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Re: [dvd-discuss] Gedanken Experiment -Unix and Norton

Jeme A Brelin wrote:

> Uh, software patents are allowed today and there is STILL very little
> published source code.

yes and no.  With the USSC finding that "algorithm" are facts of nature,
I can't think of anyone outside of the OSS movement that feel safe with
publishing "the crown jewels".

> > I don't see any other options to encourage disclosure.
> So the ONLY option to encourage disclosure is a further violation of the
> intrinsic freedom of information?  Is that really a reasonable trade in
> your mind?

Is this were I insert "information wants to be anthropomorphized" retort
to the "information wants to be free" argument.  Information is one of
the least carefully quantities throughout human history.  Perhaps this
is because of the inherent "uncontainability" of information -- to me
that doesn't equate to "intrinsic freedom." Think how personal privacy
trades off against "freedom".  "Freedom of information" cannot be
treated as absolute, but as an element traded against other in a policy

> > Having written software for many years, I cannot believe that anything
> > short of patent, or patent like protections of key algorithms would
> > incentivise publication of company source code.
> I worked for years for a fiber optic carrier as a software engineer.  Our
> "incentive" for publishing source code was the thousands of lines of code
> we received from others.  We were enriching a pool from which we draw.

At the same time you do realize that your companies is (1) in the
minority and (2) able function in this way as the software technologies
weren't a competitive advantage of differentiator.

> I understand that the current social model is merely a model of economics
> and scarcity and has NO mechanisms for regulating "externalities" and
> systems of abundance, but that is a good reason for moving beyond the
> current model, not for reducing the abundance of information into the
> artificial scarcity of patent.

Except the result of non-patenting is the "artificial scarcity" of trade
secrets.  You get all the disadvantage of patents (others cannot use the
algorithms) with none of the advantages -- disclosure, potential
availability through licensing or cross licensing, eventual lapse into
the PD.

> Me, I'd argue that they're both evil and our focus should be on bringing
> down this supposed "broad coalition of commercial interests" and making
> the world a truly better place.

I truly don't know how to respond to this.  Aside from the "freedom of
association" and "freedom of speech" issues is the the Who singing "Here
comes the new boss, same as the old process" -- we did the 60's ("And
their kids are hippie chicks, all hypocrites") and got more than our
share of mid-life, yuppies, and burn-outs (the ones who never recovered
from too much "peace, love, dope").  Yeah.  Been there, done that.

Frankly, we all vote with our dollars for many of these "commercial
interests" everyday, and unless we all going to end up on some
self-sufficient "intentional community" they aren't going away because
we keep feeding them.  A good leash, yes.  A return to meaningful
anti-trust enforcement, yes.  "bringing down" -- come on.

> > How is extending patents to software invention any expansion
> > (philosophically) of the current policy of patents for tangible
> > inventions?
> The difference is HUGE!  I think you're failing to understand exactly what
> a patent restricts and exactly how that conflicts with patents on
> non-tangibles.
> A patent restricts not only the use, but the recreation and distribution
> of the patented invention.

This assumes that every listing of the algorithm would be considered an
infringing "making".  Clearly if the algorithm is used (compiled,
interpreted, etc.) this is a "making".  As for listing the algorithm in
an understandable and implementable form, clearly this is a requirement
of the patent itself.  

> You would have to develop some new kind of patent that wasn't published by
> the patent office.  And if it's not published by the patent office, what
> is the trade with the public for the exclusive rights of the inventor?

If you are saying that the patent application would itself infringe the
patent... this is just silly. One cannot grant a "secret patent".  This
is a mere straw man argument.  Rulemaking for these patents could
certainly allow for "non-functional" (or potentially "non-functioning")
distribution of the algorithm as described in the patent.

> A patent on software would restrict the patent office itself from
> redistributing or recreating the piece of code patented and restrict
> members of the public from sharing the patent itself.

I think this assumes facts not in evidence.

> I interpret this to mean that society has progressed beyond the point
> where "for profit" entities are more beneficial than harmful.

As opposed to when?  For profit entities continue to be a vital element
in our civilization -- as the encourage risk taking and experimentation
in ways non-profit orgs and academia do not.  
I make money at my job.  "I am a for-profit entity" (IAAFPE)

> There are those who choose to exploit and encourage public ignorance and
> profit from it (and that is ALL a commercial software company does).

Okay.  I hope this is hyperbole.  Commercial software companies are
certainly not all "ignorance predators". Some are "innovation providers"
(providing functionality not available from our by *anyone* else ) or
"convenience providers" (providing useful functionality for those not
incline or capable of reinvent the wheel or building "Linux from

> Those people are enemies of society and should not be granted special
> protection for their practices.  Instead, their practices should be
> disincentivized and perhaps even punished.

You have now succeeded in scaring me.