The commons takes on Microsoft

The commons takes on Microsoft

Summary: Which is more vital to economic growth, the idea of knowledge as property or the idea of knowledge as a commons?

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TOPICS: Patents
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library commons University of WaikatoA statement issued the other day by the Open Invention Network contains more than the standard yadda-yadda-yadda.

"In less than a year, OIN has accumulated more than 100 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications that span Web / Internet, e-commerce, mobile and communications technologies. These patents are available to all as part of the patent commons that OIN is creating around, and in support of Linux. We stand ready to leverage our IP portfolio to maintain the open patent environment OIN has helped create."

That's a quote from Jerry Rosenthal, a 37 year IBM veteran who now heads the OIN. In addition to IBM, OIN members include Sony, Novell, RedHat, and Philips. (The picture above is of the library commons at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where the Weka project originated.)

The key word here is commons. The Internet and open source, by their nature, expand the commons, which like a public park or roadway is available to all. But intellectual property owners are fighting back on all fronts. And this may be the most important economic issue of our time.

Which is more vital to economic growth, the idea of knowledge as property or the idea of knowledge as a commons?

The OIN, the open source movement in general, and the Internet all say the commons. But the only way to win is to have contributions to the commons, and benefits from the commons, exceeding what proprietary vendors in all areas may claim to control.

On this Thanksgiving weekend I'll assert only that this battle has really just begun.

 

 

Topic: Patents

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  • The commons may be considered undeveloped land...

    ... which has been set aside from commercially productive use so that all might enjoy a chance for relaxation and a time away from the usual cares in a natural setting.
    It's also a chance for people to express themselves, where those more idle and curious than industrious may be entertained, even challenged by the chance to hear different points of view which are unlikely ever to be put into effect generally.

    Central Park is an example.
    If all the projects which had been planned and submitted to the City government had been implemented, Central Park would have had many places where services and products were provided, and far less unspoiled nature.

    The Commons is a place where monetary value and progress have no place. It's for the relaxation of the citizenry.

    Unfortunately, it can also be used as a dump.

    In the patent Commons, IBM has unloaded a group of old patents. Given that company's reliance on IP income, one has to expect that those patents were not especially worthwhile. But they will no longer require IBM's maintenance.

    Otherwise, just as a park is a diversion from productive labor, so this Commons is a place away from where the valuable work is completed and appropriately turned into money for the support of employees and owners.
    Anton Philidor
    • Well. There you go again

      Somehow the message hasn't reached you.

      Maybe you have too much invested in MS, so much so that it has clouded your thinking.

      MS has been in a 'monopolistic-', 'antitrust-' like way stifling innovation for years and they just missed getting run over by the proverbial 'Greyhound Bus' ([url=http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=A23F1D52-9ED4-46B8-BE4C-8066D5BBDA2C]MS Meets EC Deadline[/url]).

      In keeping with showing just 'how nice' they are, they decided it would be wonderful for the 'world' if their software (patents and IP) worked better with other systems (interoprerability).

      The 'pact' with Novell is more Microsoft's recognition that they haven't played nice in the past and need to show 'good behavior' to cast away the reputation that they are facing.

      Novell is as capable as any other software corporation technologically and has some really innovative solutions to offer--the fact that they joined up with MS has [b]nothing[/b] to do with the integrity of Linux or GPLv2.

      It's more to Microsoft's benefit to be seen as 'cooperative'.

      Still, patent filing and approval are vastly different, the latter taking some times years to happen. The whole value of writing software which is intrinsically formed from or on top of other software is at odds with patents, by definition.

      Here are a few companies who recognize this and who have invested in OIN--their comments from [url=http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2005-11-11-a.html]this article[/url]:

      [pre]
      Investor Statements

      IBM

      "The formation of Open Invention Network signals a growing movement where companies today are looking beyond their own organizational boundaries," said Jim Stallings, vice president of intellectual property and open standards at IBM. "They are strategically sharing their intellectual property and building broader industry partnerships in order to accelerate innovation and drive new economic growth."

      Novell

      "We are proud to be a founding member of the Open Invention Network," said Jack Messman, CEO of Novell. "While Novell has been a major contributor to the open source community and has shown its commitment to promoting and fostering the adoption of open source and open standards, this initiative raises our leadership to the highest level. With this new initiative, users of open source software will have access to a broad set of technologies that will help foster an even more robust community of developers, customers, business partners and investors. This is a breakthrough idea whose time has come."

