[okfn-discuss] Re: okfn-discuss Digest, Vol 14, Issue 10

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Sat Nov 25 12:46:47 GMT 2006

Ron Severdia wrote:
> That may be true..the second scenario *may* be easier and cheaper for 
> some people. But even cheaper than that is to put it on a disk and take 
> it (or email it) to your local copy store for printing, or give it to a 
> friend who has a printer to print for you, or bring it to your office 
> and print it on the boss's dime & time (people do this all the time)... 
> the cheap/free variations go on and on. The point is that the internet 
> is everywhere and so are computers and printers. If you don't have one, 
> you know someone who does have one. 

Sure but as Francis pointed out it might be a lot cheaper to have some 
company do this and then sell you the result. After all, this is what 
makes the market economy attractive: if we could all do all things 
equally well there wouldn't really be much point in exchange. As it 
there are economies of scale and scope, different skillsets etc etc 
which means that there are benefits from trade.

In particular, it is quite likely that there is someone else who is more 
efficient than you at printing books. For example, I believe that there 
are still very substantial economies of scale in printing, binding and 
distribution. Print cost per page on most modern printers is still 
around 5p+ per b&w page (photocopying at least in low volume comes in 
around this level too).

For a 100 page work this means home/work printing comes out at ~ 5GBP 
and for a 200 page work at 10GBP in print costs alone. Given that I can 
go down to a bookstore and pick up a extra-cheap new edition of 
shakespeare for ~1.99GBP (and this includes retailer markup, 
distribution costs, binding etc) this implies there must be a 
substantial reduction in printing costs in large print runs.

> There are speeding or drunk driving laws because there's a minority of 
> people that can't responsibly drive, thereby "ruining" it for every one 
> else. The same blanket rule goes for publishing companies. They may 
> claim to have all the scruples in the world, but it's a fact of life 
> that corporations lie (in varying degrees) to make money. So I can't, in 
> good conscience, allow one of them to exploit (for lack of a better 
> word) someone else for profit. Why wouldn't they take the freely 
> available Globe Edition (now in the public domain) instead if they want 
> to print books and not pay for them? 

Why? So what if some 'unscrupulous' corporation seeks to make a profit 
from it (and after all is profit per se bad?), after all the text is 
open so other 'good' (or even not-for-profit) companies can produce it too.

> Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. I really like hearing from 
> various points of view on this subject and I hope that someone can "show 
> me the light"... :)

We'll do our best ;) But seriously I don't think it is as simple as 
that. Depending on what you are trying to achieve the CC non-commercial 
may be a good fit or it may not.

For example, in some of your more recent emails you seem to be 
indicating that it was not simple aversion to profit-making that 
motivated the choice of licence but the potential to get some kind of 
income if a commercial publisher did decide to produce an edition. 
Whilst I would argue that the first reason is poor grounds for 
restricting the openness of the work the second is a much better one.

Of course one has to be careful. You state in a previous email that "If 
a big publisher was SERIOUSLY INTERESTED,  nothing would stop them from 
approaching me and getting specific  permission based on a mutually 
acceptable agreement. It's always  easier to loosen licensing that to 
tighten it."

But on this logic why not just use normal copyright and give individual 
permission to each user that came along on a case by case basis (yes to 
individuals, yet to third world universities, no to Harvard because they 
can afford to pay, no to individuals in the military because I don't 
like war etc etc). The answer is that raises transaction costs and 
increases uncertainty. The same is true about the non-commerical 
license. To take the case in hand the non-commercial restriction, at 
least in my reading, means that:

1. Any acting group, large or small wherever they are, need to seek your 
permission before they put on a performance for which there is a charge 
for attendance (cc by-nc ss. 3(c) + 4(b))

2. Anyone who intends to produce printed copies and charge for them 
(whether this a run of 500 or a run 100,000) need to seek your 
permission before doing so

It seems clear to me the hassle involved could be quite substantial, 
particularly when, as will inevitably occur at some point in the future, 
it is no longer clear exactly who the copyright holder is and how you 
contact them. (Just imagine the situation in which, say, 50 people, 
contribute to such a work. At that point you will, in theory, need the 
permission of all 50 people, simply in order authorise a piece of 
student theatre).

> On Nov 24, 2006, at 5:45 PM, Francis Irving wrote:
>> I just don't understand the difference between the theatre director
>> paying HP or somebody to buy their laser printer and toner, and them
>> paying a publisher to print a copy of the work for them.
>> In many cases the latter might be much more convenient.

Francis has put the point perfectly. Now you could say we should allow 
people to distribute printed versions as long as they do so at cost but 
I think this is in practice unworkable -- how do you verify they are 
distributing at cost and not just creaming off profit in the form of 
wages or fancy holidays to the Carribean? Much better to let competition 
operate to ensure that books are not overpriced (after all with a free 
underlying text new printers can always enter the market and if 
consumers should choose to still buy some expensive version because of 
advertising or similar who are we to stop them -- particularly when in 
doing so we prevent so many others from acting?).



PS: in one of your earlier emails you indicated that you felt I hadn't 
represented your views correctly. I apologize if this is so and note 
that I did quote the entirety of the relevant portion of our discussion 
in addition to any summary that I may have provided.

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