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Re: The ethics of software emulations?

As promised, I will now subject everyone to some thoughts on  
intellectual property.
Keep your tray tables in their upright and locked position.....

Hardware in general and analog hardware in particular requires a lot
of R&D to design and manufacture.  There aren't always obvious ways to
do things.  Circuit design, component selection, construction
materials, etc. are often arrived at through trial and error.  The
patent system was intended to protect inventors so they could recoup
their R&D investment, otherwise no one would be inclined to invent

Software requires R&D as well, but it is essentially free to make and
distribute.  The advent of digital audio processing removed the huge
amount of R&D required for analog circuit design.  Essentially anyone
with a PC and free time can make digital audio software.  In marketing
terms the "barriers to entry" are much lower.  This means there
will be more competition and as a result the prices will be lower.

Software businesses of course want to make money, so one thing that
happened early on was to allow copyrights to apply to software.  This
made it illegal for someone to make direct copies of code in a ROM or
to take the source code for a product, recompile it, slap on a
different UI and call it your own.  I have no problem with copyrights.

The problem though is that with most software, it is fairly easy to
write different code that achieves an identical end result.  I don't
need to see the source code for Word for example to know how to write
a word processor.  Sure, it would take a lot of time but there's
nothing in Word that makes me smack my head and go "damn! I wonder how
they do that?".  Like any business, software companies aren't fond
of competition and since copyrights weren't a very effective weapon
they turned to the patent system.

Patents were originally intended to protect the "process" by which you
achieved an end result.  Everyone wanted to get seeds out of cotton so
Eli invented a novel device to accomplish that.  People were free to
invent different devices to achieve the same end result, just not one
that operated exactly like Eli's.

The patent model doesn't apply well to software however.  Since
copyrights don't protect the end result, many software patents are
claiming ownership of concepts rather than processes. It is like
someone claiming they own the mere concept of "seedless cotton" rather
than a device to produce seedless cotton.

Other patents are for trivial algorithms.  They'll be dressed up in
language like "system and method for attenuation in digital audio
streams" and what it boils down to is multiplying two floating point
numbers together.  Patents like this are dangerous because they end up
stifling invention rather than promoting it.

Now let's bring this into the looping world.  Loopers implement
concepts like "multiply" or "start overdub when I push a button and
stop when I release".  What is the invention here?  People sit down in
front loopers every day and think "if only I could repeat this four
times" or "if only I could mute the backing loop and have it start
automatically on the next bar".  They aren't inventing anything, they
are defining concepts.  There are millions of ways to implement those
concepts, should someone be allowed to claim ownership of all of them?

I admire the EDP team's ability to select and implement a large and
powerful set of looping concepts, and their tenacity in bringing it to
the market as hardware.  That was a monumental task and maybe they
deserved more than they received.  But I simply do not believe you can
claim ownership of mere concepts.

Imagine what would happen if Microsoft claimed they owned the concept
of web browsing and no one else could make a browser.  I can assure
you web browsers are more complex than either the EDP or Mobius, and
they all do basically the same thing.

Ownership of mere concepts rather than implementations of concepts is
a very dangerous thing.  You may not be aware of it in the relatively
small world of music software, but in the enterprise software world
where I work it is epidemic.  Pretty soon Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and
Oracle are going to hold the patents for just about anything that you
can do on a computer, and trust me that includes digital audio
processing.  Now I'm sure these altruistic corporations would never
EVER abuse these patents to harrass small companies trying to
innovate.  Because that would be unethical.