Monday, April 16, 2012

Unlimited, but not "Unlimited" Unlimited.

From the, "Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should" department.

In the library, product licenses are time-based, or licenses are use-based, or both. And sometimes licenses start out time-based, but as use increases, the publishers add use-based limitations.  I'm not going to call them greedy bastards.

But let's assume you're a greedy bastard. If you own something, even an intellectual something, *especially* an intellectual something, you're likely to want to be paid for its use, every single time.

Artists, writers, musicians, computer programmers, all want to be paid each time their works are viewed, read, heard or accessed. Which is the way it ought to be, I guess. If you were a greedy bastard.

But others don't get paid over and over again for the same labor. Teacher don't demand a cut of your salary for teaching you useful information. Chefs don't demand payment when their nutritious meals get you through a productive day.  A hooker won't take that bonus you scored because you were so relaxed when you cut that deal.

Intellectual property is different from commodities in that the value of intangible property can't be established by normal means, while consumable goods can have a fair market value. Eggs are a dollar a dozen while watching Titanic can have a value of $8 or $50,000, depending on whether viewing it was done legally or as an infringement on the owner's rights.

This is the same for services. Unlimited access to something is NEVER meant to alter your behavior. Unlimited means that you are allowed "the usual amount" for the average person.  But no company calls their service The Usual Amount. These same rules apply to all-you-can-eat buffets.  So no filling your plastic bags with shrimp.

That's why some Internet users get pissed when they hit a wall in their data usage. Because they interpreted "unlimited" to mean they can hook their device to every computer and TV in the house and suck bandwidth like... a thing... that sucks... a lot.

I don't know if you remember what it was like before the internet, but THERE WAS CIVILIZATION back then and I lived through it. There was a time when there was no "cloud" storage and library magazine and newspaper databases ran from CDs that you got in the mail. When a library patron wanted to find a newspaper article, you'd load a CD on a computer and search for it. If the patron wanted another article, you'd load another CD. And if you had the money, you'd buy a stack of CDs drives and run the service from the "tower."

And it was a cumbersome load of fuck.

And way back then I wanted to take all the data from all those CDs and copy it to a server and find an interface and host it all on our website. I didn't know if it could be done, but I was willing to give a try.

But I knew that doing so would be a violation of our license. Even back then, without the benefit of the internet, I knew some stuff. So I never did it.

Even now, I look at some of the content we supposedly own, and want to rip it all and keep it because we've paid for it, but I know that our licenses don't allow us to do that. "Stealing" is a word I've heard used.  So when I heard that there was a library that was attempting this "sharing," I thought, good luck with that.  Because I knew that the data provider wouldn't see it as sharing at all.

Libraries, and everyone, have to learn that if it ain't a cookie or a sandwich or a puppy, you won't own it.  You don't own your electronic databases, ebooks, television programs stored on your DVR, streamed music, etc. If it moves over a network as a digital signal, it ain't yours.  

I'm sure there's more I can say about this, but I'm afraid I've depressed you enough already.  But if it helps, the one piece of advice I can offer is this: if you want to understand how a system works, steal something from it.

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