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Why Making Money From Free Software Matters 224

Posted by kdawson
from the root-of-all-business-models dept.
Glyn Moody sends in what could be a watershed article, if the recording and movie industries are paying attention. "People have been making money from free software ever since Richard Stallman started selling GNU Emacs on tapes for $150 a pop. That's been good for hackers, who have often managed to make a living from their coding by working for one of the startups based around free software. And as companies like Red Hat and Google have grown in size and profitability, so have the credibility and clout of free software. But there is another reason why the success of these new kinds of businesses is so crucial: in many respects they offer a glimpse of coming shifts in other industries that need to grapple with the conundrum of how to make money from goods that are freely available. In particular, they offer the music and film industries an example of an alternative to fighting people's natural instinct to share digital abundance, by making money from new scarcities."
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Why Making Money From Free Software Matters

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  • by paiute (550198) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:22AM (#31997680)

    It is human nature to dig in one's ideological heels against change, especially when money is involved. Substantial changes or the oft-cited paradigm shift often have to wait for an older generation to die off.

    • by Stenchwarrior (1335051) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:32AM (#31997766)

      I agree with you. This is off topic, but I wonder if there is evolutionary value in resisting change? Maybe to make sure that which is new stands a rigorous test to ensure it has a rightful place in history? Or perhaps to challenge our already set ways and give strength to existing process?

      Google, here I come...

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:49AM (#31997934) Journal
        Oh, definitely. Two main things:

        Assuming that you are the incumbent(whether The top dog, or just one of the people for whom the status quo is working quite well, thanks), every day you successfully delay change is another day of profit rather than loss, and risk rather than security. There may be a point where you cut your own throat by resisting change(either the cost of resistance simply becomes too high, and consumes all your profits, or your resistance actively precludes your taking advantage of certain options in the changed future); but until you reach that point, a rearguard action is totally rational, even if it is inevitably doomed on the medium to long timescale. The degree to which rearguard actions are logical is increased if you have access to overt or covert subsidies. In the media case, they've been very effective in lobbying for copyright infringement, and its tools, to be ever more criminalized and, once criminalized, made a greater law enforcement priority. Fighting change is always cost effective when you are using somebody else's money...

        Second is that change is only really inevitable in hindsight. Many changes have been successfully fought, even though their proponents were convinced of their inevitability. Incumbents who don't fight change don't remain incumbents for as long as incumbents who do; because almost any change, unless it is truly structurally unsound, can push you over unless you push back; but only a relative few changes are irresistible(and, even in those cases, see point 1).

        On the minus side, I would be rather more surprised to see a net positive value in change resistance("net positive" in the "overall value across a society" sense from econ). Incumbents, by virtue of being incumbents, so very often have access to other people's money with which to fight change. Therefore, it is logical to suspect that(because of that effective subsidy) a greater-than-socially-optimal amount of change-resistance is generated. Further, all but the most dramatic innovations have a period of manifest inferiority to existing, well-polished, methods. During this period, they can be smothered in the cradle at comparatively low cost.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wealthychef (584778)

          evolutionary value in resisting change?

          Oh, definitely. Two main things: (blah, blah)

          No, it's way simpler: changing to a new state is risky. Evolution has taught to minimize risk and avoid it. Let someone else be brave, I'll stay here in my hole.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2obvious4u (871996)
      Except that the older generation is managing to codify many of their ideals in Federal and International law. We really don't have time to wait for them to die off.
    • Your words are extreme, don't you think?

      Resistance to change of *some* types is due to generational refusal, I agree.

      Of course our elders want to keep what they have. As people grow older, they focus more on their own security.

      The young, once old, will do the same.

      Give the older generation a good pension and full healthcare and I suspect they will step aside and let the OMIGOD Generation break all the toys.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:26AM (#31997730)

    You can't really equate software and music/movies. Music and Movies are consumable products. You get it, you consume it. Maybe you watch it or listen to it more than once, but it's the rare consumer that uses the media as the means to an end.

    Software is typically a means to an end. You don't install Linux just to have Linux. You install it because you want to do something with it. Same with web browsers, office suites, and just about any other software. The exception would be games which are meant to be consumed similarly to movies and music. But on the whole, most software is meant to help you create something else. Whether it be a resume, a presentation, a spreadsheet, even more software, the software exists as a tool, not a thing to be enjoyed in and of itself.

    That's why it doesn't make sense to compare the music/movie industry to the general free software industry. The media industry is involved in making consumables, and that means they provide a finished product to the customer. The software industry provides tools which have ample room for customization and service work. The two industries start from different premises, so that's why software can be free whereas media cannot.

