always mount a scratch mare

jamiemccarthy wrote:

Robert Lefkowitz looked at the old question of whether software is a product or a service by turning to an even older field: horse studs. In days of yore, if you had a mare that you wanted bred with a high-quality horse, you paid for the "service" of the stallion's owner bringing it over and performing the deed.

Nowadays, it's all about artificial insemination. So instead you browse through, ahem, a seed catalog, and purchase however many milliliters of semen from whichever stallion strikes your fancy. Now of course, if you had sufficiently small tweezers (and modern technology does), you could make millions of horse babies from even a tiny sample of semen.

But, according to the law and to the terms that you purchase the semen under, you are buying not a product (the semen itself) but... a service. You own the physical material, but you do not own the rights to it. You license the genetic material of the stallion. You perform your own artificial insemination with the material you purchased, but (this is true) you are allowed to make only two copies.

Lefkowitz's point was that the subtle product-service distinction is not unique to software, but I found myself wondering if, somewhere, there is a Jack Valenti of the horse-stud cartel, lamenting backup foals.

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12 Responses:

  1. hepkitten says:

    with horses it's not only about the resulting foal tho, its also about the genealogy. A foal with only a name-brand (so to speak) dam is worthless without an equally weighty name-brand sire. So you are not only paying for the baby, you are also paying licensing on using the Sire as a reference of sort's. Which is sort of a service and why you are only allowed two copies. You can breed as many foals from the semen you purchase as you want, but only two are allowed to be recorded as resulting from a union from that sire.

  2. transgress says:

    whats with you with horse semen as of late?

  3. moof says:

    Home studding will kill the horse-racing industry! It's as bad as Jack the Ripper.

    • ammonoid says:

      FYI, the thoroughbred registry will only accept the products of "live covers" - no artificial insemination allowed.

  4. schnee says:

    Kinda makes you wonder just who owns the copyright to a successful horse.

  5. baconmonkey says:

    I wonder if I could copyright or require licensing fees on my seed?
    if there ever was an "accident", there would be a licensing fee, or else the product must be destroyed.

  6. coderman says:

    The secret to enforcing a single or double use of straws (semen packaged for AI) is in the breed registry.

    An unregistered horse is a fraction of the value of a horse that is registered and thus bound and verified to its lineage.

    The stallion owner has control over how many horse babies you get to register as a product of that stallion (this means your mare is registered, and you control that side of the deal yourself)

    So you could in theory make a dozen horse babies with that single straw, but only one or two would be registered, and the remainder very hard to sell at even significantly reduced prices.

    [this is the interesting distinction between software and horse husbandry IMHO]