Thursday, 24 December 2009
Christmas and Open Source
My annual who owns Christmas blog 2009
I don't really "do" Christmas at all. Memorable Christmases the the past 10 years include being snowed in at Kent during Boxing Day, drinking a can of beer out of a brown paper bag and eating Chinese food.
When you don't really do Christmas you see what a lousy time of year it is, a time really needing a mass bribe of gifts and food to get most people through. Its hard to imagine that this, the coldest shortest days of the year where the streets are full of traffic and litter, is to most people living in places like America and Europe the "best" time of the year.
For me Christmas has long ago become an economic activity, the time in which consumers push the economy for one more year despite the best efforts of bankers to ruin it.
Don't get me wrong, Christmas makes a lot of people a lot of money, including small shops. So I don't want to get in to the entire "is Christmas consumerism good or bad thing" and jump to a more academic issues of Christmas and Open Source.
The thing about Christmas, unlike say interviews with Tiger Wood's lovers or Beatles songs, is that no one owns it and after almost 1,000 years of use no one can own it. I mean maybe after the Second Coming the Lord Jesus Christ might move to have his birth registered as a trademark and despite anything we might say about fair use or lack of appropriate IP laws covering Roman Empire administration of the Middle East he probably would get his way. Then again if anyone could beat Jesus in a straight up fight it would be a bunch of lawyers, but I digress.
NOTHING creates wealth like Christmas. Still, it is easy to forget 2 concepts. First, that Christmas is an established pattern of dates and items that could be trademarked and IP protected in another circumstance. For example the estate of Santa could establish that only they can make red hats with white fur to be worn today, or the Catholic Church could demand payment for each nativity set put under of tree. Second, that if someone could do this they could command un-dreamed of wealth. Imagine that every store that had a Santa had to pay you $10 a day for its use? Imagine if every family that told its children that Santa had brought gifts owed you just $1 each year. I mean you would be Microsoft doing business just one day a year.
So Christmas is really not that much different than say Windows, Star Wars, or Harry Potter. Its a myth that could, in some distant virtual universe, be a protected trademark.
If Christmas was a protected trade mark it would generate a lot less money for everyone. I mean a lot less. If parents had to pay someone to claim Santa had left gifts under a tree tonight a whole lot of kids would learn that there was no Santa Claus a whole lot earlier. People would quickly come up with other reasons for getting drunk and eating too much during the cold time of year.
And the amount of shopping (for good or bad) that happens in December would collapse. If some MBA in Wall Street and his team of Yale Lawyers could figure out some way to claim exclusive IP rights on Christmas they would make themselves millions at an overall cost to the economy of billions.
And that is the point, "Open Source" can create more wealth. Even with an exclusive product like Windows it is the open uses of the product that make the REAL money. Office makes Microsoft a lot of money, but nothing compared to the money being made by everyone else with Excel files and PowerPoint presentations. Imagine Microsft tried to get a piece of each transaction that went on using its tool, oh then it would be Google.
So this Christmas just think how you and yours can make Christmas from uncompiled source code you had been downloading all your life, and how much collective economic activity and to some extent collective joy this Open Source item creates.
Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life