[UPHPU] OT: open source software and freedom (was: Zend Studio)

Mac Newbold mac at macnewbold.com
Tue Jun 7 10:30:54 MDT 2005

Today at 9:48am, Lonnie Olson said:

> On Jun 6, 2005, at 7:24 PM, Daniel C. wrote:
>> It sounds like a crappy idea to me.  Where's the motivation to produce
>> something new if you don't get to make a profit from it?
> Ok, I can't keep my mouth shut on this one.
> How many times do I have to repeat myself.  Free Software doesn't mean zero 
> cost.  Free Software can be sold for a profit.  http:// 
> www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

Okay, that's about enough of that one. How many people do you know that 
will pay for something when they can get exactly the same thing for free? 
How much will they pay? Whatever the media and convinience is worth to 
them. I'd say in most cases, that's probably not more than $10, especially 
since there isn't the Instant Gratification like there is with free
downloadable software.

The altruism of sharing the fruits of your labors is great, but it isn't 
always practical in our current system. I _could_ give away all the work I 
do for free, but then my family and I would have no place to live for the 
week or so until we all starve. Most of my clients don't mind giving me 
some of the profit they make due to the work I do for them, so everyone is 

> Before the recent enactment of copyright laws (yes is is quite recent 20th 
> Century only), most artists were still turning a profit.  Most pieces were 
> made on a commission by someone with money.  Example: the Sistine Chapel. 
> This is not much different from most consulting jobs done today.  This is a 
> wonderful way to make money and keep software Free.

Many places that commission software today aren't too happy if they have 
to pay big bucks when you're giving it away to everyone else for free. 
Especially in cases where it gives their competition all the same 
advanatages you helped them gain, but without the cost of investing in the 
software. You really can only pull that trick a few times before people 
stop patronizing you altogether.

How would your employers and their clients feel if you were to open-source 
all the work you do for them? What if you gave away free copies of source 
code for Company A's new website? What if you redistributed copies of 
system administration scripts, etc. that you built for your boss?

Say your team built some great new ISP management app that enabled 
them to lower their overhead and their prices, and compete very well 
against the other ISPs. Say the boss paid 4 developers for 6 months to 
make it, investing 2 years of average salary+benefits in the project, 
about $100,000-150,000 for example. Then the next day you gave it away to 
all the competing ISPs, and there was no more advantage to having it, 
because everyone else had it too.

> As for performance art like music, plays, etc, Artists made money for the 
> actual performances or services rendered, and not through licensing.  This is 
> analogous to providing support for a software package.  You can charge a fee 
> for providing support for Free Software.

Good free software doesn't need much support, so there's not a whole lot 
of money to be made in supporting a particular package. Probably the most 
profitable way to do it is by providing general end-user support for their 
free/open software systems. If you're a programmer, that usually isn't the 
most interesting job in the world.

> Please understand that Free Software doesn't mean zero cost.  There are other 
> alternatives to make a profit from Free Software.  It just requires a 
> different business plan.

Free software is great, but everyone has a right to market their work 
however they see fit, within the boundaries of legality and ethics. That 
is a right and a freedom that everyone here is granted. It is a perfectly 
valid business plan, and as much as you want to campaign against it, that 
isn't going to change that fact.

I encourage everyone to use free software (in both senses of the word 
free) whenever I can, because it's usually the thing in their best 
interests (good software at a great price). However, there are times when 
I recommend something to them that is not free, like Mac OS X for example, 
that I think is also in their best interests. Free operating systems 
aren't the best thing for everyone, because at this point, they wouldn't 
be able to use it well enough to have the extra time/suffering be worth 
the initial cost savings. I don't feel like it would be ethical for me to 
recommend something to them that I knew wouldn't be the best fit for their 
needs, because I'd be putting my personal feelings above their wants and 
needs, which would be deceptive and dishonest in my book.

So go ahead and evangelize all you want about FOSS, that's great. But 
please don't anyone try to pretend that FOSS is all things to all people, 
or even that every Free counterpart to a non-free piece of software is as 
good in every aspect as the non-free one. Such delusions will do a lot 
more damage to the FOSS community and it's growth than actually being 
honest about what FOSS can and can't do, and admitting there are times and 
places where it isn't the best solution.

And all the rhetoric about buying software [or licenses] being somehow 
equivalent to giving away your freedom is nothing but FUD, and it doesn't 
look like anyone here is falling for it.


Mac Newbold		MNE - Mac Newbold Enterprises, LLC
mac at macnewbold.com	http://www.macnewbold.com/

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