Clarification on Distributed Copyright
clark.evans at manhattanproject.com
Fri May 21 16:57:42 UTC 1999
Sorry to spam you one last time.
For those of you who I believe have mis-understood
what I was getting at, here is an attempt to clarify.
Please respond to discuss at distributedcopyright.org
(and perhaps subscribe if you are interested), please
do not respond to the others who are cc'd. Thanks
Distributed copyright is an attempt to balance
the developer's needs (proprietary software) with
the user community's needs (open-source software).
How is DC different from Proprietary:
1. In DC the developer must publish their source
code so that others may compete for the change
in the software product. Thus, there is
no upgrade monopoly. Instead we have
delta competition, competition for the
change in the software product.
2. The developer must limit your return. There
seem to be two primary ways, a total community
price, or a time limit. Alternatives include
a mix of the two, stair stepped price/time, etc.
Thus, competition occurs not only for the
individual price, but how the developer
agrees to limit their long-range return.
This is consistent with the US Constitution's
requirement on a "limit" on copyright, in DC,
we would like market competition for this limit.
3. You may not discriminate pricing in private,
the price structure for each class of licenses
(non-profit,government,commercial,etc.) must be
published before the first unit is sold. Thus,
the entire contract to the user community is
specified up-front, there is no individual
How is DC different from Open Source:
1. The developer may charge for use of the software,
however, this charge is limited (see 2 above)
2. You may build upon someone else's software, however,
your price structure must contain the price structure
of the products from which you derive from.
How DC is different from both Proprietary and Open Source:
1. The original developer may not retain the trademark
for the product. The trademark/domain name is sold
to the community of users (with some legal form),
and then leased back. The original developer then
becomes a "steward" for the software product, and is
able to use the trademark/domain.
2. Any one may challenge the right of the current trademark
leasee, and ask to become the new steward for the
software product (aka, to be able to name your upgrade
with the trademark). This is done through a democratic
process where the user community decides if the challenger
should supersede the current steward.
This difference is needed for "delta competition",
competition for the change in the software product.
Note: the developer _does_ maintain their development
organizations' trademark since this is used for quality
recognition. The product's trademark is used to mark
a standard, and this is why it must be open as well.
Why not Proprietary?
For many domains, it causes monopolies, and many
other problems. After competition for the first
version of the product, the game is over, a cyclic
feedback between the user community and the complementary
market effectively lock each individual user into
staying with the product, despite better, cheaper
alternatives. This happens because the purchase
decision is based more on the availability of complementary
goods and services, rather than on the product itself.
New-comers lack this large complementary market,
thus even though their product may have a cheaper
licensing fee, the total price is substantially
higher because the complementary market is less
Why not Open Source?
Even though Open Source is very successful in many
domains, it does not seem to be grabbing hold in
other domains. This has caused an emergence of
"dual" licenses, where the product is released
under GPL or other open source license, and a
proprietary version (with added value) is sold
to cover the cost of the open source base.
Examples include Transvirtual's Kaffee, Cygnus's
Source Browser & Debugger GUI, Netscape's NPL,
and Zope's "above-the-line" code that is used
for competitive advantage.
Although it is nice that they are using open source,
the use of proprietary techniques leads to the
same problems open source is trying to solve, thus
the developer appears to be 'contradicting' themselves.
This dual licensing causes: (a) composite problems
as donated changes to the free code base must be
re-written or some how turned into proprietary code,
(b) conflict of interest, as donations to the free code
base that are in competition with the 'added value' in
the proprietary code, (c) proliferation of more
incompatible licenses that all try and solve the same
problem. (d) a few others?
How compatible is DC with Open Source?
I believe it is very compatible with BSD style licenses.
It is not compatible with GPL.
It is even less compatible with Artistic license, since
they both address the same type issue, who has the right
to decide the future direction of the software product.
Artistic license reserves that right for the original
developer, DC, like GPL and BSD, says that this is a
right that everyone should have.
How set is it?
It's not set at all. Sorry to give any impression that
it is. This is why I'd love your feedback. I don't think
one person holds all of the answers, especially not me.
I hope this clarifies my idea of what DC should be. For those
who have been helping/critically commenting, does this match your
understanding? If not, what is your idea?
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