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    I’m an ASCAP member. I can’t think of anything good to say about this idea. But, as an ASCAP member. No thank you. We don’t need to replicate that model. Nope.

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      Care to elucidate on the shortcomings of the model?

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      I like the idea of a subscription to pay for maintenance of open source software (I would even pay for this as an individual), but the logistics of making this happen in a fair and sustainable way sound like a nightmare. Are there companies or organizations that already do this on a broad scale? In the past I’ve donated to Software in the Public Interest and the FreeBSD Foundation, and the Software Freedom Conservancy and the FSF are other well-known orgs, but it would be nice to pay one meta-organization to dole things out and track effectiveness.

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        I had a bit of a similar idea, in the opposite direction. I already have a day job and don’t have the reputation (or skills to be honest) to pull this off, but I think it’s almost the ideal model.

        Sketch of the model:

        • Company pays the service something like $X00/month or $X000/month (“real money”)
        • Company’s Github account hooked up to the service
        • git repos will have stuff like requirements.txt/package.json listing dependencies
        • the service will have some good Python/Ruby/JS developers that will be trying to keep an eye on these dependencies and try to commit patches on these projects
        • Also company could point to specific pain points (“Django migrations are slow!” “This library’s basically been abandoned”) and direct the work a bit

        The idea being that this subscription pays for some time from people who are very used to maintaining Rails/Django libraries or the like.

        The money itself could go to paying for maintainers directly, or to give funding to projects directly.

        This could be potentially messy (like some projects might not want external contributors) but many companies end up maintaining private forks of libraries simply because the hassle of working with the upstream library and getting things merged is rough.

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          In Germany there is the organisation GEMA which is very similar. The shortcomings of this system, as illustrated by GEMA are as follows: There is no fair way to divide the money between all the members. In general a few superstars get millions and everyone else needs a day job. It is difficult to track who’s work gets used and how frequently. The organisation starts clamping down on individuals and small hobby shops to squeeze out more cash. The organisation becomes an old-boys club that eventually stagnates and loses sight of the real world, getting left behind by and shutting out new developments that break the established frameworks. Eventually members are forced to choose between a sane way of doing business and the organisation. The organisation starts to have a massive overhead of costs for paying execs and other staff.

          None of these problems are intrinsically unsolveable but I would be very hesitant to join any such scheme which did not have specific and robust safeguards in place to deal with these kinds of issues.

          It is also worth mentioning that GEMA have a state sanctioned monopoly, which means no competing organisation is allowed to exist. Many of these issues might be partly a result of that.

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            Talk about over complicating things. There are plenty of ways to make money from software - just ask Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Docker, Red Hat, etc.

            Honestly, the self martyrdom of some FOSS developers is difficult to understand.

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              Software that is being created to be sold, yes. Software that is being created to further society in a way that is beneficial for all, e.g., free software, no. Even the super important projects like OpenSSL aren’t well funded… Everyone makes a lot of assumptions about software—“oh they do this at work, for their jobs”—but my guess is that is the case for only a small handful of the most popular projects, and the rest are doing the work, gratis.

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                Every single one is VC-backed. Your “plenty of ways” boils down to one way.

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                  I agree with the premise but it’s been a while since MS raised VC, right?

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                    The ones I listed were VC backed, but that’s only because I purposely chose over the top examples where the founders became billionaires. (And also RedHat ;-)

                    But there are tons of smaller companies who aren’t backed by VCs, whose founders and employees make a decent living creating software. Things like Pixelmator, Reaper, Quicken, etc.

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                      whose founders and employees make a decent living creating software. Things like Pixelmator, Reaper, Quicken, etc.

                      None of those examples are open source… No one is making a claim that you can’t successfully sell software…

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                        The concepts of “open source” and selling software for money are orthogonal. The linked article is about a scheme for people who have chosen to give away their software to try making money from it. My point is that they already made that choice when they decided to give it away to everybody for free.

