19 January 2006

Windows Sucks Continued.

Kyle at Pit of Babel has some rather deep insights into what is wrong with the Windows Operating System. He gives three reasons, I'll give you the gist of one of them:

You don’t buy Windows, you rent it. You get to keep it so long as you don’t make significant changes to your computer. They’re watching your computer, and alterations can end up cutting your system off.

If intellectual property were really property, the metaphor would cut both ways. The fact that it doesn't, that you don't have the rights one would expect when you buy intellectual property in a box at a place like CompUSA or OfficeDepot, that you would when you buy a copier or a fax machine, is more reason to abandon that damaging metaphor that has shaped our laws.


Anonymous said...

Your understanding here of the licensing issue is somewhat faulty. The reality is that ALL software is licensed, not just Windows, and not just commercial software. Linux, MacOS, as well as any software that runs on any platform are all licensed. The terms of those licenses may differ, but the reality is that you never own any of the software you run, you simply license the right to use it. The underlying principle here originally came from the idea that software code is simply a set of written instructions, hence the application of copyright law as opposed to the laws that govern most manufactured goods.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The problem is not that it is licensed per se. The problem is that the license does not afford users the right that they reasonably expect in the context of how they purchase the software. (An Article 2C of the Uniform Commercial Code has been considered to address this problem).

Also, while it may not be immediately visible from this post, it isn't that I don't think that software and other ideas protected by copyright, patent and other laws shouldn't have legal protection, it is that the government provided monopoly provided by those laws should be both narrower in scope (particularly with regard to derivative rights) and term (which now far exceeds the economic useful life of the product), and that the character of the right should change. The gravement of a copyright violation is unjust enrichment rather than a violation of a property right in the traditional sense, and the licensing regime for Windows is just one example of how the property analogy works poorly to resolve issues and create expectations that another intellectual framework, like unjust enrichment, would resolve better. A reasonable person buying a copy of Windows rightfully expects to be able to use the program on at least one machine perpetually pursuant to their license (which does not contain an express time limitation), not to have to buy a new copy of the same thing everytime they material change the hardware upon which it will be used.

When property is sold in the same manner and context as a manufactured goods, those sales practices create reasonable expectations in the minds of consumers that are deceptive to contract around with post hoc shrink wrap licensing agreements.