Free software, fairness and scientists

I have just posted my final blog posts to my Sun blog, including one called Free, the right price for software. (Now republished on this blog,as Free, the right price for software.) This uses a Welfare Economics approach to argue that the correct price for software is free. This is designed to be an abstract for an essay I have promised myself, which will also be the basis for my evidence to the UK Government Consultation on regulating and restricting file sharers. This article briefly looks at economic equity, efficiency and academic publication regimes.

Two points that I failed to put in the abstract, are firstly that economists see equity, as in fairness, as having two dimensions and that paying people with the same skills and abilities different amounts is inefficient and thus sub-optimal but arguing about the fairness of paying differently skilled people different amounts is the domain of politics. Efficiency tries to remove considerations of political equity from the model. It’d be interesting to see if this can be worked into the essay; why is Tom Cruise paid so much?

The second issue is that pure science research has to be published, peer-reviewed and refereed before it is adopted. Sharing knowledge for free is what professionals and scientists have been doing for years, why is software and the media any different. I hope to work these questions into the essay.

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