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Re: The ethics of software emulations?

Thanks Jeff,

Good topic.
Enjoyed the flight.



On Sat, September 27, 2008 6:53 pm, Jeffrey Larson wrote:
> 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
> anything.
> 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.
> Jeff