                        I think there’s some short sighted-ness in software developers around FOSS. To use your OpenSSL example, if it’s a “super important project” (which is just an opinion), then it’s important for the project to organize itself in such a way that it’s sustainable, and that means providing for the developers so that they can keep developing it.

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                          To use your OpenSSL example, if it’s a “super important project” (which is just an opinion)

                          I’m basing it’s “super important project” status on the fact that it has 100s of millions of users (or more) given it is linked in popular browsers, and popular web servers. You’re likely interacting with OpenSSL as you load Lobste.rs. So, yeah, it’s “super important.” There are viable alternatives, now, but that wasn’t really the case until recently, and the amount of effort for the 2 developers to keep it up, in their free time, for the benefit of society, has caused issues in the past. See also GPG’s fund raising efforts, and countless others.

                          for people who have chosen to give away their software to try making money from it.

                          No. It’s absolutely not about that. It’s about recognizing that free / open source developers aren’t peons to be trampled on, but, instead, valuable members of our global economy. The chances of this model, or any other model, being sustainable for all contributors is next to nil. Please keep that in mind. Even the most successful of projects that use a foundation model can’t pay their contributors living wages. But, if the original authors choose a different model (than open source) for release, it’d have been very, very, very difficult to make it.

                          As you’ve stated now, multiple times, if you want to make money off of your software, you have many avenues to do so. And, look at @mperham, nginx, puppet, and all the other businesses that have successfully created sustainable businesses from roots in open source. It’s possible, but this avenue isn’t right for every project, nor is it right for every situation. I’m not going to give up my cushy corporate job to struggle to survive on and build a business based on a piece of software I found useful to me. I’d be happy to let others do that if they desire, and I indicate that with the licensing I choose to use.

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                            I’m basing it’s “super important project” status on the fact that it has 100s of millions of users (or more) given it is linked in popular browsers, and popular web servers. You’re likely interacting with OpenSSL as you load Lobste.rs. So, yeah, it’s “super important.” There are viable alternatives, now, but that wasn’t really the case until recently, and the amount of effort for the 2 developers to keep it up, in their free time, for the benefit of society, has caused issues in the past. See also GPG’s fund raising efforts, and countless others.

                            At the same time, 100s of millions of people are using iOS, Windows, and OSX, so by that criteria they are also “super important”, yet none of them are available for free. Price and size of user base aren’t really criteria for determining importance.

                            I’m just pointing out that society in general isn’t going to have much sympathy for people who’ve voluntarily given away all of their work.

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                              Price and size of user base aren’t really criteria for determining importance.

                              Just what do you think the word important means, then?

                              iOS, Windows, and OSX

                              This logic… is so weird. Yes, they are super important, too. They contribute 100s of millions of dollars in revenue every year to Microsoft and Apple. Do you agree that Microsoft and Apple save millions of dollars a year by not hiring developers to develop proprietary replacements for the libraries and programs they bundle in their distributions? And, at the same time, reap tremendous additional benefits from doing so, by virtue of remaining compatible with other software systems that said, users of those systems want compatibility with?

                              This post outlines one possible way for them to say thanks. Making a contribution to this type of fund would more than pay for itself in good will and positive PR.

                              Note: I don’t even know if I agree with the model outlined. Though, I do agree that some monetary compensation to folks contributing to liberally licensed software is healthy for the ecosystem, human/labor rights generally, and the economy

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                          The linked article is about a scheme for letting people who have chosen not sell the software they write can try to make money off of it. My point is that they already made that choice when they decided to give it away to everybody for free.

                          I think there’s some short sighted-ness in the software world around FOSS. If OpenSSL is a “super important project” then it’s important for the project to organize itself in such a way that it’s sustainable to develop it. Forcing the developers to work on other things for their day jobs, or having them beg for money isn’t sustainable, and it really isn’t necessary - it’s a choice they’ve made.