      Philips

      "Philips is actively involved in the creation and funding of Open Invention Network because we believe that OIN will make the Linux platform more attractive for users. This will stimulate developers to focus their resources on creating high-value, innovative software on this open platform," said Ruud Peters, chief executive officer of Philips Intellectual Property & Standards. "We believe that this initiative will widely boost the use of the Linux platform and its applications."

      Red Hat

      "By providing this unique collaborative framework, Open Invention Network will set open source developers free to do what they do best-innovate," said Mark Webbink, senior vice president at Red Hat. "At the same time, Open Invention Network extends to distributors and users of open source software freedom from concern about software patents."

      Sony

      "Linux is clearly an important technology for Sony and the global community in general," said Yoshihide Nakamura, SVP, Corporate Executive of Sony Corporation. "We believe Linux and open standards will provide companies with more options for the development of innovative products. We have and will continue to support initiatives like Open Invention Network that promote a positive environment for these developments."

      [/pre]

      Anton, you've really got a lot to learn and should dispense with the 'scholarly' prose when it comes to Linux.

      Educate yourself. ;)
      D T Schmitz
      • OIN Investor Statements

        OK, this is a re-cut-n-paste of the OIN Investor Statements

        [b]Investor Statements

        IBM

        "The formation of Open Invention Network signals a growing movement where companies today are looking beyond their own organizational boundaries," said Jim Stallings, vice president of intellectual property and open standards at IBM. "They are strategically sharing their intellectual property and building broader industry partnerships in order to accelerate innovation and drive new economic growth."

        Novell

        "We are proud to be a founding member of the Open Invention Network," said Jack Messman, CEO of Novell. "While Novell has been a major contributor to the open source community and has shown its commitment to promoting and fostering the adoption of open source and open standards, this initiative raises our leadership to the highest level. With this new initiative, users of open source software will have access to a broad set of technologies that will help foster an even more robust community of developers, customers, business partners and investors. This is a breakthrough idea whose time has come."

        Philips

        "Philips is actively involved in the creation and funding of Open Invention Network because we believe that OIN will make the Linux platform more attractive for users. This will stimulate developers to focus their resources on creating high-value, innovative software on this open platform," said Ruud Peters, chief executive officer of Philips Intellectual Property & Standards. "We believe that this initiative will widely boost the use of the Linux platform and its applications."

        Red Hat

        "By providing this unique collaborative framework, Open Invention Network will set open source developers free to do what they do best-innovate," said Mark Webbink, senior vice president at Red Hat. "At the same time, Open Invention Network extends to distributors and users of open source software freedom from concern about software patents."

        Sony

        "Linux is clearly an important technology for Sony and the global community in general," said Yoshihide Nakamura, SVP, Corporate Executive of Sony Corporation. "We believe Linux and open standards will provide companies with more options for the development of innovative products. We have and will continue to support initiatives like Open Invention Network that promote a positive environment for these developments."

        [/b]
        D T Schmitz
        • What else would you expect?

          The following are statements which none of the companies listed would ever provide in response to OIN's request for comments.
          By the way, it's a brave organization which adopts initials a single "K" from disaster.


          IBM:
          We are exploiting free labor in order to win contracts which will result in massive layoffs. Once the contracts have been won, we expect clients will be forced to change to our own more expensive prorpietary software.
          All our efforts in support of open source are intended to save us money, and we are willing to make even laughable statements in order to obtain additional revenue.

          Novell:
          After our failures in business strategy, we foolishly decided to purchase a Linux distribution. We compounded our foolishness by almost abandoning our own products. As we should have expected, this blunder has led to severe losses. The survival of the company required us to call Microsoft and ask for the money which allows us to continue.
          Because admission of our foolishness would cause management to be replaced at the least, we continue to make fatuous statements in support of open source whenever necessary.

          Red Hat:
          We know that there is an intellectual property problem for Red Hat, and we know that we do not have the resources to solve this problem should it become severe. We welcome any effort which relieves of being responsible for the products we take and sell.
          We also recognize that large companies such as IBM refuse to take responsibility for Linux distributions, and our true function is to help those companies further their control. We appreciate that an organization such as OIN pleases our masters, and are pleased when they are pleased.
          We wish that Oracle had been less arrogant and greedy...

          Sony:
          We are staring at disaster in many business lines, and are willing to issue statements which will be agreeable to their intended audience so long as they do not consume a great deal of our time or money, which are in short supply just now.
          Anton Philidor
          • Manufactured reality

            According to Anton maybe, but that does not correspond with what is actually happening in the world.

