Open source and UK politics

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The new dividing line between Labour and the Tories is less about a left-right split than about an authoritarian approach on one side and a more liberal one on the other. And Labour are on the wrong side of it. Many of their social and economic policies may have failed, but where they have succeeded is in developing a targeting, controlling, distrustful state.

From the micromanagement of civil servants, teachers, doctors and the police, to ID cards, super databases and the growth of surveillance, the government's answer to too many problems has been the removal of autonomy from individuals and more oversight from Whitehall.

The Conservative analysis is that this over-controlling state is not only disastrously unpopular, it is also one of the key reasons why Labour, despite all its spending, has failed to achieve its goals. Endless supervision has been an expensive distraction, and has sapped energy and morale out of public life.

Amazing how the Conservatives are becoming the party of bottom-up openness - explicitly in the case of open source - and Labour seems determined to become its polar opposite.

Coming Down Hard - in Favour of Downloads

A study about downloading finds:

Music companies need to stop resisting and accept that illegal downloading is a fact of 21st-century life

...

"The expectation among rights holders is that in order to create a success story, you must reduce the rate of piracy," Garland said. "We've found that is not the case."

The authors of the study argue that music rights holders need to find "new ways" and "new places" to generate income from their music, rather than chasing illegal downloads – for example, licensing agreements with YouTube or legal peer-to-peer websites. In other words, they ought to do the musical equivalent of giving away free ice-cream and selling advertising on the cones.

So far, so boring - I and others have been writing this stuff far ages. Except for one tiny detail: the study comes not from deranged bloggers like me, or crypto-communists bent on underming the entire capitalist system, but was conducted

by the MCPS-PRS Alliance and Big Champagne, an online media measurement company.

In other words, *their own research* shows that their *fight* is hopeless. Will they listen? Don't hold your breath....

Mapping the (Open) Future

OpenStreetMap goes from strength:

Earlier this week the project surpassed 50,000 registered users with over 5,000 actively contributing data each month. Historically the contributor base has doubled every 5 months. That means there will be around 50,000 adding data monthly by the end of 2009. That’s a ten fold increase from today.

Right now on each and every day, 25,000km of roads gets added to the OpenStreetMap database, on the historical trend that will be over 200,000km per day by the end of 2009. And that doesn’t include all the other data that makes OpenStreetMap the richest dataset available online.

It's also growing in other ways:

Until very recently we talked about OpenStreetMap being a global project but the reality was that outside of Europe and the TIGER-Line fed USA the pockets of OpenStreetMap activity were sporadic, often just one contributor in each place, or the devoted work of one or two burning the midnight oil tracing over the Yahoo! imagery layer in far flung places. Even that’s changing though. The OpenStreetMap community itself is growing and one of the best examples of that is the proliferation of national websites acting as local language portals for the project. Already there is openstreetmap.ca, .ch, .cl, .de, .fr, .it, .jp, .nl, .se, .org.za and that’s probably missing a few that are on the way.

OpenStreetMap is clearly fast becoming one of the open world's signal achievements. (Via James Tyrrell.)

Why Software Patents Are Harmful

Recently I've pointed to a couple of classic texts about the general undesirability of intellectual monopolies. Here's an interesting counterpoint: a text about why bringing in software patents would be harmful to the Indian computer industry.

Despite this specificity, its points are quite general. For example:

In other industries, research continues up to a point where further research costs too much to be feasible. At this stage, the industry's output merelyconsists of replacing parts that have worn out.

However, in the software sector, a computer program that is fully debugged will perform its function forever without requiring maintenance or modification. “What this means is that unlike socks that wear out, and breakfast cereal that is eaten, a particular software product can be sold to a particular customer at most once. If it is to be sold to that customer again, it must be enhanced with new features and functionality.” This inevitably means that even if the industry were to approach maturity, any software company that does not produce new and innovative products will simply run out of customers! Thus, the industry will remain innovative whether or not software patents exist.

(Via Open Source India.)

Originally posted at Open... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence. Please link back to the original post.

Now read Glyn Moody’s Open Enterprise blog

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