[discuss] When the relevance is revealed.. software public policy, not software acquisition.

I would like to describe a moment in my meeting with Dr. Colin
Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.

He was discussing the need for balance between various interests, and
the need for creators to get paid for their work -- otherwise most
creativity wouldn't be possible. He said that I'm one of those needing
to get paid, and I clarified that I am part of a very different part of
the debate and cannot be lumped in as a software author with the
lobbiests from the BSA/CAAST.

I said I am part of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software sector,
and gave him a copy of TheOpenCD.org to help explain. I said that on
this CD was legal replacements to most of the software that CAAST is
complaining are being shared illegally for free, and that in our case we
specifically encourage and authorize in our licenses for people to share
for free. In fact, we benefit greatly when people take a copy and
install it on every machine they can get their hands on.

We discussed how in a free market that the marginal price approaches
the marginal cost, and that the marginal cost to the producer of
knowledge is zero. I explained my 95% solution business model,
clarifying that I only charge a one-time fee for my services and not a
marginal cost per copy. I pointed out that there are longer
explanations of the concept in the book I was giving to him (The Wealth
of Networks).

He said he had received something similar in the past, but didn't
know what it was about. I showed him an Ubuntu CD I had, and he said
that that was it.

Until the larger economic implications had been discussed, the Ubuntu
CD didn't have any positive meaning to him. Now it does. And I hope to
talk more in our next meeting about the wide variety of motivations for
participating in FLOSS projects. I had a chance to talk about how
participants include the largest corporations like IBM, and how even
Microsoft has released Open Source software and have their own Open
Source licenses, to how small businesses, hobbiest, academics, and many
other participants exist for a wide variety of reasons.

This is common with talking to politicians. If you tell them that
they can get some software cheaper or even $free, but don't explain to
them how producers are paid and how it not only protects but increases
jobs and other economic activity, they are going to reject it. Not
only are they not going to see this cheaper software as a great thing,
they are going to instantly have an aversion to it as a politician who
will see the whole concept as a threat to Canadian productivity, jobs,
trade, etc.

This is why I talk in terms of core economic policies (copyright,
patents, peer production, basis of knowledge economy, trade, treaties,
etc) and not about software acquisition. MPs don't make acquisition
decisions, and talking about software that is cheaper or $free will be
seen as a policy negative. It needs to be the right message for the
right people!

Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant:
Please help us tell the Canadian Parliament to protect our property
rights as owners of Information Technology. Sign the petition!

"The government, lobbied by legacy copyright holders and hardware
manufacturers, can pry my camcorder, computer, home theatre, or
portable media player from my cold dead hands!"
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