            Get involved or become a victim of your own ignorance.
            D T Schmitz
        • Other companies

          Sun:
          would have provided an approving comment except that the inability to take advantage of profitable opportunities extended to this one as well.

          Microsoft:
          Wanna trade?
          Anton Philidor
          • It looks like we are figuring out that cooperating is much more efficient

            than fighting with each other.

            With proprietary software, companies are at war with each other using proprietary tricks to lock out competition and choice. Sharing and building on each others work is complicated and almost impossible.

            With open source, we peacfully cooperate, and can build on each others work.
            DonnieBoy
          • It could happen / Have a Coke

            Together now:

            [i]"I'd to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..."[/i]

            Right on DonnieBoy! ;)
            D T Schmitz
          • Sounds like a good summary

            This is essentially the open source argument, from a development standpoint.
            DanaBlankenhorn
          • Adam Smith

            From Book 1, Chapter 2 of the Wealth of Nations, 1776:

            Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them.

            Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater art of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

            [Re-paragraphed]


            Smith is here talking about the division of labor, specialization. I'm using the part of his argument in which self-interest is harnessed to mutual good by making agreements.


            The best agreements for cooperation are among competitors, because each sees his own advantage, and finds a way to pursue it while accommodating an adversary.

            The Microsoft/Novell deal to enhance interoperability between SuSE and Microsoft products is an example, but there have been many others.

            Customers are more willing to spend money if products work together well. And if competitors create standards which simplify responsiveness.


            Though it's not competition, Microsoft aids third parties in making products which will sell, because having those products work well on Windows helps sell Windows.


            The pursuit of advantage can be the best encouragement of cooperation, even if that appears a paradox.

            It's open source which sets rules to mandate cooperation. Like Lenin's, the open source view is apparently that cooperation can be obtained only by forcefully controlling transactions.
            Anton Philidor
          • re: Adam Smith

            [b][i]From Book 1, Chapter 2 of the Wealth of Nations, 1776:

            Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them.[/i][/b]

            Certainly. Open Source utilizes precisely this understanding of human nature. Relatively small individual contributions to the open source "commons" combine to form a vast software infrastructure that is worth incalculably more than each individual's contribution. Since digital works can be copied infinitely without diminishing the original pool of works, everyone has equal access to the inexhaustible common pool, regardless of the relative insignificance of their contribution. Enlightened self-interest therefore favors open source.

            Of course, the same model doesn't work with finite resources, so 200 year old quotes about butchers and bakers are not what the "enlightened" would offer in opposition if they gave the matter more than a nanosecond's thought.

            [b][i]It's open source which sets rules to mandate cooperation. Like Lenin's, the open source view is apparently that cooperation can be obtained only by forcefully controlling transactions.[/i][/b]

            Not at all. For one thing, you're confusing Open Source with Free software. Not all licenses are [i]quid pro quo.[/i] Even among those that are, you are not forced to cooperate to enjoy the benefits of open source. GPL'ed software runs on Windows as well as on Linux. Only when you want to modify [i]and redistribute[/i] the original software with your changes are the rights of the original copyright holders exercised. The intellectual commons are freely available to all... You're even allowed to use them all you like for personal gain, so long as you don't attempt to fence them off.

            In the remarkable event that this one simple restriction seems less than generous to you, then you're welcome and encouraged to play by the same old tightfisted rules that you find so comforting; and under those rules you can write or purchase all the infrastructure you require. No one will force you to contribute to the commons.
            dave.leigh@...
          • Self-interest involves making money.

            And the money made from self-interest can be used for purposes of which all can approve.

            The age of Adam Smith's observations does little to reduce their validity. Human nature changes little, and attempts to force change with State compulsion fail.
            The US Constitution is more than 200 years old, and it is not considered invalidated by the passage of time. Many ideas are timeless.


            Given that cooperation follows self-interest expressed in money earned, your premise contradicts your conclusion:

            "Since digital works can be copied infinitely without diminishing the original pool of works, everyone has equal access to the inexhaustible common pool, regardless of the relative insignificance of their contribution. Enlightened self-interest therefore favors open source."

            The ability to use the "original pool" without recompense reduced its value to the self-interested in the past, and the prospect of confiscation by the commons makes self-interest the least likely motive for cooperation in the future.

            That self-interested is affected by how many times the product can be used, your "finite resources" point, is only a branch of the idea that digital IP such as music cannot be stolen because the owner still has the original.
            To me, that's sophistry.


