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Journal: On Open versus Closed Culture/Products

Journal by KingAlanI

In class today, my Econ professor spoke of some people who do not wish to enforce [or fully enforce] the range of IP rights granted to them.

        I'm reminded of a thought I've often had, that it's sometimes a strategically inappropriate choice to do something you're technically or legally able to do.

        Also, the open-source-software and Creative Commons movements come to mind. Those people voluntarily pass up certain rights granted to them (copyright and to some extent trademark, and they try to avoid patent issues). It's important to note that they do still utilize those IP rights to enforce what [relatively] few restrictions those open licenses still have. Advocates of OSS and CC insist that it produces better content, and in a better way, both for producers and consumers. (There are different flavors/degrees of OSS and CC, and some concepts that aren't OSS or CC, but take some of that general approach.)

        I, to some extent, doubt this. To rigidly stick to OSS-and-CC type content, as some of its advocates suggest, seems to be an irrational restriction of your consumer choice. An open decision process can sometimes lead to selection of closed products. Ironic, eh? (Sometimes an OSS/CC model does produce better products, sometimes it produces products that are at least decently competitive, and yet, on the other hand, sometimes I really appreciate certain closed products.

        One of my favorite musicians as of late is an epitome of indie-label success; another such favorite is an epitome of major-label success. In general, my product tastes seem to mix like this. I consider it a factor, but it doesn't seem to be rational to let the production/distribution model of the product have too much influence affect my assessment of the product itself.

        One supposed advantage of a OSS-and-CC type model is that it makes it easier for consumers to become involved also as producers. What say you to that? (I'm seeing a bit of this myself, even regardless of the intended distribution model, as my inner amateur DJ is working on a mashup/remix of two songs, one each from the recording artists referred to above.)

        I don't want to give examples, so as to avoid tangential discussions and flamewars, but I am confident that I know of and use many products in each category. :)

        I figure I would be interested in a nuanced assessment of the open-source phenomenon, as opposed to either extreme.

        Slashdot is home to some pretty strongly open-source people, so, although I'd heard of the philosophy before, that's been my major exposure to it.

        Even if I don't agree with all of their ideas, it did get me thinking.

        The concept of "copyright is an OK idea, but the length terms are ridiculously long" has been bandied about there as well as in other places. This has always somewhat resonated with me (especially with my taste for some 50s and 60s music), but that argument has seemed especially relevant to me lately considering the classic 50s and 60s films I've been watching in my Japanese History class this quarter. Sometimes it's hard to understand why stuff that old, and even older, is still under copyright.

I discussed how it seems a not-entirely-rational limitation of choice to limit oneself to just OSS or CC types of content.
That reminds me of the path-dependence discussions: the major companies (music, software, whatever) have such marketshare that it continues to, in a way, make sense to continue dealing with those big companies because they are big companies.

As a consumer, I see some benefits from working with OSS/CC/et cetera, but I don't feel a need to get that experience with everything I buy/use.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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