[sword-devel] e-Sword collaboration & other copyright matters
Mon, 01 Jan 2001 14:03:42 +0800
Chris Little wrote:
>> some of our leverage as being a free, non-commercial and OPEN SOURCE
>> software package would be taken away.
> I don't think being Open Source is much of a selling point to publishers.
No, but it does illustrate that in principle we are not chest-hugging
greedy and paranoid about things.
> Generally, they're afraid of someone cracking the software and
> stealing their stuff. There's some logic to it, since someone with an
> unlocked module could essentially do anything with that module, like print,
> publish online, etc. Amusingly, I'd say we still have much stronger
> protection than most closed-source, even commercial products. With SWORD,
> you definitely have to have a decrypt key for every query. Logos, on the
> other hand, just keeps track of which books you have unlocked and stores it
> in a file. In other words, nothing is even encrypted, so you can pretty
> easily share your unlock cache file or crack the program itself to ignore
> the unlock checks.
The advantage here is not ``open source'' but ``better methods,'' or (in
this case at least) better engineering.
Really, any work done for Christ should be both free and open source
regardless, caveat that the workers concerned must find a way to sustain
themselves. Many ``Christian'' publishers are worrying too much about
staying in business and not enough about what their business really is.
While there is a definite duty of care involved, if God be for a
publisher, who can be against them? Publishers should have the purity
and effectiveness of the works that they produce first in mind, the
dollars second (and the spread of the gospel zeroeth: it should not so
much be something to be borne in mind as a basic assumption, part of the
personality of the company).
These days, at least, the only way to make serious money out of
authoring something is to write a thick ``Mills-and-Boone'' romance book
and sell fifty million of them in the first month. The money is made
from the sale of physical books, not the information in them: the
information is the reason for the sale, but the book is what actually
gets sold; copyright exists to prevent others from making duplicates of
the original physical book.
The digital realm is a completely different universe, in that
duplication costs essentially zero. If I buy a 20GB hard disk for
$OZ200.00, my storage is worth $10.00/GB, or 1c/MB. My current
collection of SWORD texts cost me about 10c to duplicate; if I'd paid
top dollar for the data (it was free), the transport cost would be about
$1.50. This compares favourably with about 2000cc (about 3kg) of paper
which had to be typeset, printed and bound, then transported, stored,
sorted, transported again (repeat maybe twice more), costing about
$OZ60.00 at bare-bones prices, probably about double that in reality.
Not only that, I can search and cross-reference it all pretty much
Traditional media (ie paper) were protected to some degree from
individuals copying them by the difficulty and expense of duplicating
the physical medium. This protection is evapourating rapidly. Tapes and
videotapes were the leading edge of the wedge, but now with digital
storage at unprecedentedly low prices and set to balloon even more, a
revolution of profound implications, similar in magnitude to the
invention of the printing press, is upon us. [ BTW, is this sounding
pontifical enough? :-) ]
The different behaviour of the publishing medium requires a different
profitability model, a different view of issues like copyright,
royalties, and publishing costs. Before printing, money was made in
doing the actual transcription; only after presses became common did
issues like copyright become significant. Open Source pushes the
operating model even further. What concepts will wither and die, and
what will blossom in its path?
One profitability method is to use electronic media as a leader back to
traditional media: ``if you like reading this text on line, have you
considered owning an attractively bound printed copy with that
traditional feel, clear print, lasting value and batteryless portable
operation?'' This, I believe, has a limited future.
Either way, the purpose of Christian literature, espcially the Word of
God, should be primarily to get itself read and used. If we can find a
way to make this happen, hopefully commensurate with the profitability
of whatever the publishing companies become, I'm sure God will be
Do you remember when you only had to pay for windows
when *you* broke them? -- Noel Maddy