defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
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The French government intends to slap a tax of 12 euros on any tablet unless it runs with Windows. One might wonder why France wants to pander Microsoft, but the logic is apparently that anything that is not Windows must be pirated, and that includes Android, Linux and even MacOS. The most bizarre is that a French company, Archos, would be hurt to the benefit of an American company.
There is an interesting article in today's Business Section of the New York Times that asks the question of whether Apple's business culture with respect to the iPhone is taking it down the same path it went down with respect to the Macintosh which saw it eventually lose out to Microsoft in the market for home computing. This question refers, of course, to Apple's culture of control over the market for apps on the iPhone, which is reminiscent of its demands in the 1980's and '90's that application developers wishing to write code for the Macintosh had to apply for and pay for licenses from Apple before Apple would release the necessary application program interface code to the developer.
It would seem natural to conjecture that the openness of the Android operating system could eventually lead to the same kind of market tipping phenomenon that saw the Mac lose out to the PC for business adoption. That said, it isn't clear where the needed network externalities are coming from in this case, since wireless communication technology is pretty standard.
Ashlee Vance writes in today's New York Times Sunday Business section about the problems open source software has with enforcing the agreement of users to publish the source code with the the actual software, so that it can be further developed link here. I don't think the article explained the issue very well; it says only that the agreement with the open source community has been violated.
The point of the open general license is that software which finds new uses or builds on the underlying code and alters it then becomes available to the rest of the open source community. Hopefully, the accumulation of applications will in time be a highly competitive rival to the big profit making software suppliers like Microsoft and Apple. It is also a way to reduce the high cost of profit-seeking software makers that retain their software monopolies for long periods.
The article makes a point that financial penalties for failing to abide by the standard open software agreement have been modest if not nil. This no doubt softens the reluctance of users, as evidence by the rapid spread of such applications to new gadgets that are now pouring into the market.
Finally, the article sends readers to the Linux Foundation for more information; to Hewlett-Packard, which has helped develop a standardized inventory list for software so that companies can keep track of their code and licenses," and to a website, "Gpl-violations.org, an organization named after a popular open-source license, [which] receives an e-mail complaint from someone who suspects that a product may use open-source software without adhering to the rules" and checks it out.
Dear Mr. Bourne,
I've been enjoying your commentary on various Twit network podcasts for a while now. On the recent MacBreak Weekly, I found your exchange with Merlin Mann about open source interesting. I detect a whiff of libertarianism in your remark about the force of the state being used to enforce taxes--which I appreciate, as I'm a libertarian myself. I'm also a patent attorney and have written extensively about why patent and copyright law are anti-free market and unlibertarian (my reasons may be found at The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide, available at http://www.stephankinsella.com/publications/#IP).
You are right, in a way, that the free market will come into play here--but the power of patent and copyright holders is not a free market power. It is an artificial and unjust monopoly given to them by the state, which they then use in the courts to get the force of the state (as with tax collection) to extort money from third parties. So, given this monopoly power, yes, the free market will temper somewhat how much they can extort from people, but still, it's unjust and greatly distorts the market. It also leads to hostility against the free market when people wrongly identify this state monopoly granting practice as part of the free market.
That said, I agree with you that there is no "religious" reason for a given individual or firm to use open source over non-open -- whatever works better and is the better deal for you, of course. And in fact the "open source" model is not without problems: it also relies on copyright, and has insidious aspects -- that's one reason I, as an anti-copyright type, prefer public domain or creative commons attribution only instead of the share-alike/GNU type model (which I explain in Copyright is very sticky!, Eben Moglen and Leftist Opposition to Intellectual Property, and Leftist Attacks on the Google Book Settlement).
Most Recent Comments
IIPA thinks open source equals piracy Its not the case that reader must be completely agreed with author's views about article. So this
at 04/30/2013 02:15 AM by Powercom ARS
IIPA thinks open source equals piracy My brother and I genuinely enjoyed reading on this site, I was just interested to know if you trade
at 04/28/2013 07:43 AM by The Body Project
Catching Up The Ruth Lewis post is interesting, but incomplete. The very economies that are supposedly
at 01/31/2013 07:21 AM by Anonymous
Canada - A Copyright Year in Review Hello. I don't like copyright law but I don't think it will go away in my life. I started a
at 01/02/2013 04:58 AM by Sabrina
Canada - A Copyright Year in Review Regarding the Copyright Act revision, let it be known that there was substantial opposition to the
at 12/28/2012 06:57 AM by Byte
From the Trenches Innovative remarks indeed. Cecil Quillen suggests the system needs to be modified, which I think
at 12/21/2012 06:18 PM by Anonymous
The golden age of beer innovation ""Perhaps the first reason [for the rate of patenting] is that during this period the rate of
at 12/20/2012 05:46 PM by Anonymous
Obama Transition Team Member on Holy cow. None of Your Beeswax is a Canadian (Laurier Optical is Canadian only). You don't even
at 12/19/2012 06:08 PM by Anonymous
The golden age of beer innovation Adam_Smith: Until the latter half of the 19th century, corporations routinely filed for patents,
at 12/19/2012 04:54 PM by Brewing Is Fun
The golden age of beer innovation It would seem from the account given in the previous comment that it was innovation that stimulated
at 12/19/2012 04:04 AM by Adam_Smith
Would books be published without copyright? taxpayer: "The Wealth of Nations" went through five editions in the first 13 years of publication,
at 12/05/2012 08:31 AM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? I was wondering whether free-market advocate Adam Smith made much money from his books. On-line
at 12/04/2012 09:59 AM by taxpayer
Open Book Publisher Great work! Here's my quick review of the book: It seems to me that behavioral economists
at 11/27/2012 08:38 PM by Aaron Wolf
250000 Patents for Smartphone Technology Hi. Sorry for posting here as I cannot see a contact us section. How can I contact you? I have
at 11/27/2012 10:17 AM by Thomas Stringer
The golden age of beer innovation With respect to the beer innovation paper, I have to wonder whether the authors were overly focused
at 11/23/2012 08:31 AM by Brewing Is Fun
The golden age of beer innovation With respect to Christian's comment that "there was rapid innovation without recourse to patents,"
at 11/21/2012 03:16 PM by Beer Innovation
250000 Patents for Smartphone Technology I have seen several analysts who believe that the number of patents in this area indicate that our
at 10/24/2012 08:40 AM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? Gael: I would be curious as to how much copyright litigation is costing. I have never seen any
at 10/19/2012 01:12 PM by Anonymous
Would books be published without copyright? I think it's going to evolve towards a better system with or without copyright. Right now copyright
at 10/19/2012 11:46 AM by Gael N.
Patents and Secrecy Of course patents are not the "only" answer. That is just plain dumb. There are multiple business
at 10/13/2012 08:47 AM by Anonymous