What can go wrong?

No more donations?

Academics and non-profits benefit from the arbitrary pricing of software which allows "donations," which cost the giver nothing. These fake donations would go away because the company cannot control pricing anymore. A true donation would really be a donation, and the value of the donation would be well established and excluded from the no-tax-deduction problem revealed in the Singer (sewing machine) case, in which it was determined that by donating its machines to schools, it was benefiting by creating demand for its products. Similar constraints will come into being for the free demo copies given to the chattering classes.

Prices Rise?

Another problem is that the price of software licenses will go up rather than down, and this can be seen as bad for consumers.  Of course, there won't be consumers anymore, just investors; and its good for investors when the price goes up. Because a PURL is not consumed, but can be resold, the real cost is whether the usage is worth the possible capital loss. 

Market Cornering

Of course, when there is a market, someone can "corner" the market, by buying up all the silver, which makes the price go up. Of course, if the price goes up, they will want to sell them! Buy low, sell high. This system starts with the creator or publisher having a corner on the market. But until the infoprop achieves a network and reputation, it is worthless. If someone has all the money, no one else has anything to spend.

Emergence of Rentals

There are several ways a market can respond to ridiculous prices.  If the price is too high, demand will slacken, and the price will fall. Instead of permanent ownership, serial ownership might arise, which is a form of brokered rental in which the broker essentially takes a risk laying out the money to enable a poor consumer to pay a profitable TOL. Libraries will also bear the cost of a full PURL in order to serially loan these infoprops to the public. Libraries might become the ultimate early adopters, picking up properties before the share price rises.

End of Free Software?

Finally, there is the notion of "Free" Software. Will it go away? There is really two kinds of free software. One kind, "freeware" is written solely for the pleasure of the author, to satisfy a creative urge, to demonstrate what they can do, or to give something back to the world.  Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer argued that even without copyright protection, artists and poets and writers and musicians and programmers and directors would continue to produce work, because they must.  Truly free software and books and music will never go away. (But I might sell this copyrighted  text as a book. So enjoy it while you can.)

The second kind, "hookware",  is like a free taste of a drug. It is merely a way to entice a "user" into a dependency which they will then pay for. The key question which distinguishes freeware from hookware is whether the same infoprop is also for sale.  "This version is free, but if you pay for the upgrade you'll get something which works." "Look at these naked pictures, more inside if you subscribe." "Download a free copy for a 10 day trial, then pay up."  Hookware is also software sold in stores which comes with a 100% mail in rebate. Recently, there was a rebate program, reminding me of  the grisly slow murder scene in the movie "Casino":You spend $49 on a box of Microsoft Money® but get a $50 rebate if you also buy Turbotax.


The state collected its due on that "free" box of Microsoft Money®, and on the in-store  price of other products for which you get a mail-in rebate. Hookware is like a purchase and rebate which the state tax collectors missed in an eyeblink. The internet is a tax-free zone. Instead of buying a box of software or a record in the store, you can buy it across state lines over the internet, and save on taxes. If it is ESD, you can save on shipping too. 

Under the new plan, the only kinds of taxes which will be collected are capital gains taxes, when you sell a PURL for more than you paid for it. Rather than paying corporate taxes on copies "sold", since licenses are now securities, different rules apply. Reciepts for paid technical support services, TOL's and media fees will still be corporate income, as well as capital gain profits on PURLS bought back before the upgrade and sold again.


The hardest problem is what happens when a company foolishly sells all its PURLS and doesn't have a reserve left. Foolish Company.  The reputation of its other products suffer, and the licenseholders vote in a new agency to manage the source code.
 Copyright © 1999 J. B. Pollack