Free Information vs Information Protectionism

Alik Widge
Mon, 28 May 2001 22:35:39 -0400

A random note: it appears that in the theoretical case, your problems are 
solved by something akin to the Street Performer Protocol. More 
specifically, Paul's problem is that when Fare copies someone else's copy 
of Paul's software, Paul does not get money he might otherwise have gotten 
from Fare. However, this is because Paul is using a bad business model: 
expecting to get paid directly by every person who uses the software. 
Instead, it could go like this:

1. Paul writes software X, and decides that he wants to make D dollars in 
total from the work spent on X.
2. He announces that X exists, but nobody's getting it until he sees D 
dollars in the bank.
3. Many people pay varying amounts of money into a fund depending on how 
desperate they are.
4. Paul either gets D or something close enough, and releases X.

Of course, this is a theoretical case. There are lots of ways it could 
break. For example:
1. Paul doesn't release even when he has D. (Solution: escrow of the 
software at the time of the initial announcement.)
2. Nobody is willing to pay D. (Not actually a bug; failure to price supply 
according to demand.)
3. Somebody says "Screw you, I'll write a free version of X." (Not actually 
a bug; competition. To avoid, don't do the work until the money's already 
in escrow.)
4. People exist who *would* pay D, but they are either unable to find out 
about X or unable to efficiently make the payments. (A very big real-world 
bug. Solution uncertain, but probably already patented seven times over as 
a business model.)

Assuming it could be made practical, this would seem to solve the problem 
no matter which side you take. Paul gets a fair market price for his labor, 
so no theft occurs. Fare gets to make copies with his own labor, so is not 
deprived of his liberties.