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    How much has CentOS/Linux/VIM/LibreOffice/X11/GCC saved your company in licensing costs?

    How much money have you given them?

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      Why should I pay for copies of software which is being distributed by authors free of charge?

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        If my buddy cooks as a hobby and makes me a nice dinner every so often, I make sure I do something nice for him from time to time even if he insists it’s unnecessary.

        If I get to the point that my daily dinner plans just assume that he’s going to make me dinner, I’m definitely gonna give him something nice even if he still insists it’s his pleasure.

        If I get to the point that I’m demanding he make certain recipes for me and on a certain schedule, I’m definitely gonna give him something nice.

        (Or, to keep the analogy going, I’ll make him dinner sometimes by…submitting patches or something. I suppose it’s not a perfect analogy.)

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          Yeah, on the other hand if I go to some charity and work for them, I’m not expecting to be paid and I’m definitely not working for them expecting that when my work will become essential I will be paid. I’m doing charity work to do something good never expecting anything in return. That is how I understand charity.

          If I want to serve food to hungry people for free, I’m not expecting them to compensate me. If I wanted to be compensated I would have started normal paid restaurant.

          Going back to free or open software - if you release something with license that permits usage in commercial setting without any compensation then why would you expect to be paid? You just said that you don’t want to be compensated… If you want to get paid, say so clearly and make it so that your software can’t be used for commercial purposes without you being paid.

          Commercial entities are not your buddies and will spend the money where they need to, not where it would be nice to.

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            Unlike @lorddimwit, I think the charity analogy is misleading for several reasons:

            • Charity work, like serving food to hungry people, is labour. And whilst making software is labour, the software itself is not labour. Commercial entities don’t care about your labour, they care about your software.

              I think we all, commercial entities included, recognise that when we want something about the software to change, we have to pay for that labour. But usually after exhausting every other way of getting that labour for free: bug reports, “free” swag, good / bad publicity, flattering / badgering authors, etc…

            • Charity is freely given to specific groups. “Hungry people.” Free or open source software is given to anyone with a computer, technical acumen, an Internet connection… well-off people. Some software licenses aren’t so undiscriminating, but they aren’t generally considered free or open source.

              This is why I have difficulty sympathising with the frustration expressed by some authors of permissive (MIT/BSD) licensed software. “I think I get annoyed when it feels like people try to take advantage of us instead of contributing their share to the project when they are getting so much out of it.” If you feel like people are still taking advantage of you after you’ve asked them to stop and told them what you want in exchange, then I think you could:

              1. Stop labouring for free. Go do something that get you paid.
              2. Keep labouring. Stop freely sharing the the fruits of your labour. (Don’t give them a license. Go proprietary. Dual license. GPL or AGPL.)
              3. Keep labouring, keep sharing the fruits of your labour, and find another mechanism to get paid? Because complaining— empirically— doesn’t help. (Go 501c3, let profitable organisations reduce their tax burden.)

            In short, I’d love to live in a kind world, but the world isn’t kind. Capitalism is especially not kind. If you’re making free and open source software, remember that copyleft licenses require people to grow the ecosystem of free and open software. Permissive licenses don’t. And whether or not you get paid is independent of that choice٭.

            Choose appropriately.

            (٭ Yes, a permissively licensed bit of code is more likely to be depended upon by a business. Later, the cost of paying for the changes / continuity they want may be less than a rewrite or fork. It’s the precious, few, and wonderful profitable company that simultaneously chooses a free dependency and supports it before forced by circumstances…)

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              The charity analogy is great, and I think it actually helped me realize the root of my problem here. If I’m doing charity work, I’m doing it to help those who need it. Google doesn’t need my help.

              That was, I think, the crux of the article: a lot of major, multibillion dollar companies are benefiting to the tune of millions of dollars of unpaid labor a year by hobbyist programmers. To me, it’s qualitatively different when Google’s or Apple’s or Facebook’s infrastructure benefits from this labor than from some grandparent running a blog or a hobbyist building something in their garage.

              It’s like a restaurant going to the county food bank to get their food.

              The problem is, there’s no good way of saying “my software is free to use unless your company revenues are over $X a year.” I mean, I suppose that could just be a term of the license but then you have to take into account inflation, etc…

              The various versions of the GPL are, IMHO, the best compromise we can really get in this sort of situation: everyone benefits and nobody can lock it down.

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                “ the root of my problem here”

                The root of the problem is their “solution” doesn’t address requirements first. Much like many problems in software projects. The requirement is to give something of benefit to organizations operating on rational self-interest with incentives to maximize this, minimize that, and otherwise be greedy. The other requirement is to get those selfish organizations to give back funding for development expenses.

                The solution to this is going to be a paid license of some kind. It can add as many benefits of F/OSS in terms of customer freedom as they want. Like I’ve said before, one can even allow them to fork the software among themselves creating derivatives so long as they’re still paying for it. You can contractually say that the original supplier might donate it to a foundation if they stop maintaining it. There’s a lot you can do to approach F/OSS except one change is necessary: payment is in the terms to force them to give money in exchange for benefits. Or go elsewhere if they want to freeload.

