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Why we don't need software patents and copyrights


© September 2003 Tony Lawrence

Wed Sep 10 10:32:22 GMT 2003 Why we don't need software patents and copyrights

Link: Control of creativity? Fashion's secret

I don't have much to add to this, except perhaps that it's too bad that such an intelligent observation wasn't made years ago when the software patent barrier was first broken (the article speaks to music and movies, but the base concept applies to software too). If this silliness had been squashed then, who knows how different the world would be today?

Let's just take some paragraphs from there and rewrite them as though this were true:

It is precisely because software pervades so many aspects of our lives that we fail to appreciate the "social ecology" that supports it - the open sharing, unauthorized innovations, and creative appropriations. To be sure, the software industry aggressively protects its brand names and logos, utilizing trademarks and licensing agreements. In most cases, however, the actual creative design of applications is not owned by anyone. The accounting software used by a Hollywood store owner can be knocked off immediately and legally appear days later on store shelves.

For virtually all players in software, some form of derivation, recombination, imitation, revival of old styles, and outright knockoff is the norm. Few denounce, let alone sue, the appropriator for "creative theft." They're too busy trying to stay ahead of the competition through the sheer power of their design and marketing prowess.

The software world understands that creativity is a collaborative and community affair. It's far too big, robust, and evolving for any one player to "own" as a legal entitlement. Long lineages of programmers from Kernighan and Pike to Stevens, to Eric S. Raymond, and Linus Torvalds have shown that programmers necessarily must learn, adopt, and adapt from those who have blazed previous trails. If one were to deconstruct their work, an evolutionary chain of distinct themes, references, design nuances, and outright appropriations could be discerned.

Still makes perfect sense, doesn't it?


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