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RE: Fees for Publications & Seminar

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Except Scott has ignored the basis for the formation of the free software
foundation (FSF), and the GNU general public license (GPL) and free
documentation license (FDL), and other licenses such as the design science
license (DSL) and creative commons and science commons. The Copyleft
movement wasn't created by publishers it was created by creators. Creators
who without electronic distribution, typically relinquish their copyright to
the publishers. The United Nations has started using CopyLeft type licensing
on its publications, because a publication on water supply for small remote
villages and appropriate technology handbooks are pointless, if the people
who need them cannot afford them. Now NGO's can buy the publications and
copy verbatim and distribute to those who need.

Codes of Practice are mandatory and created by volunteers, and then handed
over to publishers. The publishers are profit making organizations, their
task is to maximize profits. Prices are not controlled by the cost of
production but by the value of the product to the buyer. It is the profit
that the buyer gets from the product that gives it value. To quote:

The successful producer of an article sells it for more than it cost him to
make, and that's profit. But the customer buys it only because it is worth
more to him than he pays for it, and that's his profit. No one can long make
a profit producing anything unless the customer makes a profit using it.
[Samuel B. Pettengill]

Economy of scale ignores the diversity of individuals and their available
resources, and their expectations of quality, and the differing value of
products to those individuals. People can better afford things if they
produce themselves, rather than buy low cost import. That is people in
developing countries can afford goods if they are making a living producing
goods. So copying and distributing provides them with a source of income.
The GPL doesn't require payment of royalties to the creator.

If a code of practice is mandatory then it should be readily available in a
multitude of formats, without the hindrance of copyright getting in the way
of the dissemination of knowledge. If I understand correctly the view of the
CopyLeft movement is that Copy Right has been distorted and abused, its
intent was to protect creators: it doesn't it mostly protects publishers.
Publishers can hold copy right and not publish, preventing authors from
making an income from their work. When an author uses a Copy Left license
then all persons are effectively permitted to be publishers: but each
publisher has different resources, different localities and different
markets. The FSF view is that creation may take a great deal of time and
effort, but publication doesn't, and development progresses faster by adding
to source rather than re-inventing the wheel. Copying files to disks, or
making available on servers is a minor cost. Competent computer scientists
can make living by providing real service, and such service pays for the
development of the software. They also save time by building on the
foundations of heritage.

Today most people type notes directly into a computer, they do not write on
scrap paper and have others type up. They hand the file over to others to
format. If volunteers can write the code, then volunteers can style the
code. Further more, once a code is written in say Word, or made Active in
say Exel or MathCAD, then revising is a minor activity of adding and
modifying clauses. The FSF present the view that massive and expensive
infrastructure is not required to copy and distribute electronic media.

I seem to recollect reading somewhere that the IBC was partly created
because FEMA visited disaster sites around the world, often in places where
there is no building code, the IBC provides them with a code to introduce:
provided the maps of America are pushed into a national appendix.

Now if a code of practice was distributed under the FDL or DSL, then
multiple versions would emerge, each generated by differing groups of
volunteers. But that doesn't stop the traditional organisations from
endorsing one version as the official mandated version. But the official
version only needs to be a web site with controlled source, with free
access, thus no reason for not complying with code.

At the same time other versions arise, without need for payments of
royalties, these other versions add value in some way. It could simply be by
formatting the plain text source, and producing a word document. It could be
printing to a pdf file. Or printing to paper and binding. The printed
version could be softback or hardback book. It could have large print or
small print. It could be illustrated. Or it could be embodied in software.

In other words volunteers give their time freely to create the code. But
others, without any one having a monopoly publish and distribute the code in
a diversity of forms to suit a multitude of individual needs. For example I
only need 1 page out of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) the rest of the
structural provisions are a long list of Australian standards which are
obvious. The primary users of the BCA are architects and building surveyors.
Australian standards is a non-profit organisation, with volunteers, but SAI
Global who publishes the standards is a profit making organisation. It
benefits SAI Global to keep pushing towards annual subscriptions. Some of
their electronic versions of the standards, expire after one year. The BCA
is published by the Australian Building Codes Board, and besides being
available in printed form, is available in pdf, or online. One of the online
options provides access for a low annual fee ($25(AU) I think it was), for
viewing the BCA twice in a year. The BCA is revised annually; most builders
and drafters get by without ever looking at it. Basically the BCA represents
the official stance on what most people actual already do and have been
doing for possibly centuries. It is when some new technology is introduced
that the BCA minimum performance criteria become important and need to be
viewed. Any old version of the code is suitable for getting started with
design, and then go check current version online.