    If you want to compare the industries, it makes sense to compare the media industry to the niche game software industry. But here you'll find very similar actions. Anti-piracy is the norm. Expensive packaged software (or downloadable paid software) and expensive CDs/DVDs are analogous. Even the antagonistic attitude between the customers and the producers is similar. It's just inherent in any industry that needs to protect its IP because that is precisely what it is selling.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:37AM (#31997810)
      Actually, movie and music companies make a lot of money selling usage rights, to each other and to advertisers. Whenever you hear a well known song in a movie, the studio that produced the movie had to pay some music company for the rights to use the song like that. Likewise with commercials, or MacDonald's using movie characters for kids meal toys, and so forth. "Consumables" are not the be-all and end-all of music and movies.
      • by westlake (615356)

        Actually, movie and music companies make a lot of money selling usage rights, to each other and to advertisers.

        The commercial has a short life-span.

        Typically that of a single add campaign. It does not cover the costs of a $200 million dollar production.

        MacDonald's using movie characters for kids meal toys, and so forth

        The tie-in - the sponsor - now dictates what can be produced. No giant transforming robot toy? No Wall-E.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:39AM (#31997828)
      "You can't really equate software and music/movies. Music and Movies are consumable products. You get it, you consume it. Maybe you watch it or listen to it more than once, but it's the rare consumer that uses the media as the means to an end"

      That's always been the trouble with `software', it don't ever wear out. The producers of the software would like if it was a consumable product like movies, which is why they would like to move us to software-as-a-service, in the Cloud.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You don't install Linux just to have Linux.

      Speak for yourself. I install Linux so I can say "I have Linux at home." with an air of superiority over the Windows people and an air of non-conformity and superiority over the Apple people. It's kind of like wearing Che Guevara t-shirts only for technically inclined folks. I may do that: get some Che Guevara T-shirts, Birkenstocks, grungy shorts, and pump my fist in the air and yell "I"M STICKING IT TO THE MAN!" every time I boot up Linux. Then I can feel all good about myself.

      Yep.

      I have a really pathet

    • by Eraesr (1629799)
      Also, in the case of "free" software, don't they mean that the source code is free, yet the full, compiled product has to be paid for? That's also something that can't be done with music or movies. You can't give away movie sets, cameras or unmixed multi-track recordings for free.
      • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:58AM (#31998028) Homepage

        That's also something that can't be done with music or movies. You can't give away movie sets, cameras or unmixed multi-track recordings for free.

        That depends. Some of the Blender movies [blender.org] do it. You can't give away physical props so easily, since they're physical, but that's a fundamental difference with physical versus digital.

      • source code- sheet music/lyrics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        Sometimes both the code and product are free but support costs money.
        Sometimes the code is free to download but the compiled version contains trademark or other branding, like CentOS and RedHat.
        Sometimes you can buy installation CDs but you can also download and build the code yourself.
        Some companies take software they didn't write and put it together in a target way, like Music-centric linux (Ubuntu studio style), or Real-time linux, or whatever else.

        Björk, Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy, Stardust, and

        • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @11:35AM (#32000180) Homepage

          Free software doesn't have just one revenue stream, there are numerous different ways to get money. The fundamental problem is that music does not require support. Most of the revenue streams either assume you're paying for physical media or support

          I'd say the fundamental problem is that support as a revenue stream incentivizes the wrong thing. Being good at programming and being good at providing support are not the same skill. In fact, good programmers are often lousy at dealing with customers and their problems. Why should a programmer's income be based on how well he provides support, instead of how well he programs?

          Even worse, if a particular programmer is good at providing support, he makes the most money by making sure his software isn't as good as it could be. It should have bugs and problems, just as long as they aren't enough to drive people to his competitors, so that he can sell more support.

          Similarly for music. Many musicians are great in the studio, but suck at concerts. For some kinds of music, the whole notion of a concert doesn't even make sense.

          A good system for paying creative people (programmers, musicians, artists, and so on) should make their money be tied to their creative output, not some ancillary thing. Programmers should be paid to program. Musicians should be paid to make music. etc.

      • by Locklin (1074657)

        Characters and story lines can be borrowed and shared. How many times do Shakespeare's characters show up in modern film?

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dkf (304284)

      You can't really equate software and music/movies. Music and Movies are consumable products. You get it, you consume it. Maybe you watch it or listen to it more than once, but it's the rare consumer that uses the media as the means to an end.

      Most people treat software the same way: they get it, they use it, they have no way to modify it (even without the legal barriers; the issue is that most people aren't programmers). Going the other way, there's a fair number of people who remix music and and make movies containing clips from other films.

      Looks to me like the distinction you're drawing isn't really there and you're just being an ignorant snob.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shentino (1139071)

        Trust me, it takes skill to make music.

        The RIAA is proof of that...in the sense that even cat /dev/urandom does better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by patSPLAT (14441)

        They really are different things.

        First off, people do modify software on a daily basis. Customization of software is ubiquitous. Open source is an extreme model of customization and it has been successful because it addresses in a very specific way needs that are peculiar to software.

