Friday, March 22, 2002

Windows 95 in the Public Domain in 5 years? Windows 95 would be in the public domain in about 5 years if anyone listens to Lawrence Lessig. In The Future of Ideas he comes up with some possible remedies to our current disapearing commons crisis. One f the remedies is to limit software copyrights to 5 years, renewable for another 5 year term, after which the software, and source, falls into the public domain. You may think that's drastic but look at the reality. A law like this passed 10 years ago would basically be yeilding Windows 95 in 5 years. I'm not sure how much code reuse happens in Redmond but hey that's a very interesting prospect. Regardless of what you think of Microsoft, try to imagine of all of the knowledge locked up in a product like Win95. Think of the social benefit of that much code being released for teachers to use as examples in classes, for inventors to gain insight into another world previously hidden, for hackers to critique maybe even to the benefit of Microsoft. On the otherside what would the effect to Microsoft be if Win95 was released? I doubt they would be harmed financially. They are making money off next generation products that they've developed since the release of Win95. From a technology stand point do they lose anything? Probably not. Other companies, while not placing code in the public domain, have released their software as open source. The exposure of the source hasn't caused any harm. And you can't tell me Microsoft would be harmed by another company redistributing their own version of Windows 95 ten years after it's initial release. The more I think about it what a great move this would be for the software industry. To bad it will never happen.

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