Bowl Makers in China Ordered to Preload Food

As is reported in a few recent news items [ 1, 2], Chinese government ordered bowl makers to preload food as a national effort to help reduce the high rate of seed piracy. Several major bowl makers have already made agreements with the dominant food maker Macrosolved to preload opium. This order will now make it mandatory for all bowl makers, large or small, to follow similar steps.

This is certainly a move to be welcomed by the food industry. (By this term we mean the food industry based on non-free seeds, and in particular the part of food industry based on opium seeds, since currently they are the dominant players in this field.) They invest heavy resources in crop genetical engineering to improve the tastes and nutrition of the food. They have been the major complainers about the popular, but illegal practice of seed piracy.

A customer-education representative from the Business Seedware Alliance (BSA) explains, "Consider the act of cultivating an opium seed on your own. From the legal view point, it breaks the End-User License Agreement (EULA), which is governed by the cultivating-right law. The terms are plain and simple. You can consume it, but you don't own it, and should not do anything with it that is not allowed by the license. From the moral view point, one sees that illegally cultivating seeds is piracy, and should be condemned by the society. Such action can produce from one single seed thousands more and even millions more of illegal seeds. Multiply that number by the cost of a single seed (use the tagged price, not the volume discount price, education discount price, gift price, or any other price) and you get the amount that translates directly to our loss. And our loss equals the loss of the society as a whole, since innovations and improvements in seed engineering will be discouraged. If you buy a new bowl and find that it comes filled with food, you should be given an EULA. If not, your food may be illegal. The major Chinese bowl makers who have signed agreements with us are helping the food industry and the consumers at the same time by eliminating consumers' burden of deciding whether the food is legal or not. We applause this decision."

There are also alternative views on this matter, however. We manage to get, from within the great firewall of China, the following street conversations that takes place in a bowl shop.

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Customer A: "I would like to buy a bowl without any preloaded food."

Sales: "I'm sorry, sir, we don't sell empty bowls. All our bowls come preloaded with either Macrosolved Opium Tasty or Macrosolved Opium Unforgettable.

A: "But I don't eat opium and I don't want to pay the extra money for it. I just need a plain empty bowl."

S: "I'm sorry. We can't sell you an empty bowl. That would be illegal. That would encourage circulation of illegal foods. Or do you want it preloaded with Macrosolved Opium Very-Stuffed? That's the latest model they promise to deliver in a few months. It is not available yet, but we can reserve it for you if ..."

A: "No, you don't get it. I do not eat opium. I eat rice primarily. And noodles, too. Sometimes I eat potato. But I do not eat opium. Now, if you insist on selling me a bowl with preloaded food, then please fill it with rice. If the extra charge is reasonable, I can take it, too."

S: "Well, that's even worse, sir. We must stay in line with Intellectual Property Law and must not sell you a bowl preloaded with free food. Free food is illegal; selling a bowl preloaded with free food is even worse. It would not only be against the law, but also against the GPL license of the free food.

A: "Ah, so you have heard of the Free Seed movement and GPL? But the contradiction in your view of the legality of free food and its license shows that you are totally confused. Consuming food made from free seed is perfectly legal. So is charging for distributing free seed and/or the food produced from it. What GPL tries to prevent is the intention to deny requests of access to the reproducible and mutable free seeds used to produce the food. BTW, not all free foods are covered by the GPL license but I will refrain from confusing you further. Foods made from free seeds just means that everybody has the freedom to grow the crops for that kind of food if s/he so chooses, plus many other freedoms. It has nothing to do with price. It has to do with freedom and liberty. Now if you are willing to fill my bowl with rice as a gift without charging extra, that would be a nice deal. But it is perfectly OK for you to charge for it. It is Macrosolved opium and other non-free food, not free food, that cannot be legally grown and sold by unauthorised individuals.

S: "I cannot say that I believe you, sir. I mean, think about those seed engineers. How can it be possible that any person has the right to take a seed they improved, and grow an unlimited amount of crops without paying them? It is their Intellectual Property and no other people should pirate it. Why do you keep talking about these things and talking me into selling you a bowl without preloaded food? If you are ..

Customer B: "Excuse me, ..."

S: "Hold on a second, please, I'll be right with you." Turning quickly back to customer A, the sales continues, "If you are one of those disguised guys sent by the Business Seedware Alliance trying to get me into legal troubles, you can rest assured that you will not succeed here. We do legal business. That means every bowl sold here is preloaded with Macrosolved Opium products. We do not sell empty bowls or bowls preloaded with anything else. Are you happy now? Now would you let me serve other customers?

Customer B seize the break to ask customer A: "Excuse me, I am interested in this free food thing. Could you explain a bit more for me, please? My company is considering switching to free food."

A: "Cool! You need to plan well. Most people find it challenging to switch from Macrosolved opium to free food overnight. It takes strong determination and a period of time to wean from the opium. First of all, some people find free food bland and less tasty. This is really subjective, but I want to warn you anyway. Secondly, the food industry based on free seeds is young and still budding. That means the advantage of free economy resulting from free culture is far from reaching its full potential. For example, occasionally you may have to invent your own recipe and mix free food from various sources in order to get the best taste. As you know the ordinary restaurants today all serve Macrosolved opium only."

B: "That sounds intimidating. We are not a food company and we are not resourceful. We don't want to spend our resources in the invention of recipes." Suddenly reminded by his own words, he turns to the sales briefly and said , "Oh, BTW, with the non-free seed industry, it's the food company that gets the majority of the profits produced by the seed engineers. In a way you could say that the company pirates the fruit of the engineers' intellectual labors."