        Customization of movies is *not* prevalent. You watch the movie that James Cameron made. Or the movie that Michel Gondry made. There is an entire notion of authorship is important to music / movies / books, and is utterly

    • by jamienk (62492) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @09:00AM (#31998062)

      The conceptions of what we "do" with music and film have been limited by the sales and "IP" models. Remixing, adding/replacing tracks, mashups, even sampling, all come about as a consequence of ignoring the "consumption" model as you describe it. So does all "traditional" or "folk" music. There are places that film and music can go that we can't easily think of today. Try to come up with your own examples of what can be done. If you can't think of anything or if your ideas don't seem all that revolutionary or important, maybe you're not an artist.

    • false dichotomy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @09:05AM (#31998104) Homepage Journal

      the differences you cite aren't really differences. everything is a means to an end, including music and movies: pleasure. "You install it because you want to do something with it" applies to linux. it also applies to "iron man" and beyonce

      put it this way: a hammer is not a screwdriver. but in terms of how they are acquired: bought in a store or ripped off from woodshop class, they are the same

    • by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @09:05AM (#31998108) Homepage

      If you want to compare the industries, it makes sense to compare the media industry to the niche game software industry. But here you'll find very similar actions. Anti-piracy is the norm. Expensive packaged software (or downloadable paid software) and expensive CDs/DVDs are analogous. Even the antagonistic attitude between the customers and the producers is similar. It's just inherent in any industry that needs to protect its IP because that is precisely what it is selling.

      Which "niche games" market is that? Presumably not the independent-yet-original-and-good games market like 2dBoy [2dboy.com] (World of Goo) and Stardock [stardock.com] (Sins of a Solar Empire) compete in, where they're happy to have no or minimal DRM because pirates could be customers and customers are customers and should be treated as such.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by McDutchie (151611)

      The two industries start from different premises, so that's why software can be free whereas media cannot.

      Your opinion is belied by the fact that there is plenty [wikimedia.org] of free [jamendo.com] media [archive.org] out there [creativecommons.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770)

      Software is typically a means to an end. You don't install Linux just to have Linux. You install it because you want to do something with it. Same with web browsers, office suites, and just about any other software. The exception would be games which are meant to be consumed similarly to movies and music.

      I think your distinction is also why we see so much decent free software minus games and not so much of the others. It's a tool and refining it to make a better tool is desirable to most people. Games and such I want to consume, you go through a campaign or story or levels of difficulty but you don't go over and redo and refine many times over. It's no surprise to me that the most common open source games are FPS and strategy games where you play the same maps or procedurally generated ones over and over.

      If you want to compare the industries, it makes sense to compare the media industry to the niche game software industry. But here you'll find very similar actions. Anti-piracy is the norm.

      My

    • I agree, but I think that there are other significant differences that sink the comparison as well. Notably, open-source software is a collaborative effort but music fans do not, in general, have a reciprocal arrangement with the artists to create the music (except, perhaps, for some rhythmic clapping in live shows). Open-source requests that the community contribute whereas music is more of a one-way street. One could argue that musicians share ideas constantly and the arrangement parallels the divide betw

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 2obvious4u (871996)
      You missed the point of TFA. Even music and movies create new scarcities which can be monetized, even if the original work itself cannot be. Here is an article with a clip [techi.com] that explains it much better than I can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Yes, the things are different. But OSS counters the argument "You can't make a living by giving away stuff.". Yes you can, but it takes a clever businessman to manage it. No one claims anymore that OSS is something you can easily dismiss, but do you remember how it was 15 years ago ? Nowadays, people who give movies or song for free only encounter marginal successes. This doesn't mean the Google of online music won't appear.

      If you sell sand $100/kg in the middle of the Sahara it is not a workable business
  • by silverbax (452214)

    I'll never understand the cognitive dissonance that makes people say 'software should be free' but at the same time 'I should get paid to work on that free software for you'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by miffo.swe (547642)

      I think a large part of the "cognitive dissonance" stems from the fact that you get no guaranties whatsoever that said software will work. I can only talk for myself but i have a very hard time persuading myself pony up for something that may or may not work and where the seller takes no responsibility of the goods.

      The industry put themselves in this situation when they used copyrights to protect their goods (software is traded as photos, movies or books, not real products). The upside, no guaranties, is of

      • Which is why OS companies make money of support:

        They give software for free with no guarantees.

        But if you want to guarantee that it works and want someone who you can wake up and 3:00 who will fix bug, you buy support. Or you pay them to train your staff to be able to work with it on peak performance. Or you pay commision for new feature.

        This is incredibly similar to post-torrent artisty: Artist is paid for "consulting" if there is medium shift, he is paid for live performances and of course, he is paid cre

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dangitman (862676)

          Which is why OS companies make money of support: They give software for free with no guarantees.

          That seems like a pretty shitty way to conduct business. It gives an incentive for creating crappy software that requires extra support. Shouldn't the ideal be to make great software that doesn't require much support?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @09:44AM (#31998664)

            Wrong. It creates an incentive for creating software that seemingly requires support, but doesn't require that support in reality. In other words, it creates an incentive to build software that is better than it looks.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by dangitman (862676)

              Wrong. It creates an incentive for creating software that seemingly requires support, but doesn't require that support in reality. In other words, it creates an incentive to build software that is better than it looks.

