Peace fullness.

Barry Shein (bzs@BU-CS.BU.EDU)
Wed, 1 Oct 86 14:12:53 EDT

> As a developer it IS my responcibility to produce a product that my
>clients desire and to develop new features and approches.
> I have done just that, but I am afraid to market it. Why ? Because the
>Universities will produce a public (or very cheap) version and have their
>name behind it! All my time, effort and MONEY will be wasted.

I am not sure this is the right list to address this issue although
I am not sure what the right list is. Apologies in advance.

Your problem is ubiquitous to the software industry.

It's caused by a conception of software as merchandise, a comfortable
conceptualization in an economy that by and large likes to break things
down into such catagories.

Unfortunately, software does not fit that paradigm very well as you
have discovered. It is closer to a service than a product. Recordings
and books have various similarities, but in general a song by a
particular artist is not easily replaced by a very similar song by a
very similar artist, so copyright is effective. That is, software is
too easy to duplicate and its function is fairly specific, thus my
TCP program that I give away for free may very well wipe out your TCP
program that you sell. I doubt too many people would like to have a
recording of something that sounds a lot like me singing what might
be a Michael Jackson song, or a story I've written very much in the
style of Ernest Hemmingway (there is a contest however...)

If one accepts the problem rather than fights it, one might come to
the conclusion that the software should be sold for a nominal fee and
the real product would be continuing support as a subscription. This
most Universities have little interest in providing. It's probably not
a bad business either tho perhaps not as trivial as sitting down,
writing a program, selling a zillion copies and then never incurring
another cost except that of copying floppies and mailing them out.
You might actually have to work for a living!

It's no wonder that racket has a few weaknesses although I don't doubt
it would be (and has been) massively profitable.

        -Barry Shein, Boston University

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