The sales did not pay attention. He is busy dealing with another customer who wants to return Opium Unforgettable because it is incompatible with certain toppings specifically made for Opium Tasty. There is hardly anything constructive he could do except comforting her and educating her about the true value of the EULA license. "What you paid for the EULA covers only the right to consume the food. It dose not include service. Nor is it refundable. We sell bowls, so we will be glad to replace the bowl if necessary, but you need to contact Macrosolved for help on the food compatibility problems. We have no access to the seeds and cannot change its properties such as this small side-effect."

Witnessing this conversation too, A explains to B: "Well, you see the trouble with food made from non-free seed. It is not only them who cannot sell proper services such as improving on the intrinsic properties of the food. No companies except the seed-owning company can. And you had better give up the idea of buying true services from such a large and resourceful company unless you are a big client. As he explained, you pay solely for the right of consuming food. That's all. Worse yet, nowadays we begin to see new foods made from non-free seeds that are genetically-engineered to terminate after one generation so that nobody can grow them except this only one company developing this non-free food. Toppings using such technology sometimes even secretly modify your bowl of food without your consent. With the free food industry, you no longer depend exclusively on a single food company. You could buy services from anyone of the technically-capable companies to choose, mix, and cook for you. When the industry grows more mature, that is. They can also customize for you by cultivating variations of existing crops, or even creating crosses from different free seeds. You can exercise the freedom to grow your own food if you are inclined to..."

Customer C steps into the conversation, saying, "I don't mean to be rude, but you know it's impractical to persuade people into free food. Everybody eats Macrosolved opium. Nobody cares about 'the freedom to grow your own food'. And mind you, in this country you had better refrain from talking too much about freedom. The big food companies are developing the 'Digestible Restriction Management' (DRM 1 and 2) infrastructure, including the Trusted Consuming technology and exercising pressures on governments to pass laws that facilitate their control. They will make it illegal to produce and sell any utensils unless it implements DRM so that every seed it ever holds becomes infertile, etc. We are not talking about bowls only. We are talking about anything, regardless of the purpose in its original design, that could potentially be used to hold any digestible objects, be it cultivatable or cooked. DRM could make free seeds illegal. Actually no, we don't need to wait for DRM. The Digestible Millennium Cultivating-right Act (DMCA) has already made some free food illegal because they interpret free seed inventors' efforts to make free food compatible and mixable with non-free toppings, as an attempt to infringe on cultivating right. And the seedware patents idea is already valid in USA, and may become valid in Europe. No, free food cannot remain legal in such a world. How do you prove that your seed has no patented ancestry?"

A: "Exactly. These immoral and anti-social laws will hinder the development of not only free food but also non-free food. They have exactly the opposite effect of encouraging creative inventions, which was the original purpose of the entire Intellectual Property idea. And that's why it's so important to raise the awareness among the general public about what is at stake and why everybody should stand up against these immoral and anti-social laws. I hope you choose to be right rather than safe, and join us to fight for freedom."

At this point customer D at the next isle who has shown impatience for a while finally interrupts, "Will you please find some other place to give your political speeches? If you don't like bowls that come preloaded with opium, then don't buy them. I have no complaints about them. People have no complaints about them. You have come to a wrong place to do the wrong thing. Please leave us alone for quiet shopping."

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The food industry have provided the general public with pervasive and continuous education through various major medias, often endorsed by the governments across the planet. The idea generally held by the public is that "no EULA" equals "illegal", that "free foods" equals "anti-business", and that "free foods" equals "no service" (as if "EULA included service").

No wonder the major China bowl makers seem to interpret the requirement to preload foods as a requirement to preload opium, as clearly reflected in the sales conversations above. Or rather, the general public's confusion is probably reinforced by many more typical sales like this one in every bowl retail store. We wonder what the Chinese government will do about this pervasive confusion.

Will it ignore these confusions among its citizens (and bowl business employees in particular) and continue to endorse the education campaign of the BSA like many other governments have been doing, including its small neighbor? Will it bow to the international commercial pressures, and pass laws to make even cultivation of free seeds illegal as warned by the Free Seed advocates? Will it become a full opium country, to a degree surpassing its historical compliance with the opium industry?

Or will it encourage dialogs and debates between the two sides to reveal the other alternative arguments largely censored by the big medias (and unpopular among the well "educated" consumers)? Before the Chinese government gives more orders and regulations on bowl selling, will the public hear arguments other than those given by the food industry, for example arguments from the Free Seed advocates?

Oh, and we need to invite the bowl industry into the debates, too. In fact, the government should also consult the opinions of the entire utensil industry -- makers of all things large and small, china and plastic, clustered and embedded, ... whatever could be potentially used to hold seeds. After all, they may be the next target, I mean targeted ally, of the friendly seed-cultivating-right warriors.

Disclaimer: The author lives in an island that:

  1. sits at the southeast of China across a shallow straight;
  2. has difficulty deciding its own name;
  3. respects its citizens' freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

This story here is completely fictitious. However, parodies and analogies are intentional. The hyperlinks are genuine even though they may look irrelevant to people who are only interested in seeds and crops, not in bits and bytes. No part of this text is to be interpreted as the author's stance on the "unification with China or correcting our name" dispute. He is, however, deeply concerned with any issue related to freedom, especially the freedom of the citizens of our big neighbor to choose software, among many other freedoms.

This text is released under the cc-by-sa license or the GNU FDL, and it is subject to perpetual revision. You are encouraged to copy it and/or create derivative works from it. There are a lot more parodies to be elaborated along this line on the debates related to copy rights, patents, DRM, ... and so on. So please multiply and ... cultivate your own variation, or host it on a wiki if you feel inclined to. Translations are most welcome. (Please let me know.)