              So, it's based upon the deception of customers. Still doesn't sound appealing. As a customer, I'd rather know exactly what I'm getting, rather than being tricked into something. If the software doesn't need that much support, why should I have to pay for it?

          • that depends how you pay for your support: if you pay by the hour sure what you say may be true.

            If you pay a flat rate for support then it's in their interest to get as few calls from you as possible.

            So simple lesson: much as when hiring builders to work on your house, don't pay by the hour, pay for the work getting done.

      • More often than not, proprietary software licenses absolve the vendor from any guarantees in situations where the software likely to fail (or likely to fail with catastrophic results). Really, if you want a guarantee, you need to find a company that specializes in high reliability systems, and for most people, the cost of contracting with such a company is too great and not justified by their needs.

        With a company like Red Hat, you pay for a sort of guarantee -- you get to call them and ask for help when
        • More often than not, proprietary software licenses absolve the vendor from any guarantees in situations where the software likely to fail (or likely to fail with catastrophic results).

          Why do you limit this to just proprietary software? I've yet to see a single free software license that also doesn't have a disclaimer of warranty or fitness.

          • If I pay for something I expect to get a guarantee that it will do what it's supposed to and if it fails then the person who has sold it to me should be liable.

            If someone gives something to me for free they owe me nothing and there is no reason they should have to pay me if their product isn't good for what I used it for.

            If on the other hand I pay for someone to service what I've got for free then I have every right to demand they put their money where their mouth is and guarantee that if they screw up and

        • by arose (644256)

          More often than not, proprietary software licenses absolve the vendor from any guarantees in situations where the software likely to fail (or likely to fail with catastrophic results).

          Actually they usually have the same general disclaimers as free software, including the "fitness for general purpose disclaimer". The end result is that MS can ship buggy versions of windows, fix bugs for a while, then stop and force you to upgrade if you want the particular machine on the net. To be honest it's quite hard to

      • by shentino (1139071)

        You've never read an EULA, have you?

        The only guarantee you get is provided by product liability statutes.

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @09:39AM (#31998602) Homepage

        I think a large part of the "cognitive dissonance" stems from the fact that you get no guaranties whatsoever that said software will work.

        1. If I pay someone to modify an open source package for me, I can secure a guarantee from that person that it will do what I paid him to make it do. Legally, all that needs to happen is that there's a separate agreement above and beyond the requirements of the open source license that includes that guarantee. So, for instance, if the package was GPL, if someone modifies it for me, we can have an agreement that says that he's giving me the modifications with source code (as he's required to under the terms of the GPL), but also guarantees that it will do what I want it to. And this isn't a hypothetical: I've worked on projects that involved paying an outside contractor to do precisely that.

        2. Proprietary software licenses universally disavow any and all warranties including the implied warranty of merchantability and warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. You have no guarantee whatsoever that Microsoft Windows will not set your computer on fire rather than be a functioning computer operating system.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:48AM (#31997920)
      There isn't any. The more accurate statement is 'software should be free' but if 'you want me to work on it consistently for larger periods of time you'll have to pay me.'

      It's not hard for people to find a half hour here and there to work on a project, but it becomes really difficult to find hours every week to do so without being paid. There are exceptions, but not many, and certainly not enough to support the ecosystem.
    • by NickFortune (613926) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:54AM (#31997992) Homepage Journal

      I'll never understand the cognitive dissonance that makes people say 'software should be free' but at the same time 'I should get paid to work on that free software for you'.

      The software is free, the developer's time is not.

      You're free to use the software however you choose, but if you want the developer to spend his time working to your schedule, then you may have to make it worth his while.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dangitman (862676)

        The software is free, the developer's time is not.

        But developers spent time developing the software. So, if their time is not free, then how did the software come to be free in the first place?

        • by tepples (727027)

          So, if their time is not free, then how did the software come to be free in the first place?

          Getting a program to version 0.01 or 0.09 might be worth a spare-time development effort. But without some other sort of motivation, the developer may not feel like taking it to 1.0.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by NickFortune (613926)

          But developers spent time developing the software. So, if their time is not free, then how did the software come to be free in the first place?

          If the developer does it because the developer wants to do it, it's a hobby. If he does it because you tell him to do it, it's a job. In the second case, he'll probably expect you to pay him. Bear in mind however that all you're buying his time and the right to direct his efforts.

          The software became free because the initial developers chose to release their work

        • by natehoy (1608657) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @10:20AM (#31999132) Journal

          Several possibilities.

          1. The software author was contributing to a project that he/she saw their own benefits from, and therefore were compensated by the resulting product. In a few smaller projects, a single person writes code entirely for their own benefit, then releases the code because someone else might want to use it, too. In this case, their time was "free" in terms of money, they compensated themselves with the results of their own work then offered out a copy of it for others to benefit from as well.

