My alternative busines model

Marcus Brinkmann Marcus.Brinkmann at
Tue Dec 3 14:11:49 UTC 2002

On Tue, Dec 03, 2002 at 02:29:46AM +0100, Niall Douglas wrote:
> Since a number of you have expressed an interest:
> It's also long and complex for a licence. It really should be law. If 
> it were, software would be a complete different world than we know it 
> today.

Heaven forbid I ever have to read and understand it in detail!  I skimmed
over it, but it has so many micro-rules that it is very difficult to get a
good grasp on it.  So rather than replying to the proposal as it is written,
I'll try to reply to the intent it seems to have.

If I got it right, your idea is basically this:  Everything's fair game as
long as you don't charge.  If you charge, you have to pay royalties to all
the copyright holders.

I want to give you an equally abstract reason why what you try to achieve
will never result in a free software license.  It might not be your intent
to provide a free software license, but I hope that the reason is good
enough for you to see why we don't think it is an alternative to free
software either.

The reason it is not a free software license is that it forbids commercial
redistribution without negotiating and getting back to the copyright holder. 
In other words, if I want to sell a copy of the software (with modifications
or without), I can not do this unless I have negotiated royalties with the
copyright holder and paid those royalties.

Where is the practical problem?  First, it means that if I can not reach the
copyright holder (ie, he ignores me, or he is deceased, or just became a
juggler in a chinese circus, or whatever), I am not allowed to copy for
charge at all, until the copyright expires.

Second, it means that if I want to combine several programs, I have to
contact and negotiate royalties with every contributor.

Now, imagine something like Debian.  Debian does not sell the software, but
CD vendors do.  A CD vendor which would try to sell a CD collection with
4000 software programs under your license would have to try to negotiate
royalties with 4000 copyright holders.  This would basically mean that
distributions of software are economically impossible, as nobody would come
up for the costs.

Now, to the other end of the spectrum, the individual programmer.  A
programmer who would want to write a program and reuse, let's say, code from
6 other programs.  He would need to negotiate with 6 copyright holders.  I
can imagine that the royalties would make the whole project financially
unviable, because the profit you could potentially make does not cover the
royalties.  This assumes that all copyright holders would be cooperating.
There is always the chance that a copyright holder just boycotts certain

No, sorry.  Your idea doesn't fly.  In fact, I am positiviely sure that
if we were forced to use it, it would destroy the free software environment.
The only options that are feasible with this kind of license is always
gratis reproduction ("no commercial use") or everybody writes their own
stuff without copying from anybody else, and takes high royalties
("proprietary").  Ie, it's the worst from both worlds.

Frankly, I can not imagine how any extra innovation would come from your model. 
We already have lots of experience with gratis software and with proprietary
vendors (after all, it's very common for proprietary software vendoprs to
license products from others for inclusion in their code).  It's certainly
not something the free software movement needs.


`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU    marcus at
Marcus Brinkmann              The Hurd
Marcus.Brinkmann at

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