Music with Woz
Sunday, August 6, 2000 by Dave Winer.
Last night I went to Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View as the guest of Apple founder Steve Wozniak. We've been emailing about music, so I wanted to get together with him to talk. It was a great show, KD Lang was the opening act for Sting. I had never seen Lang perform live, and she is totally inspiring.
Woz is not a Napster user. He tried Macster and it didn't work. He's too busy. And get this, Woz uses Tower Records like others use Napster. He bought all the albums by all artists whose name begins with C. Woz has lots of money, and uses it creatively.
I asked about the story that he wrote a program to crack Visicalc's copy protection, and he gleefully told me that not only was it true, but his program improved Visicalc's disk performance. (I was an author for the company that published Visicalc.)
I encouraged Woz to get into the public discussion on Napster. He has a long well-known history of interest in music. He is also the rare icon of the software industry whose integrity is unassailable. He's the original wizzy-wig guy, he'll tell you what he thinks. You don't have to read between the lines with Woz.
But he's no neophyte. When I was shooting pictures I complimented him on his consistent cheerful smile and he told me about reporters who choose the picture that suits their theme. So he doesn't want to give me a picture of him looking silly, but I managed to get one anyway. ;->
Here's the thank you note I sent to Woz.
In today's London Observer. "Hypocrisy is the oxygen of the new imperial order of thought ownership. Every genteel landlord of fenced-in intellectual real estate began life as a thief. Under WTO and US law today, how many products built on the ideas of others could never have made it to market? As Isaac Newton would say now: 'If I see further than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants too dumb to patent their discoveries'."
If the music industry won't answer the two questions I asked last week (so far no answers), why aren't others asking them?
I'm waiting for the NY Times deep investigative piece on the economics of the music industry.
Get on the phone and call the execs and ask those two questions. Go off the record if you need to, you might not, the music industry is under enormous pressure, and some people probably want to be on the record now. The LA Times has been doing a great job at chipping at the edges from one side. Now let's get the economics of the music industry documented. They're more open now than they've ever been.
I don't have the editorial resources or credibility of the great American newspapers, or even John Perry Barlow, yet I have gotten enough quotes in private conversations with people in the music industry to answer the two questions.
Any reporter could break this into the open. Want to make a name for yourself? Get the other side of the story, and do it thoroughly. Where does the money go?
On MSNBC. "But wait! Hereís Springsteen singing 'Forever Young' with Bob Dylan. Better download that, after all itís never been recorded, either. And, oh my God! Thereís Bruce performing 'Many Rivers to Cross' with Jimmy Cliff. No way youíd see that on a CD at Tower Records. And Joan Baez with the Indigo Girls doing 'Donít Think Twice, Itís Alright.' And Tom Waits in duet with Rambliní Jack Elliott. Are we talking cool or what?!"
Doc Searls: "More than one developer has told me that the Amazon patent has had the effect of stifling software development in the conceptual vicinity of the affiliate program patent. That patent, it seems, scares money away. The VCs don't want the risk, and there are too many other tempting investments."
I'm one of the developers Doc is talking about. First, I didn't know that Doc stopped linking to Amazon, and for that I am thankful. Thanks Doc!
From my point of view, patents screw up the whole software development process. Like book authors, the best software products are assimilations of stuff that came before. I encourage every software developer to use my software, and I hope they do the same, in the hope that good ideas get out there, and make everything work better. I also think proper credit should be given when you use an idea that made a difference in making your concept work.
I think it goes without saying that patents are a big fence around ideas saying "if you go here you have to pay me" or worse "you can't go here." That goes against the philosophy that competition is good for everyone. This is an American concept, afaik, and one of our biggest strengths as a culture and an economy. And it also means that to be a developer you at least have to have a lawyer as a soulmate, and while I have great respect for my lawyer, I don't want him designing the software, nor do I think he wants to design the software.
Imagine Doc if you couldn't cite an author whose work you admire? If you couldn't use someone else's idea to build your thesis? All we're asking for is the same kind of freedom that authors such as yourself have.
If only Amazon used patents as competitive weapons, it wouldn't be the big problem that it is. Even so, investors generally will not fund development that's competitive with Amazon in the two known areas they have patents. Further, it's a minefield, it takes three-four years to get a patent through the USPTO. So the patents filed in 1998 won't come public until next year or the year after. So we just don't know how awful a situation it is, but every day, more ridiculous patents are being issued, and the lawyers get more and more involved in our art.
I'm sorry you're not getting the money from Wordsworth. However it's OK with me. You've put your stake firmly in the open source philosophy, which imho is a vast oversimplification of the software process. But one thing it clearly stands for is the elimination of creative barriers in software development. So this is an opportunity for you to pay a price for your beliefs. That's OK with me, because having a philosophy has consequences, if you're true to it.
As a friend, it's always troubled me that you're willing to promote revolution in my art, but when it hits your pocketbook, well, that's when you stop being such a revolutionary. I have the same concern with O'Reilly, the central promoter of open source, which certainly does not open source their books; when asked why, explains that they have to make money. Same with Phil Hughes, your employer. They're willing to advocate revolution, as long as it doesn't hit their bottom line. (If O'Reilly and Hughes were true to their cause, I'd be able to read Linux Journal fully on the Web for free, and every O'Reilly book would be on the Web, indexed by Google, etc.)
Anyway it's early on a Sunday and I was out at a concert last night so my vitriol level is pretty low. I hope this answers the questions Doc raises, perhaps I'll have more to say later.
PS: Afaik is an acronym for As Far As I Know.
PPS: Doc is one of four Cluetrain authors. He works for Linux Journal, which is owned by Phil Hughes.
PPPS: On his site, http://doc.weblogs.com/, Doc asks for a discussion. Let's have the patent conversation on Doc's site. He's really getting into his weblog now, and I want to fully support him in that. We need more people like Doc writing publicly and asking the important questions. It's the antidote to a press that is too slow at getting to the core of challenging issues.