it's not absurd to suggest that dealer networks add value. the question is, for whom? not the consumer, generally.
I say this from experience. On one hand, I've had a personal conversation with Michael Dell, as a customer, where I complained about reliability and he offered recourse. At trade shows, I have attended his speeches and attended events with him. Michael Dell is no fun at parties. Judge his perspective accordingly.
I faced a choice under different, less immediate, and better circumstances. I had to choose between a career path that lead to management, and a career path that lead into a narrow technical specialty. Make sure you understand the fork before you.
My observation has been that once a company tries to push you into management, you either go into management or your career path will suffer. Time in position, rather than age, is what prompts most companies to see "failure to advance" where employees may see "comfortable in position." Starting over resets the clock, somewhere else.
To be fair, companies look at these long term employees, see the amount of organizational experience, and want to leverage that by promotion. Realize that these are very common pressures, and you'll likely encounter similar circumstances repeatedly over time if you choose to remain below management.
That said, taking the plunge into management might allow you to take your career to another level. If you fail, you'll probably be looking for work, but that's about the same likely result as staying, with more money and more experience on the way out. Failure under these circumstances will have very little effect on your ability to land another technical job, and might insulate against future attempts to promote you out of your comfort or skill zones.
I spent two decades as a network/pc tech and a systems administrator. When the time came to look around again, I was depressed by the thought of going through the job search, rolling the dice, settling in, performing triage and rebuilding, and then waiting to see how much management would allow to be done right in the long run. In my mind, it was the prospect of going somewhere else, doing the same things again, and spinning my wheels for a few years while I discovered which ways I'd be thwarted this time.
For background, I started off in the military (US Navy) and then transitioned to military/defense contractor (NAVSEA), then to civilian government contractor (USAID/STATE), and then I went corporate. I worked for a law firm, mistook the frying pan for the fire and jumped into the fire, went to work in a drug lab (a pre-clinical drug-development facility), was treated worse than the lab animals, found a K Street (Washington, DC) law firm with a casual dress code, and went back to working for lawyers. After about 5 years, I realized it was time to leave, and I no longer had much interest. Absent a carte-blanche startup opportunity, I walked away. Not the American Beauty deal, but I got 18 months of COBRA paid for, and continuing retirement plan contributions for the same term.
I bought the farm. Mortgaged my house, bought a 10-acre farm in West Virginia, and renovated. When complete, I sold the old house and decamped. Now, I grow peppers and make hot sauce. I keep bees and pack honey. I do what I want, when I want, and I answer to me. The farm's paid for, living expenses are minimal, and my retirement funds are intact. I'm a packrat, and I have a lifetime of collected stuff that's easily sold on eBay as needed. Even with medical expenses, I still have a positive cash flow.
There are many ways to do it. One of the easiest is to flee the big city for the middle of nowhere. My new place cost 1/4 of the old one, the new house is 20% bigger, and I have 80x more land. The trick may be funding the transition. I was lucky, my old house was paid for and I could borrow against it so the new place wouldn't have a mortgage.
While working as sysadmin at a pre-clinical drug-development company, AFTER a 24-hour shift migrating from old back-end systems to new, I was assigned a 6-hour shift doing calibration testing on animal room workstations.
The testing wasn't much, a few lines of script and a lot of repetitive runs on various terminals, but we had to do it in the dark, by flashlight, in jump suits (with booties, bouffants, and masks), in 90 degree heat, in an ammonia saturated atmosphere, in rooms full of unhappy and flatulent dogs, rats, mice, or monkeys.
The only thing that kept me from quitting on the spot, instead of a month later, was that my boss and his boss were doing it with me.
My last two major evolutions were mostly satisfying.
In the first, a multi-national pharamceutical development corp, I was supporting two major locations for one division. We had two major locations, and chose parallel naming systems of Greek and Roman gods, with the same (equivalent) servers in different locations being assigned equivalent names from differing mythologies.
In the second, a boutique law firm in a communications practice, we had only one location. I chose "the sites of the seven wonders of the ancient world" and (in sequence) we had giza, babylon, and ephesus, and occasionally olympia or even further.
As to why? I always perceived it as one of the few allowed areas of differentiation, like wearing a flashy tie that said something about you. Everyone outside the department, on the rare occasion that they had to deal with actual server names, was presented with a curious set.
Why are so many
You are quite right to recognize and debate the issue. But you start from a point of assuming you should retain those rights. Welcome to employment. Usually, you don't retain the rights to things you're paid to create. That the rules are different for professors is irrelevant.
You have the basic equation right -- the deal is what you agree to -- but you seem to be overlooking WHY people are paid to create software. People pay you to create software because (by doing so) the value accrues to them.
Work-for-hire is neither bad nor unfair.