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August 24, 2006

Oh, those irascible young Eurosocialists at the Free Software Foundation Europe

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A little while ago I came across a page of portraits of Georg Greve, who runs the Free Software Foundation Europe, and who is one of my earnest sparring partners on intellectual property matters at WIPO.

Because Georg and his comrades at FSFE have poked some fun at me on their blogs, I thought I'd poke back, so I made a little fun of Georg over his page of portraits. All in good fun.

Well, Georg is bent out of shape about it. He thinks I'm obsessed with him or something. Don't worry, Georg. Male Eurosocialists are the furthest thing from my type.

I inadvertently confused Georg's blog with that of one of his comrades who attended WIPO with him, Karstens Gerloff. I've already linked you to all the pictures of Georg that you could possibly want, but here's a great picture of Karstens.

gerloff pirate.jpg

"Oh, we at the FSFE do so believe in intellectual property! Yes we do! And we don't make light of piracy--not at all!"

So, sorry guys, about getting your two anti-IP, Eurosocialist blogs mixed up. All you young Eurosocialists look the same to me anyway.

The other funny thing about Georg is that he is just convinced that IPI is simply a front group sponsored by corporations, rather than a genuinely concerned NGO that believes that intellectual property is a critical driver of economic growth, and that one of the best ways for poor countries to develop their economies and give their citizens opportunity is to protect their property, including their intellectual property.

Georg and his comrades at FSFE, on the contrary, think the way for people in developing countries to build wealth is to write software code and then let anyone have it who wants it, so long as THEY promise to give it away to anyone ELSE who wants it. Yeah, we'll see how much wealth THAT _____ model builds (I was going to call it a business model, but it's NOT a business model, is it?).

The people who are primarily making money on the Free Software model are people selling services, not people writing code. There's room for that at the domestic level in an already-developed economy. But how much globally-advantageous business potential is there in developing countries selling services? How are services going to become any country's comparative advantage?

If the Kenyan software industry goes open source or free software, how are they going to be able to use their free software expertise to create trade with other countries? Answer: They can't. IT consultants and providers in Kenya will be able to make wide profit margins by taking advantage of the naive and misguided labor of idealistic open source coders (just as they do in the U.S.), but Kenya will have nothing of global value to trade, export, etc.

Finally, I must comment on Georg's assertion that IPI is sponsored by large U.S. corporations, despite the fact that he cannot possibly document that fact, because IPI protects the privacy of our supporters and thus doesn't release information on them. Georg, you can ASSUME it, and you can ASSERT it, but you cannot KNOW it or DOCUMENT it, because you just flat don't have access to the information.

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