Sunday, October 12, 2008

Love and Copyrights

Money can't buy you love, but love can bring you money. In software the only sustainable way to earn money is by first creating love, and then hoping that some folks want to demonstrate that love with their dollars. - Daniel James

This is some of the most insightful pieces of ‘found wisdom’ (paraphrased from the notion of ‘found poetry’) I think I’ve ever heard. I’d say found poetry, but that makes me think too much about the ‘Unknown unknowns’ speech.

I’ve been planning on writing Yet Another The Book Was Better™ post about Choke, but I can’t seem to get into it. The notion above says more about one of the themes in that book (false love) than I could waste with a whole blog post. It also says a tremendous amount about the software industry (I especially like the part about Ruby on Rails is not a mother fucking industry).

Everyone pirates. Its one of the constants of the universe. As long as there has been software, there have been people that have wanted it, and invariably someone comes along and attaches a monetary value to that software. In the heyday of Richard Stallman and the free software movement, someone would make a piece of software because they wanted it, and assumed that someone else would want it as well, and in the scientific tradition they would share their creations. There was no exchange of money for goods, as it was considered research that would benefit the community as a whole.

Now that software development is a big business there are many obstacles to acquiring software through piracy. But the above statement points out the idea that few in the industry are coming around to, the idea that love for a property will drive people to purchase it. Its not enough to recognize a brand that represents easily copied digital bits, one must love it. From music to movies to applications, this holds true.

I have never purchased a piece of Microsoft software. I’ve pirated, using various means, (including a multi use university license copy of WinXP that I’ve used about 100 times) all M$ software I’ve ever used, barring the eMachines computer my parents bought me when I was 13. Its not a hatred of all things Gates, its a matter of being broke, and just not loving it all that much. I’ve downloaded music, yet gone to a show and purchased a copy of a CD directly from a band member working a merchandise table. Love. The first copy of an operating system I’ve ever purchased was Leopard. Its ridiculously easy to pirate Apple software, but I bought it nonetheless. Love.

When you’re selling something intangible, you have to do a little more than just protect it, and brand it. It has to make people fanatical. They have to feel that they like the company and team of developers that they are purchasing from. That way, it feels like being part of a community through your investment in their product. And in this world of big business and bottom lines, that’s hard to achieve.