                Note: I’ve also had ideas like contractually forcing them to donate to a foundation. You let them know they can write it off as charity for P.R. on top of getting the benefits of the software. The foundation funds the software or, if altruistic, some other software.

                “The problem is, there’s no good way of saying “my software is free to use unless your company revenues are over $X a year.”

                There’s companies that do exactly that [1]. They give away proprietary stuff for free until you grow to the point that you should be expected to pay for it. I was thinking setting it at either what most one-person consultancies make, what a VC-funded startup starts with, or whatever denotes the start of what’s a mid-sized or just expanding business. Where they have broken even with discretionary income. Realistically, it’s probably just going to be “X number of dollars in revenue and/or investor funding.”

                [1] Although I forget original companies, a quick DDG gave me Fusion 360 as example. They give free license to companies making under $100,000 a year and free to hobbyists.

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                  The various versions of the GPL are, IMHO, the best compromise we can really get in this sort of situation: everyone benefits and nobody can lock it down.

                  That is why I now prefer agpl. Random developer like me will still be able to benefit from this in private, yet faang corps will never use it. I’m definitely not going to work for free for faangs :)

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          I’ve started making a point of releasing any Free Software I write under aggressively anti-corporate licenses. Mainly AGPL3, based mainly on the rumour that Google won’t touch it. I’m in the market for a good CopyFarLeft license, but as far as I know, there are several promising ones, but none that have really been legally vetted.

          Given the kind of crap I write in my free time, it’s not likely that BigCorp will want to reuse any of my code, but it’s best to be proactive.

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            Years ago (we’re talking like 2002), I wrote a little Python library that allowed you to create Cisco-IOS-like CLIs.

            I found out later some major training company was using it in their CCNA/CCNP courses to simulate Cisco devices.

            I was fine with it but they were technically violating the (GPL) license.

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              That’s the other reason to require payment. Companies violate GPL all the time. Ripping off your paid offering might give more leverage in court dealing with them.

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              It’s no rumor. This page has the assurances that you’re looking for. :)

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                My research suggests that WTFPL is a decent choice for this sort of action. It designates Free Software and is uncomfortable for suits to handle.

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                No other developer contributing to the software has made more than 2,586 commits.

                How bad do you feel if you’re the person who made 2586 commits to curl and you just got told your contributions are insignificant?

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                  Of the 25,000 “commits,” or updates, made to the GitHub repository for cURL, Stenberg created 14,000 of them. No other developer contributing to the software has made more than 2,586 commits.

                  That means Stenberg wrote over half the commits, while the second-most-active committer wrote about a tenth. I don’t think that’s significant, but it is lopsided.

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                    Almost as bad as the “single full-time developer” on OpenSSL the author blames for Heartbleed?

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                      Why has curl become so complex that somebody can contribute 2586 commits and not even measure up?

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                        Old set of protocols that are successfully deployed with various level of rigor means lots of edge cases to support.

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                          spelling errors in comments?

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                        “Open source” does not mean “free of charge.”

                        If your company uses anything which is open source, you have the code, you can fix it yourself, even if the authors don’t want to accept a PR with the fix. Also, if all the authors quit, you still have the code. Those license things which few people read absolve the authors of any liabilities and risks which you accept as a user and a business by using open source code. Every business I’ve worked at that used open source, if there was a problem we fixed it and tried to get fixes merged back into the main project.

                        Having the code for the project is probably less risky than depending on another company releasing a closed-source library or tool integral to your business which may not care or have time to fix flaws or add features your company needs, or may go belly-up leaving you depending on something you can’t continue developing.

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                          Open source software has a ton of benefits for the economy as a whole. Startups heavily rely on it, and can innovate faster when they get started with open code freely available. Additionally, people working on open source as a learning activity creates an ecosystem where workers can retrain themselves, making workforce more effective overall. The whole system results in a huge public good.

                          This is kind of a half baked idea, but I wonder if the government could start funding more open source initiatives through grants to individual developers and projects. The money could be sourced by taxing large tech corporations, and closing loopholes that let them currently pay little to no taxes. This money could be divided up by calculating the users of a given piece of software. The more users of the software, the more money is allocated to development. This similar to capitalism, but with a built in requirement to make code open and freely available, instead of strict profit being the only goal.

                          Ideally companies would provide funding for open source on their own, but that’s difficult because of how capitalism encourages them to only focus on profits. This seems to sometimes discourage releasing open source software, as it could help competitors, which goes against their corporate goals. Is this idea insane? I wonder if anything like this has ever been discussed before?

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                            But when software used by millions of people is maintained by a community of people, or a single person, all on a volunteer basis, sometimes things can go horribly wrong.

                            Even for HeartBleed, hate attitude against “poor software” developed on free time it is disrespectful.

                            If you want a better project maybe hire people to develop it or code it yourself and quit criticizing the project.

                            Of course, this is different than discussing and addressing the issues, or constructively criticizing the approach. Saying you would have done better may mean you see an opportunity for improvement that might be appreciated upstream.

                            It might be different if you are trying to propose an alternative and the author of the most used implementation try to crush you with its weight.

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                              Although, to me, that article does not feel aggressive against free software projects developed on free time.