          This, by the way, is why FOSS is often compared to "communism" (not the totalitarian kind as we've seen practiced, but the purer Marxian kind of "from each according to ability, to each according to need"). Everyone in a project like this is free to contribute whatever they can or want to, and everyone benefits from all of the contributions. Of course, where communism in the real world breaks down is in simple resource limitations - a lot of people want to take according to need, but not give according to ability. In the world of software development, you can have a very low number of givers and a very high number of takers and the model still works as long as you have some givers. And if the givers are benefiting themselves by creating what they themselves need, then they are building their own compensation.

          2. The software was written under contract for a specific company to solve a specific problem and that company is not using the software for competitive advantage, so they release the code for others to use. It can also mean that software they use themselves can be improved by others at no cost to them, so symbiotic relationships can form.

          3. The software was available in crude form and a company didn't want to reinvent the wheel, so they started with what was out there, improved it, and released the improved version as a way of "paying back" for the fact that the codebase saved them a crapload of development time. Or, in the case of a lot of projects, the company wants to sell you some hardware and they are OK with you doing other things with it once you've bought it (ie. what is now known as the Linksys WRT54GL series), so providing the source code moves more cheap generic-parts units off the shelf because the modding community wants to turn them into all sorts of crazy stuff.

          In reality, most free software is the result of multiple of the above scenarios happening.

          The fact is that while an author's time is not free, they can still give away the software under circumstances where enough people will give them small amounts of money (advertising on their download site, voluntary donations, or even kudos and appreciation to feed the ego for a spare-time project). They can also write software that benefits themselves and send it out, but if you want them to change it to suit your own needs you can offer them some money to make the changes, and the improved version can be released for all to enjoy.

          I've seen projects where the original author makes the source code available, then uses "paypal voting" for new features. "Many people have asked me for feature 'x'. It's going to take me about 8 hours to write it, and I'm out of beer and nachos. If you want me to add feature 'x', send money and tell me it's for feature 'x' - when my donations for feature 'x' hit $400, I'll write it and release it for all to enjoy."

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jadavis (473492)

          But developers spent time developing the software. So, if their time is not free, then how did the software come to be free in the first place?

          Someone paid them to spend time on it?

          If you have free software, you're free to modify and distribute it as you please.

          If you want free software, you can:

          1. Write it yourself; or
          2. convince someone who already has the software to provide it to you under a free software license (perhaps by paying them); or
          3. convince someone to write it and provide it to you under

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by williamhb (758070)

        The software is free, the developer's time is not. You're free to use the software however you choose, but if you want the developer to spend his time working to your schedule, then you may have to make it worth his while.

        It's the open source ineconomy of scale. A million organisations can use a piece of software, and all want the same new feature added. But if any organisation says "add the feature, Joe" they have to pay full price for the change as if they were the only user, because the feature is given free to all the other 999,999 users rather than sharing the cost. So, of course, nobody does -- while the feature might be worth $1,000 to each of the million organisations it's not worth the $10,000 it would cost to de

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The unfortunate reality of the English language is that "free" has two very different meanings. You are thinking of the "no cost" meaning, which is not what the Free Software Foundation is about -- the other meaning, "freedom," is what is more important. You should have freedoms with your software, particularly the freedom to use and modify that software, and also the freedom to study and share the software (how one can modify with studying is a mystery to me). Sharing is where people always get angry, s
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you're saying "should", then sure, there's cognitive dissonance. But that's a straw man.

      If you want me to work in your IT department to install and maintain software on your computers, that's a job, and you need to pay me for it. If you'd like me to design, program, and test POS or support software tailored specifically to your company, that's a job, and you need to pay me for it. You don't have to hire me (or anyone) to do those things. If you're a one man shop, and perfectly comfortable doing your inst

      • by zerocool^ (112121)

        You don't have to hire me (or anyone) to do those things. If you're a one man shop, and perfectly comfortable doing your installs yourself, no one "should" get paid-you've every right to do it yourself. On the other hand, if you're a large corporation, chances are someone's going to get hired to do installation, maintenance, and customization.

        Exactly.

        Case in point, one of my good friends just left us (Rackspace) to found a company called Riptano that sells support for Cassandra (there's a story in Database

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by selven (1556643)

      The word "free" has more than one meaning:

      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html [gnu.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBGMorden (803437)

      Easy - software is duplicable into infinity. When I'm done on software, I'm done, and as many people as want it can use that software at no cost to me. I can (and usually do) also work on my projects when I darned well please. An hour or two put in before I turn in for bed, or with the advent of netbooks even while waiting for a friend to show up somewhere I can work on something for 10-15 minutes. IE, I can invest time that is inherently less valuable into it. It also helps that often times I'll (and I

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @10:07AM (#31998972) Journal

      Software is not scarce, developer time is. I'll never understand the cognitive dissonance that makes people think a non-scarce resource should be treated like a scarce one.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      You're thinking the same people are involved on both sides. (I'm taking "free" at face value since you're making an economic point.) Lots of people volunteer their code for the public good. Lots of other people are employed by companies which make money selling support for the free software. These people don't always have the same opinions. Even if they all think software should be free, they managed to get a job working on free software for money. The best of both worlds.

