Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Free for a price

I just came across Donna Wentworth's review of the inanity of considering information gathered using public funds as private "intellectual" property. She, of course, references the utterly idiotic Rick Santorum-sponsored (is that redundant?) bill to prevent the publicly funded national weather service (NWS) from diseminating the information it gathers to the public without additional charge (paying for the service through taxes is considered getting it "for free" by Santorum). This free distrubution of publicly financed information is tantamount to"unfair business practices" because it prevents AccuWeather from making a profit by charging consumers to access the information they've already paid for. Santorum considers this information to be "intellectual property" owned by AccuWeather. As far as I know, AccuWeather has neither the proprietary rights on the weather itself, nor a patent/copyright on reporting of information in a user-friendly fashion such that any reporting of weather data in a manner easily understood by lay people is an infringement on any patent they may have on their specific reporting format/style.

No, AccuWeather can't compete with "free" but AccuWeather doesn't own the information they want to charge to access but it is not the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that a company can turn a profit when they do not have a product sufficiently unique from something freely available that we are willing to pay extra to use that product, especially when potential consumers are already funding the free service with which the for-profit company wishes to compete. If AccuWeather wants to reimburse the taxpaying public for the information they are provided and do so at a rate we all find acceptable, we can negotiate an agreement. Afterall, is it not an unfair business practice to require us to give AccuWeather information for free in order for them to be able to sell that information back to us?

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