People assign intrinsic value to money. Be it cash, what is in your account, or credits in an e-store. Cash allows you to buy stuff. You could buy a car, it would be your car. You could buy a radio, and it would be YOUR Panasonic monster 3000watt PMPO sitting on your desk just waiting to freak out your neighbors.
With the advent of online stores you can buy applications with your cash, credit or whatnot. You can buy an iPhone app from the app store and have it downloaded onto your iPhone, or iPad for that matter. And it would be YOUR app.
Wait, no. It wouldn’t after all…
Software Make Things Complicated
As far as buying and selling things, software presents a bit of a special case. That app you bought for your iPad is not YOURS per se. You buy the RIGHT TO USE the software only. Check your EULA (End User Licence Agreement) if your software has one.
Music falls into the same category, but is possibly a bit easier to understand – by buying a CD with music on it, you own the CD but not the music on it. You are limited in how you can use that CD, play for yourself – yes. Play for a crowd in a club? No.
Now you get to a music playing device and it gets really confusing: You buy an MP3 player, and while you OWN the actual player, you do NOT own the software running it, nor do you own the music on it. While no-one can take the physical player from you, the software vendor may (depending on what your license says) disable the software running it, or remove some of the content on it.
Take the iPhone as a good example, and the Kindle e-book reader. Apple can disable applications on your iPhone if it decides to do so. In the case of the Kindle, whole books have been removed from owners devices by Amazon.
Now before I spread panic, Amazon has indicated that they are working on a way to negate the need to remove books from users devices, and Apple has indicated that they will only remove malicious applications from iPhones.
It does get worse though…
I happened on an excellent article over on OsNews recently via Slashdot. It explains in depth how software licensing influences creativity. In this case the author deals with the Mpeg-LA codec used on many hand-held Camcorders. This codec allows you to record what you are seeing onto a camera, and then to copy it on to your computer.
That still sounds pretty straight forward, but it is riddled with licensing minefields. You can record your home movie of your doggie barking at your kitty sitting on the fridge. Yes it is really cute the way the poor Jack Russel runs in circles with its head cocked at an odd angle. As cute as your dog is while bouncing about as if on a meth induced rage, you owe royalties to the software owner making it possible to record that video.
Want to sell that video to a local news station for their ‘And to end of our broadcast on a lighter note…’ segment? Sure, but you will be required to pay royalties to the people owning the Mpeg-LA codec.
Rumour has it that they generally go after people making $100k dollars or more at this stage from their work, but you get the picture.
Software is not yours, heck in the example given above your own WORK is not entirely yours.
Okay so what is my point?
Well in short this: There are alternatives out there. Free software is available, and it is often just as good – or possibly even better – than what you can buy. Android OS is a good example of this. It is an alternative to iPhone OS, and powers many cellphones today. There are free and open source video codecs out there as well that you can use.
When you use a piece of hardware today, bear in mind that even though your computer is yours – you bought it with your money after all – you might want to think again about the software that you have on it. Do not give away copies of your software, you don’t own it.
Keep in mind that you might own royalties on that wedding video you made for your friends and sold to their wedding guests to defray your costs.
And lastly but most importantly – explore free and OPEN SOURCE alternatives if you are unhappy of living with restrictive licensing. You will NEVER be in the position of owning software unless you develop your own, and if you choose to buy software to use make sure of the limitations on that software.
I am not saying that paid for software is a bad thing, I just hope you as consumer approach the use of your hardware informed as to the limitations on your rights where the software running on the device is concerned.
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