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Re: The ethics of software emulations?

I really have enjoyed the insights shared so far, and I'll admit I'm
struggling with this.

My gut feelings are as a software programmer, if I make a software
alarm clock, I'm not ripping off the manufacturers of physical alarm
clocks. And if I made a software looper (I wish!) I'm not ripping off
the manufacturers of hardware loopers.

If I were writing a software looper, I'd start with implementing the
features of the best hardware loopers and proceed from there.

If I'd decompiled the code that made the hardware looper work, then
I'd feel I'd crossed a line.

But I'm interested in ethics and not law, and as always, the level of
discussion here is illuminating, and greatly appreciated.

On Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 7:27 PM, André Donawa <andre@andredonawa.com> 
> Thanks Jeff,
> Good topic.
> Enjoyed the flight.
> Andre
> http://www.andredonawa.com
> http://cdbaby.com/all/andredonawa
> http://www.myspace.com/andredonawa
> 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

Art Simon
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