      I think software should be fr

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:35AM (#31997790)
    RedHat sell FOSS services - pretty much all Linux and makes half their money from financial activities. RedHat is a FOSS vendor - I can't take that away from them.

    Google is a search engine that uses FOSS for it's company - it makes its money from advertising and selling non FOSS software.As a matter of fact, Google is actually a shitty FOSS company - see Sketchup and Sketchup Pro [google.com]. Where's the source for those things? Hmmmm? And Sketchup Pro is pretty expensive, btw, and it's closed and proprietary program.

    All the software written by Google, how much of it is really open? Honestly.

    • Who ever said that Google was a FOSS vendor? They're primarily an advertising company, though yes they do a lot to encourage OSS development and some pretty cool technologies/ideas.

    • TFS said free, not FOSS. It's all about making money. It has nothing to do with proprietary/open source. And Google makes plenty of free software, even if it all tends to be webapps.

      • And Microsoft makes a ton of free software too. So basically you made the term "free software" meaningless.

        • How so? If they don't charge for it, it's free software, whether Microsoft makes it or not. It's not FOSS - there's a reason people use that term, and it's to avoid the confusion the term "free" engenders.

          This article was about how to make money, while giving software away. Google has done it through advertisement, and collecting personal data. Red Hat has done it through selling support. Microsoft has done it by using free software to ensure lock-in to non-free software (the "first hit's free, kid" busines

  • by patSPLAT (14441) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:36AM (#31997796) Homepage

    Thus far engineers are the only ones to directly profit from open source businesses.

    The single biggest mistake open source advocates make when envisioning a future is the assumption that successful engineering practices will be successful artist practices. You don't sample a Britney Spears song to make a longer, better Britney Spears song; you sample it for reference. Whereas when you patch emacs, you aren't referencing emacs, you are adding functionality.

    Even if an artist subscribes to the free->fame startup model, eventually the steps to monetization involve controlling the distribution of copies. For example, first Danger Mouse released the Grey Album to great acclaim, then formed Gnarls Barkley and released music in traditional commercial channels.

    While copyright is bad for engineers, it is a 300 year old legal framework designed to compensate artists. Discarding it for nothing is short sighted at best, and at worst exploitive of artists.

    • by dylan_- (1661)

      For example, first Danger Mouse released the Grey Album to great acclaim, then formed Gnarls Barkley and released music in traditional commercial channels.

      Thus becoming part of the 0.01%* of artists who actually benefit from copyright. Why should there be a law that protects only the interests of a tiny minority of artists, who are also the richest and therefore in the least need of protection?

      Discarding it for nothing is short sighted at best, and at worst exploitive of artists.

      Copyright is short-sighted a

      • by patSPLAT (14441)

        The law exists to encourage the production of art. Making up numbers and inverting sentence structure is not a counter argument.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      Even if an artist subscribes to the free->fame startup model, eventually the steps to monetization involve controlling the distribution of copies.

      Counterexample: The Grateful Dead. They not only allowed the distribution of copies, they actively encouraged it.

    • You don't sample a Britney Spears song to make a longer, better Britney Spears song; you sample it for reference.

      Is that so? I read about take-down notices of parodies, covers/enhancements every day here.

      Equally, I can just download Emacs and enjoy it without patching or contributing anything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by orasio (188021)

      You started with the wrong foot.
      "Open source advocates" are guys who think that open source is good from a technological standpoint.
      They don't envision the future, they code. You don't want to extract an ideology from programmers talking about programming.

      You should read some free software material. Free software _is_ about freedom, and about the balance between users and programmers. _Some_ of the ideas inherent to free software can be applied to the whole of society. The "balance" between the different ac

    • he ignored ip law and was very successful for doing that: he succeeded on merit alone

      you point out he then formed gnarls barkley and went on to even more success. this is the old model, where success is determined by getting the fickle attention of a distributor who then hypes you. danger mouse's novelty is only the unorthodox way in which he garnished attention. his story is a hybrid of the old and new model of music distribution. its a temporary phase

      the future is the first part of danger mouse's story, a

  • Google? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lazy Jones (8403) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:37AM (#31997806) Homepage Journal

    And as companies like Red Hat and Google have grown in size and profitability, so have the credibility and clout of free software. ...

    Erm, Red Hat and SuSE, or Red Hat and Canonical Inc, or even Red Hat and Geeknet Inc., yes. But Red Hat and Google of all things? Google does not provide or support or grow from providing Open Source software any more than e.g. Microsoft does. They run a close-source search engine, a closed-source mail hosting service and sell ads for a living.