The other point of the FSF is that a lot of businesses are making a lot of
money from publishing way beyond the initial development costs. Sure there
is a risk involved with publishing so initial prices are high because not
certain how many units will sell. But that is a problem of monopoly and
economy of scale: the publisher wants all the market from a single version
of a work. If it flops they stop backing the work, but the author cannot go
elsewhere, because they relinquished their copyright to the publisher. So an
author cannot try publishing say a novel in parts in a magazine or
newspaper, nor try a paperback book with a different front cover, or start
promotion in a different geographical location.

What copyleft permits, is all to publish. Thus author sells a single unit at
high price to distributor: software application or e-book. A distributor
creates fancy packaging and puts on shelfs in every supermarket. They could
consider they have added value and sell at higher unit price than author.
But all persons potentially have access to buy direct from author. So
distributor sells at lower price than author, and further each buyer in
turn, if they wish to put in the effort, can become distributor. If each in
the chain sells at half purchase price to two others, then each recovers
their costs. If they can sell to more than two others then they start making
a profit. If lower prices have larger markets, then the original distributor
eventually lowers their price to equilibrium level. That is even though it
is possible to get for free from somewhere, not all persons will have access
to such resource, and various distributors will be able to sell the product
at some suitable price.

More over, to many of the distributors what is supplied as electronic media
is relatively worthless in its own right, it is what they and others can do
with it that has value. Thus the distributor makes their real money from
supply of services associated with the electronic media, such as training
and customising to better suit the users needs.

So on the other hand architects and engineers make their living from being
able to use the IBC, BCA and other similar codes. It should be understood
that the freedom the FSF talks about is freedom to adapt and modify, not
free from fee. Charge what ever extortionate price that you are able for a
computer application, but just make the source code available so that users
can customise to better suit their needs and do not charge extortionate fees
for access to the source code: supply source code at cost of media and
postage. The customised versions may have larger markets, but at generally
lower cost than the original, the originator can acquire one copy and source
and revise own version add more value and regain market. It is all about
supplying better service. Many engineers struggle because for the most part
they only have a job because regulations created one for them: they actually
lack the ingenuity to practice as real engineers. Most of their clients
would actually prefer not to employ such services, and only do so as
regulations force them to do. Such service has low value, therefore can only
charge low fees. Or may be not, for without such service get no approval,
therefore can charge extortionate price. But for small projects can get
approval without such services, therefore low value service, low price.

In any case my point is that the knowledge in codes of practice doesn't
belong to anyone, or at least shouldn't, and it is required to be applied by
all. Compliance with can be achieved by a diversity of forms. The Copyleft
licenses don't require payment of royalties, because each user obtains
income appropriate to the value they are offering: each also has a limited
market. The creators supply at high price to small market, and distributors
at low price to large markets. Eventually all may supply at similar price.
Electronic media and intellectual property are different than most other
products, development is not all that expensive and nor is the
infrastructure to copy and distribute. I'm talking cost: not desire to be a
millionaire selling a music CD.

It is expensive to design and manufacture a computer, car, or aircraft. On
the other hand, not everyone can set up production facilities to produce
aircraft or cars. Further, most inventors don't have the financial resources
to sue for breach of their patents, or necessarily the resources to
physically manufacture in the first place. Once again it is a case of
relinquishing rights to a publisher/producer. Having financed a new factory,
don't want someone with existing factory to start copying before recover
development costs. Why build a new factory? Because existing weren't
interested until they saw product was profitable. Information is different.

The computer industry could consider people make a lot of money using
computers, therefore push the price of computers up because they are highly
valuable. But that is likely to produce a net reduction in income, not
generate more income for less effort. Finding the balance is complicated: an
experiment carried out in the real world. Information is no different in
that respect: it has value.

Regulators hold monopoly over supply of information which is mandatory to
apply, that information is extracted from the minds of volunteers.
Volunteers give code authorities the knowledge and information. These code
writers could equally well give their information to other
producer/publishers. This would create a greater diversity of forms, which
would get the intent of the codes applied. The codes could also be more
dynamic and adaptive, changing by the minute. The approving authority, as
mentioned above could adopt one of these variations and endorse as the
official version for a year or more. The objective is to ensure compliance
with the intent of the code.

By keeping the code to plain text, and releasing copyright, a diversity of
alternative published forms may result. This may increase the price of the
current form of the IBC, but other forms would be less expensive,
individuals however choose which form is of most value to them. For many the
simple plain text file would be adequate, for others a printed version may
be better.

The information or knowledge is distinct from the media on which it is
published and distributed. I think will also find: that the copyright should
apply to the presentation and media not the content.

<end of part 1 >

Conrad Harrison
B.Tech (mfg & mech), MIIE, gradTIEAust
South Australia

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