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osOpinion: Government-Regulated Software

Jul 17, 2000, 08:01 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Nadeau)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Realistically, nobody can say for sure what form of software regulation is best. The regulatory entire spectrum, from the current "Wild West" model to a utility-company model of regulated monopoly, is subject to drawbacks or risks. The purpose of this article is not to present an idealistic model for business regulation. Instead, I want to point out some little-known facts that expose the spin-doctors on the Microsoft side as either ignorant or willfully deceptive. It is important for people to know the facts, the realities, and to base their decisions on such realities instead of mumbo-jumbo from the wealthy and influential lobbyists on either side of the issue."

"One of the best ways to find out if a certain model of regulation or economic structure would be effective is to examine the historical record. While we cannot be certain that previous examples will always apply in a particular modern-day case, we can at least dispel some of the FUD and the complaints about "unknown risks". For example, we can be sure that an outright ban of liquor does not work, because we have seen the effects of government-mandated Prohibition in the U.S. We cannot generalize this example to claim that Mafia-style software distributors would engage in running gun battles in the street during a "software Prohibition", because Internet distribution would be a swift path around any distribution bottlenecks. But we can see that people will find a way to get what they want if somebody makes it available -- provided there are no secret "hooks" to prevent what they get from working. Liquor is liquor, but software can be anything the manufacturer wants it to be."

"The question we should ask, then, is "What prior examples of government software regulation exist already?" Also, we should ask "How effective is this regulatory regime, and why?" Finally, we need to examine the question "How applicable is this example to the current and expected future software marketplace?"

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