    • by mattbee (17533)

      ...and what's more, very likely have masses of cutting-edge private patches to the Linux kernel for enabling their distributed computing infrastructure. Of course they give back in lots ways (money and less valuable code), but only because they have taken such a great deal to start with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HuguesT (84078)

      They also use and support free software. Google has made a ton of money *from* free software. They have shown it is possible to grow from a garage operation to one of the most influential company on the planet using Linux. They have shown free software can be relied on to deliver stuff people want and that you don't necessarily have to hand out bushels of money to Sun, HP, Microsoft, Apple et al to make money in the IT industry.

      • Lesson learned (Score:2, Insightful)

        Google has made a ton of money *from* free software.

        That's right FOSS developers, all the work you released for free was used to make billions for a couple of guys. And they of course took all that money they made off of the back of the FOSS community and ....kept it.

        And they're paying back to the FOSS community by adding some minor code and ....well really nothing.

        So, the lesson I get from Google is exploit the free software and the free labor of others, make a billion, and keep it all to myself.

        • That's the free software developer's fault. They developed and released free software with the intention of it being free, not with the stipulation that if it is ever worth something that they should get a cut.

          If those free software developers wanted to go through the process of patenting/copyrighting the software, investing millions in PUBLICIZING IT LIKE GOOGLE/ETC. do with it, and generally provide the support of a large corporation, then maybe they would get a cut of the software.

          Software isn't just
        • all the work you released for free was used to make billions for a couple of guys

          Releasing it for free (no cost) is the choice of the developer. No-one is FORCED to release open source software, for free or otherwise. Under the terms of the GPL, IF I take a piece of GPL software and decide to release it further (generally after modifying it, but not necessarily!), then I must do so under the same terms as the original (e.g. the GPL). Nowhere does it say I have to release it further, and nowhere does it say I can't charge for it.

          - I can take GPL software, modify it, and use it myself

      • by Lazy Jones (8403)

        They also use and support free software. Google has made a ton of money *from* free software. They have shown it is possible to grow from a garage operation to one of the most influential company on the planet using Linux.

        The same is true for most, if not all big websites, e.g. Facebook. So? How does that make Google akin to Red Hat, which lives and breathes Linux and Free Software and has been instrumental in furthering Free Software goals, rather than simply profiting from Free Software and giving back a small fraction of the benefits? I simply don't see how you can name these 2 companies in a sentence that implies their contribution and significance for Free Software is comparable. It certainly isn't. Linux wouldn't be t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LordLucless (582312)

      Why do people see free, and read open source? Google has provided heaps of free software - google maps, office, calendar, etc. Just because they're webapps and proprietary does not exclude them from the free as in beer moniker. And the article is obviously about the beer-free, not the speech-free - all it talks about is money, and the making thereof. Leave the OS/Proprietary baggage at the door.

  • I think Slashdot needs more articles about how the RIAA could still stay in business but really please the tech geek crowd by loosening up a bit. Sure, they won't make nearly as much as they're making right now, but I'm sure they'd like to get invited to some of our l33t geek parties, right?

    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      I can't remember the last time I paid any RIAA company for music. Supply is up, so relative demand is down; that means it's time to change if they want to stay in business. "I will bend like a reed in the wind."
      • by tepples (727027)
        I assume you were in a grocery store in the past month. Some of the money likely went toward licensing a background music stream to play over the speaker system.
  • ... that he was changing for the making of the tapes, as opposed to the software himself. I recall reading this on his site maybe ten years ago. This seemed weird to me, to charge for the menial task rather than the inspired one, and of course the costs of software distribution have now all but evaporated. Besides, what if the coder just can't be bothered with that stuff? It's not what they are valued for perhaps even as a genius (who doesn't eat much).

    See: http://beust.com/stallman.html [beust.com] ("RMS was begin

  • As a discussion comparing Free Software and the movie industry grows longer, the probability of someone introducing a Free Porn movement where Richard Stallman is an actor approaches one. When this happens, the thread should immediately be killed.

  • and it isn't really that revolutionary: its the same business model as broadcast television or radio

    content is free, and money is made via ancillary revenue streams. you give your music or movies away for free on the internet and you make cash from the people who show up at concert gigs (because they like your music: your mp3 files are merely advertising) or in the cinema house (the internet, like television and the vcr before it, despite all the panic, is not going to kill the cinema house)

    furthermore, this "radical" future is not the death of capitalism, it is the ultimate expression of capitalism: the marketplace, the internet, is a great equalizer. quality and quality alone becomes the dominant determinant about who triumphs and who has to keep their day job. the only people who suffer are the old media companies from the previous, now dead, era of vinyl and cellulose: they aren't needed anymore