            You also wrote:

            "Only when you want to modify and redistribute the original software with your changes are the rights of the original copyright holders exercised. The intellectual commons are freely available to all... You're even allowed to use them all you like for personal gain, so long as you don't attempt to fence them off."

            Fencing them off is, of course, the reason that the modifications have value. Your argument may be summarized as You can make as much money with your product as you like, so long as you give the product away free to anyone who asks.

            Anomalously, this can actually work in some cases. Organizations expect to pay for software, so Red Hat can sell Linux for servers despite having to supply source code to cloners. The company can be profitable, slightly.

            This approach allows Red Hat to hold down staff costs, taking advantage of those who volunteer or are assigned to reduce employment by collaboration.

            The self-interest of Red Hat's operators is opposed to the self-interest of those capable of contributing to its products. Every sale is harmful.
            Anton Philidor
          • Your entire argument is hogwash, but you know that already.

            [b][i]Self-interest involves making money. And the money made from self-interest can be used for purposes of which all can approve.[/i][/b]

            Wrong. Self-interest involves satisfying needs, which may or may not involve making money. Money is not a need in and of itself; it is a means by which needs are satisfied. If the need is satisfied directly, money is unnecessary.

            [i][b]The age of Adam Smith's observations does little to reduce their validity.[/b][/i]

            My criticism was of the content and context of the observation, not their age. You proffered a quote that dealt with finite, exhaustible resources such as baked goods and meat. This is not applicable to the distribution of open source software, which is inexhaustible and practically cost-free. The economics of open source did not have a direct parallel in Adam Smith's world; therefore he is a poor source for inspiration in this domain. It's the idle to speculate what he might have thought about Open Source, which is yet another reason he's no authority where this subject is concerned.

            [b][i]Given that cooperation follows self-interest expressed in money earned, your premise contradicts your conclusion:[/i][/b]

            Wrong again. Given that "expressed in money earned" is already shown to be a flawed assumption, my own premise does not contradict my conclusion.

            [b][i]The ability to use the "original pool" without recompense reduced its value to the self-interested in the past, and the prospect of confiscation by the commons makes self-interest the least likely motive for cooperation in the future.[/i][/b]

            Not so fast. Invoking what happened "in the past" doesn't help your case. In fact, examination of the past reveals that Open Source not only has grown mightily since it was conceived by Richard Stallman, but the bulk of the growth in recent times has been from corporate participants such as IBM and Sun who are indeed operating from self-interest. What you term as the "least likely" motive thus is the most common; possibly the fastest-growing.

            Furthermore, there can be no fear of the "confiscation" of that which was freely given in the first place. In terms of the intellectual commons, "confiscation" consists of the fencing-off which you so readily endorse. Open Source adoption ensures this will not happen.

            [b][i]That self-interested is affected by how many times the product can be used, your "finite resources" point, is only a branch of the idea that digital IP such as music cannot be stolen because the owner still has the original.
            To me, that's sophistry.[/i][/b]

            Wrong again. You're on a roll. The point regarding Open Source is that it is licensed by the original creators, therefore provided to the pool willingly. We are neither endorsing nor talking about software piracy here, nor music piracy; we're talking about legally licensed code, under a license chosen by the legitimate copyrigt holder. This is not sophistry, it is an indisputable fact. Once again, you are not being forced to contribute, and we are not advocating "theft" of IP. You are quite welcome to play by the old rules with the old players any time you like.

            [b][i]Fencing them off is, of course, the reason that the modifications have value. Your argument may be summarized as You can make as much money with your product as you like, so long as you give the product away free to anyone who asks.[/i][/b]

            Wrong again. You can make money with MY product all you like, so long as you distribute the source code to MY product and its derivations at no [i]additional[/i] cost. If you want to horde source code, horde your OWN. If you build a software product for resale, understand that you can do that, provided that MY code, and derivations of it, will be distributed with source code. If those terms are too generous for you, then play under the old rules with the old players, who are getting older every day.

            Furthermore, "fencing it off" is not the only way to make money with MY code; nor is it even the best. You can also use it to solve business process problems and improve your productivity and competitiveness. You can re-sell it and provide modifications for those who can't make those modification on their own. But you can't shortcut the development process by basing a product on MY code and then attempt to close off MY code. That's called "fairness".

