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Re: gpl licensing

From: Stefaan A Eeckels
Subject: Re: gpl licensing
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 13:02:03 +0100

On Wed, 06 Dec 2006 08:59:12 +0000
Rui Miguel Silva Seabra <> wrote:

> Ter, 2006-12-05 às 18:49 -0600, John Hasler escreveu:
> > Rui Miguel Silva wrote:
> > > When you buy a piece of land, does it say your contract that it
> > > becomes public property after 20 years (as in patents)?
> > 
> > I can buy a lease on a piece of land that expires after 20 years.
> > Nonetheless, the law recognizes that lease as property.
> The lease, not the land.

Of course, that would then only prove that intangibles, like the lease,
can be owned, and hence are property.

I believe that the crux of the matter is that more and more of our
economic activity has become intangible. We've become very efficient
at producing food - barely a few percent of the population in Europe
and the USA. Even if you take the services to the farming community
into consideration (producing tractors and other farming implements,
veterinary services etc.) the fact remains that we have to find gainful
employment for 90% of the population. Add to that the increase in
productivity of all manufacturing processes, and it's not difficult to
see that we need a lot of new things to keep people gainfully employed. 

Some of these things are material objects, such as cell 'phones, but
even more of them are services. Almost all of them are in the category
"nice to have" - people can survive quite well without texting, or
emailing, or GPS devices. 

The challenge for a society is to maintain a social structure that
motivates people. Once you've put the food production of millions of
people in the hands of a few tens of thousand, you need to make sure
that they find value and motivation in what society offers them.
Whether that is culture or cars, fancy clothes or holidays on tropical
isles - society has to motivate enough people to produce what it needs
to survive, or face extinction. 

This means that somehow intangible "values" (such as sitting in
meetings or playing a gig) have to be valued as much as a loaf of bread,
or a steak. That way, we can all happily work at things we're good at,
whilst acquiring tokens (money) that allow us buy food, clothes,
lodging and all the objects and services that motivate us. 

Software, recorded music, books, movies etc. all can be reproduced
cheaply and easily, but are expensive to produce (have you ever
considered how many people are involved in making a movie?). If you
make it impossible for people to recoup the costs of producing the
movie, because it's easy and cheap to copy a DVD, and the DVD is still
there after you've copied it, how are you going to motivate people to
pony up the money to pay wages to a film crew, set creators, costume
designers, caterers etc?

This is why intangibles have to be property of sorts - because
ultimately you will have to exchange them for food or clothes. The
alternative is that only land will have real value. Welcome to the
middle ages. 

Of course the system is no longer well adapted to the current
technological and social circumstances. Patents, for example, are still
quite effective when the players are of equal size. The knowledge they
contain becomes "public" and cross-license deals are signed. What they
do not allow is smaller players to challenge the big ones. But don't
forget that there were no really "large" (by today's standards)
companies when the patent system was designed. So to a degree it still
works as designed, and it's hard to fault a system for not catering
for situations and technologies its designers could not even dream of.

So let's work at designing a better system - better adapted to our
needs and technologies. But make sure that system supports the large
majority of people who create nothing but intangibles, or you'd better
buy yourself a nice, large, fertile plot, and lots of weapons to defend
your property, because those of us who are left will be back to farming
and fighting.

Take care,

Stefaan A Eeckels
"I don't understand that attitude.  Don't we want email that has dancing
 bears, cute little videos, musical tunes, animated waving hands, sixty
 fonts, and looks like it's been done with crayolas? Good grief, man,
 think like a three year old!"     -- Norm Reitzel discussing HTML email

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