what you have to show for a year's work, like the
salary you get paid for a year's slog in the factory, or the wheat
harvested by the farmer.

Everything that we like people to do for us - from growing food to
playing music - has a value. If we want people to write software, we
either have to employ them, or to pay them for a cereal box like thing
that happens to contain a CD with a copy of the software. 
> You can keep copying, that "spring" will never dry out.

It will - if you reduce the value of software to zero, no-one will
write it. That is the spring - people writing software, not the
original CD from which you're so happily copying.

> > It's all about conventions. If we, as society, accept that something
> > (and it doesn't matter what that something is) can be owned, it
> > becomes property. Slaves were property not because of some inherent
> > characteristic, but because society considered them property. 
> Well, I don't accept terms which are being force-fed into our
> collective mouths, in a fierce attempt to make it an accepted
> convention.

That is your right. But it does not mean that there are specific
characteristics that make something "property", and other things not.
It is the value we attach to things that makes them worth owning. 

> > Now it is true that once recorded on a computer medium, software
> > (but also novels, music, pictures etc) can easily be duplicated at
> > near zero cost. That does not matter as long as there is a
> > consensus that these things should be considered property.
> There's another thing: the greater (but near to) than zero cost is in
> over 90% on the side of the receiver.


> > Some people do not believe that real estate (or certainly land)
> > should be considered property. Some people consider that companies
> > should not be property. What matters is what is accepted by a
> > majority of people.
> I don't understand what you mean, you don't really *own* a company,
> but a set of things that effectively are the company: the trademarks,
> the license to operate, a legally minimum value, shares if you're
> playing stock exchange, etc.

Yes. And I can own that. Meaning that I can buy it, sell it, close it,
etc. all within the limits of the rights granted to me by society.

> A "Company" is a largely immaterial thing, that exists only insofar as
> it's components exist. You can make a company disappear.
> Ten acres of land can't disappear (except if you actually destroy the
> whole world but that's a moot point), even though you can burn the
> surface down completely, the land you owned is still there.

By that token you can only own land, as almost anything else can be

> But it's probably worth less.

Or more - you might not have to pay for demolishing the buildings :)

> What you mean by "majority" of people is actually a very deep-pocketed
> minority. It seems not even the sons of MPAA's CEOs find anything
> wrong about downloading stuff from P2P networks (except that now they
> know they have to hide it from their father -- likely after the
> beating).[1]

No. The majority of people do accept that one has the right to benefit
from one's work. If you want to take the risk to produce a program, you
should have the right to try and sell it without having others copying
it because it happens to be easy to copy. No-one is forced to buy it,
but arguing that because a CD is easy to copy the contents do not
represent the labour of the programmer is simply dishonest.

> So bohoo. You're a troll.

For not towing the party line?

Stefaan A Eeckels
People don't ask for facts in making up their minds.  They would rather
have one good soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.

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