Jonathan Schwartz's excellent dissertation on 'free software' and non-litigation


Have just finished reading Jonathan Schwartz's (CEO of Sun) excellent and lengthy article about how litigation is, in the long run, a recipe for disaster and alienation against the user community especially when that community now has options, choices and isn't held back by fear and product lock in.

Key quotes for me (but read the whole thing):
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Traditional newspapers publish content produced by their employees. ... To the extent editors allow the unwashed masses to contribute content to their publications, they host "Letters to the Editor," typically limited to a single page, and heavily filtered. ... Simplisitically, in the world of traditional print media, >99% of the content comes from employees, less than 1% comes from the community they serve. The editor is in control.
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On the other end of the spectrum, a variety of on-line media companies ... aggregate and organize content produced by the global community. This content is (poorly) known as "User Generated Content," or UGC, and the companies distributing it see themselves as technology companies. Their employees don't produce content, they develop technology to organize it and make it accessible. >99% of their content comes from the global community, and a tiny percentage comes from their employees. It's the perfect inversion of traditional print media.

We can quibble about which is the more respectable of the two models, traditional versus new media, but there's really no point. The market accords a far higher value to the on-line aggregation sites than print media (just think, how many venture capitalists fund newspapers?).
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How does a print media company grapple with the threat of on-line media? If they're not acquiring new media properties, they're attempting to add community engagement to the on-line analogs of their printed publications ... Put simply, letters to the editor have become as valuable as the articles inspiring them.

Now, traditional media could certainly take another tack. They could sue the new/technology media companies, claim they're stealing readers by violating patents held by traditional media. ... But they'd be suing the community - the moral equivalent of suing subscribers - stepping over the line of editor, into the role of censor.

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What does this have to do with the software industry?

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