Re: "Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.

Subject: Re: "Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.
From: "Tim Altom" <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com>
To: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>, "TechDoc List" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 09:36:47 -0500

I can see the arguments you pose, but I think they seem more formidable than
they are.

> 1. First, technical support becomes a nightmare if everyone has a
> version of the documentation.

This situation can exist already, because it's no big trick to copy
disjointed pages of a copyrighted manual. Or a user may have only an old
version, having lost the new one. One of the biggest problems we see over
time is that users lose manuals or let them get behind. Without ready
availability of new doc, users have to use the phone.

> 2. Second--and speaking largely defensively--technical writers add an
> lot of value to an organisation both in providing the docs themselves and
> fighting with the developers to fix interface and usability bugs. If the
> documentation is no longer sold for a profit (or at least on a
> basis) as part of the "sunk cost" of the overall product, who's going to
> for those technical writers?

I think it's expected by the user public that companies amortize their costs
when they sell boxes. An "official" copy, shipped with the product, is paid
for by part of the purchase price itself. After that, few companies charge
enough for new copies to break even. We get paid the same way the developers
do, via the long-term recovery of investment.

>...but if they've paid for the product, then
> they've already got the documentation, so why would they need it available
> online?

They paid for it six months ago, but they no longer have it. Perhaps 20
users have two manuals between them. Manuals get lost, buried in filing
cabinets. They walk out with disgruntled workers. In most organizations, the
manual goes even before the computer is updated.

The bigger issue is whether or not it's worthwhile to continue claiming
copyrights all the time. What do we get out of copyright? You have to go to
court to enforce the thing anyway. By that time, the product's changed and
you've written a new copyrighted manual. I think that, in many cases, we put
that little "circle-C" on the doc just because everybody does it. Copyright,
like patents, were developed for a world that few of us work in anymore.
"Gone with the Wind" may be worth copyrighting, but I'm not so sure about a
manual whose productive life span is about equivalent to that of a mosquito.

Still, I imagine your arguments will be common ones, so I'll archive them
for later incorporation.

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Featuring FrameMaker and the Clustar(TM) System
"Better communication is a service to mankind."
Check our Web site for the upcoming Clustar class info

> --Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
> geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Copyleft" doesn't solve _our_ problems.: From: Hart, Geoff

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