The Community is the Company

TonStanco at TonStanco at
Sat May 26 22:05:01 UTC 2001

>   > Because of the freedoms given by GPL, there is a problem that
>   > competing GPL marketing entities will compete themselves to death,
>   > since they could always take the code (that they don't pay to
>   > develop) and sell for near zero cost that doesn't recoup the
>   > development cost.
>  I think I'm missing a point here. What would the other
>  marketing entities sell for "near zero cost" ? I see nothing in the
>  Free Software that can be sold for near zero cost. If the marketing
>  entity sells boxes (Debian distribution for instance) including
>  software they did not pay to develop, they still have to pay for
>  making the packaging and it's not "near zero cost". In short I have
>  trouble to see why competing marketing entities could not survive.
>  Sure, they will compete but what's wrong with that ? Can you explain ?

I was being unclear. What I should have said is "near zero development cost," 
that won't fund the developers work, since they can just take the code under 
the GPL for zero cost. They will still have variable marketing costs, that 
they each must recoup. And depending on how much friction the market has, 
some marketers can sell for more than their variable marketing costs and 
maybe even make some profit. 

But the main issue is the wrong people are getting the money. Most developers 
will get nothing, because for any one marketing company that tries to charge 
more so it can fund development, other marketing companies will sell the same 
thing without the development cost component. Therefore, there is a cost 
problem in doing the right thing and paying the developers, that competing 
marketing firms won't have.

That is why a superstructure is needed to incorporate the development cost 
into the equation. Once that superstructure is in place, then competing 
marketing firms can compete and fund the development at the same time, which 
is the independent consultant layer in the CommCo. The FSMC becomes a 
wholesaler and the others are retailers, so that the development costs are 

The development cost in free software is currently an externality that must 
be brought into the equation for a properly functioning economic solution. 
This is like pollution made in one country and causing problems in another. 
The solution is an international superstructure to coordinate the national 
bodies, so that the full cost is incorporated in the right entities. 
Otherwise the economic solution is suboptimal.

You also need to remember that free software must compete with proprietary 
software, not just with other free software marketing companies. And without 
paying for the development in free software, proprietary will have most of 
the developers, because it pays its developers, even though proprietary is 
less efficient as a development method. Without incorporating free software 
development costs into the pricing to fund it, proprietary as a community 
will always have an advantage over free software, because most developers 
will code for it and resist the free paradigm. 

Now, free software development is so much more efficient that it is doing 
quite well against proprietary development even with this proprietary 
advantage. But the real question is how much more great software would be 
created and faster, if everyone worked in the free development model. But to 
get the 4 million proprietary developers to work in free, they must be paid. 

Once free software pays its developers, then it not only has the efficiency 
of free development, but will also have the former proprietary developers. 
Also, most free developers work somewhere else to pay the bills. So, if they 
get paid to develop free software, they will produce more free software, 
because now they don't have to work somewhere else to personally fund their 
own free software development.

These efficiencies all interrelate and multiple, because all the obstacles 
and countervailing forces are removed.

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