    and don't believe their lies: when such dying distributors whine about capitalism, they actually are talking about corporatism. corporatism is a greater enemy of capitalism than communism or socialism ever can be, and this is also historically true: oligopolies and monopolies using their size and influence over legislators to warp and destroy the free market to their advantage. so if you are interested in a free market, a marketplace of competing equals, you are interested in strong government regulations which curtail the influence of the dominant players

    but this simple truth is unfortunately contrary to so much libertarian and tea party rhetoric

    on the topic of foss, and also on many other topical issues, too many people confuse the idea of capitalism and corporatism

    too many people unfortunately buy the self-serving rhetoric and the propaganda and the alligator tears of the 800 pound gorillas in the room who say they are on the side of capitalism, but who are not interested in true capitalism at all, they are in corporatism. they are interested in destroying the free market to their advantage by doing away with regulations or flat out rewriting the regulations to grandfather themselves into dominant positions in the marketplace

    are you a libertarian? are you a free market fundamentalist? are you a tea party member? then recognize this: your greatest enemy is not the government, it is large corporations. they will destroy the free market UNLESS the government is strong enough to check their power so the little guys can compete equally. the government is the enemy ONLY to the extent that large corporations have corrupted it. so fight to CHANGE the government, not destroy it, for that is far worse in the name of YOUR ideals. IN THE NAME OF THE FREE MARKET, you want and need a strong regulatory government. this really is 100% the truth. a truly free market functions only amongst equals. and since in a marketplace no one stays equal very long, you must have strong regulations to make sure the larger players don't take advantage of the smaller players. there's simply no way around that

    so in the name of true capitalism, defy the mpaa and riaa. monopolies and oligopolies are the greatest threat to capitalism, ever

    • you give your music or movies away for free on the internet and you make cash from the people who show up at concert gigs (because they like your music: your mp3 files are merely advertising) or in the cinema house (the internet, like television and the vcr before it, despite all the panic, is not going to kill the cinema house)

      Then how does one make money from single-player or couch-multiplayer video games? What is the video game equivalent to a live concert or an exhibition at a cinema house? Sure, there used to be video arcades, but arcades have pretty much died in Latin-alphabet markets. And even for movies, how do you make sure revenue from the cinema house goes to you and not to someone who copied your movie and is passing it around to other cinema houses?

      • you're just lacking imagination

        off the top of my head: in game advertisements, $ for premium or personalized content, subscriptions to online access arenas, etc

        in the early 90s, id gave away its first free levels. id made millions because they hooked people on their content, then they charged for more premium content. from this ancient era of videogames, you can see free files is a superior approach, and in fact, not a very revolutionary one

        the idea of giving away your product for free for great market shar

        • You're right; I lack imagination. That's why I have other Slashdot users like you to help. Thanks for volunteering; now I need a bit of clarification:

          id made millions because they hooked people on their content, then they charged for more premium content.

          And then watch as the premium content gets distributed far and wide without any revenue to you, especially if lawmakers ever recognize the assertion in your signature that copyright is incoherent.

          As for advertisements, how well do they work in video games not set in a highly-developed country in modern-day Earth without looking incoherent in the setting? Fo

  • (Subject is tying in to the weekend's Leonard Nimoy theme.)

    What a fantastic approach! I haven't thought it through, as I hadn't seen things this way before, but the approach of bringing artists back to the audience really is fascinating. Compare Bruce Springsteen's relationship with his audience in 1980 to Brittney Spears' 20 years later. I know which I want.

    Record companies, are you listening?

  • In general I won't mind paying a buck or two if it means the page will load.

  • I read the article hoping that it would provide some interesting ideas about how independent musicians can better adapt their business to the challenges of the internet (I record for a number of small independents), but was rather disappointed.

    TFA basically makes two suggestions:

    1: Make all your money from live shows instead.
    This argument has been made many times before on many different websites, but fails to account for anyone who doesn't fit easily into the typical 'rock band' style setup. What about c

    • by migla (1099771)

      The best solution for the digital age would be to make sure that people with a passion for arts could pursue their passion: Socialism.

      Everyone should be given basic income, so that anyone caring more about expressing themselves creatively than about making more money by taking a boring job, could do so.

    • Ehm, just pay them for the job? Why must they be paid every time the work is copied?
    • What about composers?

      Other Slashdot users have told me that composers should learn to play an instrument and give concerts as the soloist. That's why there was a form of music called a "concerto", which was somewhere between a sonata and a symphony but written for a soloist and a backing band. The backing band's part might be arranged for a piano, four-piece chamber music band, or an orchestra, depending on what size of gig the composer-soloist wanted to play.

      Dance music producers?

      The synthesizers and samplers used to make dance music also work in

  • Yes, Open Source and free software do cross more lines than many people suspect. They also cross lines that the wrong people suspect. Oddly the same issue exists with Christianity in some areas. Communism vs. capitalism is a dangerous and non productive battle. Many powerful people do not separate communism from socialism in their thoughts. If Open Source is perceived as socialist then there is actually a certain danger attached. In South America there has been an ongoing slaughter of religious leader

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