            [b][i]Anomalously, this can actually work in some cases. Organizations expect to pay for software, so Red Hat can sell Linux for servers despite having to supply source code to cloners. The company can be profitable, slightly.[/i][/b]

            [b][i]This approach allows Red Hat to hold down staff costs, taking advantage of those who volunteer or are assigned to reduce employment by collaboration.[/i][/b]

            There's nothing "anomalous" about it. We established in my last post that you receive back more from the open source commons than you put in. That's true of you as an individual, as well as Red Hat or IBM. It's true no matter how large your organization is.

            [b][i]The self-interest of Red Hat's operators is opposed to the self-interest of those capable of contributing to its products. Every sale is harmful.[/i][/b]

            Congratulations! You've made it a clean sweep. Wrong on every single point. No sale is harmful. Even the earliest Stallman quotes make it clear that coding for profit is expected. Not all contributions to the common pool are in terms of code. Some contribute documentation, or web hosting space, or advertising, or graphics. Some beneficiaries contribute money. Those that purchase their licenses or services may see little difference from licensing proprietary code except they receive the added benefits of increased vendor choice, increased options wrt what they can do with the code, and reduced exposure to BSA audits... any one of which is significant and valuable in itself.
            dave.leigh@...
      • Silly comment

        MS OWN patents Linux HAS everything to do with MS's success and innovation.

        You cant say Linux has not looked at Windows, and MS applications and USED those for THEIR OWN MODEL.

        Cant innovate yourselves, so you "steal" other peoples innovations.

        "OpenOffice" and "MS OFFice"

        "Windows menu and "START button format"

        NTFS
        FAT16/FAT32.

        Windows API's.

        None of these things are required for an operating system, but because MICROSOFT has shown it to be a great model that EVERYONE WANTS TO USE.

        Linux said "why innovate, we'll just copy with Microsoft has done".

        When you go to a Bazaar you can usually pick up cheap ROLEX watches for $30 dollars, they look the same as REAL ROLEX's, but inside they are CRAP.

        the people who make those KNOCKOFF's of those watches, DID NOT INNOVATE, they JUST STOLE someone elses idea.

        Im so sick of seeing Linux/OSS trolls saying that they DONT OWN ANYONE ANYTHING. even though you steal everyone elses idea's.

        with the sole AIM to use that theft against the real owners of that IP, Copyright, patents.
        Aussie_Troll
    • The 'commons' is much broader than undeveloped land

      From Roman times, there has been private property, public property, and commons. 'Commons' are things that are not owned. It includes air, water, ideas expressed in the open scientific literature, and writings that have passed into the public domain. I have a hard time seeing Dante's Inferno as 'undeveloped land.' On the other hand, it has provided fertile grounds for ad hominem attacks through the centuries.

      I also note that the original purpose of park lands called 'commons' today probably wasn't the same as a modern city park. I expect that most of them started as pasture or a place for market stalls.
      palmwarrior
    • Central Park

      For more on the creation of Central Park and the idea of a commons, I recommend the excellent biography of its creator, Frederick Law Olmsted:

      http://www.amazon.com/Clearing-Distance-Frederick-Olmsted-America/dp/0684865750/sr=8-1/qid=1164428569/ref=nosimacluecom

      Imagine what New York City would be to live in without the great lungs of the commons represented by Central Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • and imagine if New York would exist

        if the only thing that existed in New York was Central Park. I dont think New York would be the bustling and vibrant city that it is.
        zzz1234567890
      • Yes, time spent not working profitably...

        ... is beneficial to people, a chance to rest and express themselves more freely. No one can make a living from relaxation, but life is not always about earning a living.

        Of course, anyone living in Central Park is risking arrest as a vagrant. And the explanation that one is a software professional with a strong belief in the creative commons would probably be adjudged an insufficiently dangerous delusion to require mental health examination.

        --------------------------- ;-) ---------------------
        Anton Philidor
        • See Cinderella Man?

          One of the pivotal scenes takes place in Central Park, where a friend of Braddock had moved into a shantytown when his world collapsed. He began rousing the rabble and was killed.

          More recently, of course, Central Park has been home to many homeless people, and to crime, which has not only cut the value of the commons but the attractiveness of living in NYC.

          A commons, like Central Park, is not undeveloped land. That park is, in fact, highly developed. It's purpose is to improve the common good, the general welfare, and those who don't acknowledge such a thing exists are very poor souls indeed.
          DanaBlankenhorn
  • Why take on Microsoft?

    If this is an organization simply interested in the common good, then why are they taking on any corporation such as Microsoft?

    This seems much more of the usual Microsoft competitors banding together, throwing a few worthless tidbits into a pool and then causing the zealots to denounce thy enemy for not contributing their valuables.
    Spacely Spacerockets