[PD] The economics of Open source

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 8 10:40:08 CET 2011

1) You're seeing one model of the economics of free software in action on the Ardour 
website.  Click the link to the "news" page and there's a status bar that shows the 
amount of donations given per month relative to the amount it would take to fund full- 
time development of the software.  Then you click "download" and have a box where 
you can type in any amount you'd like to pay to download the latest stable version.  

I know the term gets tossed around a lot, but I don't think free software has much
at all to do with "free beer".  Free beer is delicious, mindless, quickly consumed and 
then gone.  It's something you take (and-- hopefully-- don't give back).  It derives its 
potency from people's (current) inability to make more of it without exerting a 
burdensome amount of effort (which would then negate its freedom from cost).

Free software is a bunch of bits with a marginal cost of zero (i.e., once you have one 
Ardour tarball, the amount of money it takes to produce another Ardour tarball is zero). However, the cost of producing the software is not zero, so you are faced with the 
seemingly odd situation of being nudged to pay for something that you can copy, distribute, 
learn, change, and distribute-with-changes for free.  But the whole point is: do you 
believe that the best way to develop software is for people to be able to read, run, 
copy, change, and distribute it freely?  If so, then Paul has a crawl next to the entry box 
that shows the current prices people pay for proprietary DAWs, and you can choose 
accordingly (or proportionally within your means, or whatever you want to do that you 
think will support and sustain that development model).

Or you can just pay $0 and contribute to free beer.

It's by no means the only model, nor the predominant one.  Probably the people who 
develop the software you'd like to donate to can tell you more about their models.

2) Absolutely not.  Look at the software repository in Debian-- it's all free of charge 
(including Ardour, btw).  Also, Debian itself is free of charge.  Pd, Supercollider, 
ChucK, Jack, Fluxus, Blender, etc.

--- On Tue, 3/8/11, Pierre Massat <pimassat at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Pierre Massat <pimassat at gmail.com>
Subject: [PD] The economics of Open source
To: "pd-list" <pd-list at iem.at>
Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 9:21 AM

Dear List,

I was trying to get Ardour to work last night and i came accross the forum on their website. I must say i was quite shocked to see how many posts were about money. I was equally surprized to see that the latest full version of Ardour isn't free (although you can name your price). 

Now don't get me wrong : I think i can imagine the amount of work that was necessary to write a software like Ardour from scratch, and i totally understand that the team who wrote it may decide that they should be payed for it. 

This leads me to ask two questions :
1) What are the economics of open source software, and how sustainable is the model? How does it work for Pd? 
2) I get the feeling that open source developpers used to think that the idea of free (free beer...) software was cool, but 10 to 15 years down the line (that is, now) they're beginning to realize that they can't keep on doing this forever. Am I wrong here? 

I have been considering making a donation since i've been using Pd extensively for a few years now. But could someone tell me exactly how it works? Who gets the money? How is it split between the different developpers? For instance, i'm assuming that Miller Puckette should get a fair share of the donations since we're all using Pd vanilla at least, but i use HID a lot in my patches, so Hans should get his share too. And i never use GEM or Gridflow (cause i have no need for it at the moment), so i don't see why part of my donation should go to Mathieu or GEM's author(s). Yet i m sure that thousands of people use GEM, and these developpers should be supported as well. In short, how does it work, and how do we make this sustainable? 


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