The land of free copying has a fringe which has always existed: it is one of the lands humanity has inhabited since time immemorial, the land of story. If I know a story, I can tell it. There is a one-off overhead I've had to expend, called learning the story: after that, the cost of repeating it is the time it takes me to repeat it. The land of story is one of the most fascinating and complex lands that exists: its easily-understood district is the land of `knowledge' - stories folk use to describe and understand the world in which we live - though different folk draw its boundaries in utterly different places; indeed, on each culture's map of the land of story, the borders of the land of knowledge have shifted and changed, usually unnoticed, during the lifetime of that culture. Within the land of knowledge, as described by the culture in which I live, there is a highly prestigious district - the land of `science'.
Once certain artefacts existed in the land of science it became possible for folk to build, in the material world, certain machines whose existence caused new territory to come into being in the land of free copying. Many artefacts had to be built with which to manage this new land. Other artefacts where used as means of creating artefacts for use in the land of science. Indeed, in the land which corresponds to machines, it is possible to create artefacts which will not only manipulate and organise but even create artefacts in the land of story.
At first, each machine was, in effect, a small island of the land: artefacts had, at first, to be made afresh in each. They could be moved between islands with a little care, provided the islands weren't too far apart. Slowly, bridges got built between islands and it became easier to move artifacts around among them: in due course, the islands have effectively merged into a single continent, with routes round most of the few remaining barriers to movement. It didn't take long for folk to establish methods of moving artifacts between the islands, later this new continent, and the lands of story and of books.
Humanity is well acquainted with the land of story, in which free copying has always been available, and human society has evolved ways to regulate it. In particular, in the land of science copying has been largely unrestricted.
Where it comes to the written word, many media have served to record it and anyone with time and relevant writing skills has long been able to copy any document in their possession. So the land of the written word is close to the land of free copying: indeed, through the former lies one of the routes by which folk have entered the latter. There are various obstacles to this route, and taking an artifact down that route involves little more than time, effort and somewhere in the land of free copying to store the import.
The ambient civilisation was fairly new, fairly technologically advanced and almost getting stable when our story begins. One particular bit of technology they have is the ability to reproduce any artifact, houses included, given a design. Technically, local law says that if you employ someone to do this, you own the right to charge others to make artifacts to the design: if you design something for yourself, you own that right. There's a bit of a grey area around the fact that the designer could subsequently work for someone else: and, being asked to solve the same problem, produce a design differing in no important respect from the first. The designer thus sells her labour to this second customer, who ends up owning a piece of property essentially identical to the original.
So several folk may own designs which entitle them to charge folk for building houses to any of those designs. This is handled by the house-builder having to select the owner of one design, work to that design, and pay that one owner: and by forbidding anyone to copy someone else's design without their permission (for which they usually charge). There are ghastly difficulties attendant on deciding whether something is a `copy' or merely so similar that you could be forgiven for not noticing that it isn't a copy. However, land is the principal form of capital (ie folk pay serious money for it), substantially because it isn't an artifact, and it's easy to find someone who will design something for you. Consequently, the cost of a bit of IPR (a design) here and there doesn't really bother anyone who's got enough land to influence anyone involved in writing the law.
Part of the land of the written word is the land of the printed word: it takes a great deal of effort to create (and space in the physical world to operate) a printing press; and likewise to typeset a book; but once the type is set in its racks, that rack constitutes a plot in the land of the written word which, when suitably tended (by running the press and feeding it paper), produces copies of a book. The owner of such a plot of land then has the ability to sell folk copies of the plot's book. The owner of a text can produce such a plot of land, at some expense.
A trader might buy a thing in hopes of being able to find someone who wants to use it, to whom to sell it, like any good trader as has been seen in many lands: and the service he provides is that of bridging the gap between the designer, who has made the thing (since `to design' and `to make' are almost the same thing in this land) and some user that the designer hadn't found. When the trader comes to sell the thing, of course, he can sell a copy and go in search of someone else who'll pay to be saved the need to find someone else who has one of this thing. Indeed, when the trader bought it off the designer, the designer doubtless did the same. A find trade that would be, and I hope the web will produce a place where it may be done honestly - the truth may be out there, but how much will you pay someone to go and find it for you ? or for bringing you the crucial fact you didn't know you needed, until you had it ?
When the trader comes to haggle with his customer, he can run into a problem: the customer claims to know someone else who'll give them the same thing cheaper. That just means there's no market for his services there: so he moves on. His costs reflect the effort of finding the things folk want and the folk who want them: but the price he gets from his customers is what they will afford to pay. This combines what they can afford with the value, to them, of the thing. The trader has to separate out these causes: if his potential customer can't afford the thing, but wants it, and doesn't know anyone who can afford more for it, it makes sense to sell at a price the customer can afford. A trader always has to suspect that the other haggler is feigning penury to get a better price: and he's unlikely to come back with other wares to folk who can't afford his services, or who persuade him they can't. In any case, the trader can always move on.Written by Eddy.