Re: More Napster Pablum

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From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Thu Jul 27 2000 - 23:15:55 PDT

Jeff Bone writes:

> This is pretty much the standard argument. OTOH, I'm becoming convinced that it's
> overstated: certainly people need to be paid, and paid proportionally to the

Not all people need to be paid. We're running on 60-70 k$/month, most
of it is equipment/operation costs. Salaries are but a small fraction
of the budget.

> novelty, difficulty / rarity, utility, aesthetic desirability, cost-of-goods, and
> impact of their product. OTOH, I think the notion of "protecting"
> bits-as-property is somewhat an overreaction; what you want to protect is the
> ability to get paid, not the bits themselves --- and these things are *not*
> equivalent. (In fact, the equation of those two things is a symptom of the
> syndrome I'm talking about, i.e. our inability --- and I mean all of us --- to
> fundamentally grok the kinds of change we're dealing with. We haven't had to deal
> with anything this fundamental as a society since Gutenberg.)

If this is a big deal, I wonder what people will do when the means of
production will start reproducing themselves automatically from
molecular feedstock, in a few decades.
> Well, clearly, it is for some folks. Myself, I like getting paid. ;-)

I know I'm weird, but thanks for another data point ;)
> There's a simple solution to all of this, -wrt- "deep knowledge" physical products
> such as medical products: simply don't tell anybody how to make it! I.e., trade

You know, there's modern analytics. For a fraction of the development
costs you can usually find out which molecules in which preparation
state are in the unknown brew. There are exceptions (I think Sephadex
recipe is still not patented but kept under wraps), but usually you
can find it out.

> secrets are more useful than patents in many contexts anyway. For pure bits,
> again as noted above, things are different.
Knowledge is bits, and knowledge can be worth a lot. In fact some
folks specialize in stealing knowledge and selling it to the
competitor, or back to the robbed company.

> Well, this is part of my gripe: by being totally braindead about how they've
> approached the matter, the RIAA has *ensured* that such tools will come into
> existance even more quickly and flourish even in the broadest, least-technical

We knew these things were doable in principle, and hence
unavoidable. It was/is only a question of time.

> parts of technological society. They've guaranteed that the arms race will
> happen, and there is *no doubt* who will win it. While such tools may mark a kind
> of moral victory for the forces of freedom and light, I am convinced that the
> problems these tools create will be a lot bigger than the record industry's
> wounded sense of propriety.
Never alienate your customer base if they can bite back.

> But, you just can't put toothpaste back in the tube.
They have machines for that, you know ;)

> I really don't think there will be any real impact on quantity or quality; we're

I really really don't know what will happen. Hence I'm a bit
apprehensive, since so much is at stake.

> just going to have to move the pricetag around, perhaps adjust some outdated
> assumptions.* Look at the software industry: once it became clear that it was

Software industry is really special. Comparing everything to software
makes your view more than a bit biased.

> game over for consumer software, the industry (well, the individual players in it)
> largely morphed into the Web industry and has generated more wealth by a large
> margin (even in these days of correction) than the entire software industry had

That wealth is largely paper, as I understand. As soon as you try to
cash it in significant numbers, it suddenly disappears. Despite of
corrections, we're still in a bubble.

> before. It's a business model problem. People will always find a way to get
> paid. ;-)
> > Let's wait and see. If machine-phase nanotechnology will really grant
> > artifacts (by proxy of blueprints) the status of software, then brick
> > and mortar can also start profiting from mind share.
> I still say there'll always be something fundamentally different between bits and
> atoms, even when that happens, but this is a *very, very* interesting point.

There are a lot of atoms around (look at the stuff down under your
feet, look at the stuff in the sky). Plenty of energy, too.

This point will be indeed so very interesting that we'll have lots of
trouble to survive.

> Objects with built-in copy protection, eeewww. :-P

I'm more worried about molecular weapons, and stuff which so much
smarter and faster than you that you look like a rock in comparison.
> jb
> * As an example. Everybody say it with me, say it in unison: "you cannot
> control both the content and the distribution channel." The market tells business
> this over, and over, and over, and over again. "We will not let you control both
> content and distribution channel." Eventually, business will get it.

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