Re: Rohit -- don't hack too hard :-)

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From: Kragen Sitaker (
Date: Fri Mar 24 2000 - 13:59:43 PST

Adam Beberg writes:
> Asia is a one-copy country for everything. I was greatly amused when
> Microsoft made a big deal about launching Win2k in China. The one copy
> was already there thanks to the net. Win2k+1 is aready leaked.
> Net sales: 0. So why did Microsoft bother? Do they need a writeoff that
> bad?

"0" is not exactly right; they actually have substantial sales in
China, many of which are site licenses. And even in the
least-copyright-respecting parts of Asia, the ratio doesn't go much
above 30 unlicensed copies per licensed copy. A thirtieth of a billion
is still a substantial number.

> Have you noticed most all software is written in the US? Music, movies,
> books too. You didn't think it's becasue Americans are smarter do you?
> It's becasue everyone comes here to pay the bills becasue we have IP
> rights. It's no wonder so little software is written for non-english
> speakers.

There are a few US software companies founded by immigrants --- Borland
comes to mind, and perhaps Be --- but the vast majority of US software
companies are founded by native-born US citizens. The "everyone comes
here to pay the bills" argument simply doesn't hold water.

It also doesn't, in itself, constitute evidence that IP rights foster
software development. Most of Europe has stronger IP rights than the
US, for example, and there is little difference in software income per
capita between much of Europe and, say, India.

I don't know if it's true that most books are written in the US; I'm
fairly certain it's not true that most music and movies are written in
the US. I do think that the US has a much bigger movie and music
industry than the rest of the world; not surprising, since both movies
and audio recordings were invented here nearly a century ago, and we've
been the biggest open movie and music market ever since.

> No IP rights, no point in writing software/music/movies, no software
> industry, no anything digital industry.

I think this might be false. The vast majority of hours of work spent
by programmers are on bespoke projects, where the software user pays on
a time and materials basis to develop the software. (I think the
fraction is something like 70%.)

> What boggles my mind is that rather then them enacting and enfocing IP
> rights and establishing their own information age industries in other
> countries, people here in the US are doing everything possible to get
> rid of them. Napster for music, opensource(tm) for software, the list
> goes on. We're demanding to be a one-copy country so geeks can join the
> ranks of starving artists? And dont give me that charging for support
> line, that's just a bubble enabled stock hyping scam.

Cygnus was wildly profitable for ten years before they ever had any
outside investment, selling nothing but support and bespoke software
development for free software. EDS, Keane, Compuware, OriginIT, Ciber,
and Arthur Andersen sell the same things, albeit mostly for proprietary
software. (Maybe you've heard of these companies? They aren't funded
by the stock market, and they all make several hundred million dollars
a year. Profit. From providing value to customers.) Even Cyclic, a
one-and-a-half-person company, was quite profitable providing support
for CVS for several years.

IP rights were necessary in the age of printing presses and movie
reels. They're probably still necessary for those media. They are
nothing but a crippling load of overhead for digital data on the

Free software enables programmers to deliver much greater value per
hour of work. Partly as a result, Cygnus's income per programmer is
considerably greater than Keane's.

> As an example of how the tide is turning, my cousins in construction and
> my dad as a mechanic all make more then your run of the mill geek and
> work less hours to boot.

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that they're working on
things designed and built according to some kind of standards of
professionalism? How often do your cousins work on building buildings
designed by some bozo who took a six-month Autocad course, designed the
building, and won't let them see the plans? How often does your dad
work on cars whose manufacturers weld the hoods shut, won't tell him
how the car works, and disclaim any warranty that the car won't kill

The quality of proprietary software is a disaster. It has always been
a disaster.

<>       Kragen Sitaker     <>
The Internet stock bubble didn't burst on 1999-11-08.  Hurrah!
The power didn't go out on 2000-01-01 either.  :)

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